“Ward XVI, for the criminally insane. I’m not insane, I wasn’t insane. Although, 10 years in that hell hole will make anyone insane.” This is taken from the intro of The Art of Manipulation, (released January 7th, 2017) by Preston, England based group, Ward XVI. This band of people, all hailing from different musical backgrounds, play an almost schizophrenic style of music. Transitioning from mellow, symphonic pieces, to punk, to metal, to rock. There are theatrical elements of Alice Cooper, the metallic harmonies of Iron Maiden, and some electronic dance music influences; and sometimes all within the context of one song. They also incorporate elements of polka, ska, circus music, and then squeeze everything into one tight, musical package. Band members are listed as, Psychoberrie- Vocals, Dr. Von Stottenstein- Guitars, Lex Whittingham- Guitars, Beardy McStumble- Bass, Miss Min- Keys and Accordion, and Jake L- Drums
The Art of Manipulation is a concept album centered a female psychopath. She murders for fun, for pleasure, and convinces (or rather, manipulates) a male victim to kill for her. The album begins with her speaking to a psychiatrist, and leads to her telling the story of her conquest, and eventual bloody ending, of this man. He eventually refuses to continue killing for her, and she murders him in repayment for his disloyalty. There are 4 interludes, counting the intro, where she narrates the story as it moves from song to song, and they help keep the listener following her twisted tale of murderous bloodlust.
Of the 12 songs that make up the musical part of this album, there are 3 that stood out to my ear. All, the songs are awesome, but my favorite three are “Cry of the Siren”, “Toy Box”, and “Crystal Ball”. “Toy Box” has a circus music/polka feel throughout, and some darkly themed lyrical content; add in some nice gothic styled keyboards, hard rock/metal guitar playing, and some excellent vocal work by Psychoberrie. During the breakdown the circus/polka music returns, and the guitar doubles it. As it moves forward, the tempo speeds up gradually; leading the song into a faster metal section for the last verse. That aspect of the song really grabbed my attention! “Crystal Ball” also incorporates a circus/polka/metal/rock hybrid style, and is the first song I’d heard by the group. The melody is very catchy, and I love the guitar work in the verse sections; there’s a lot of finger movement, and it is also extremely memorable. Either of these two songs would have been at home in Rob Zombies 31 film. They also remind me of the original Addams Family TV show, like the weird organ music Lurch would play occasionally. “Cry of the Siren” has some really nice electronic/keyboard work in it, which the guitar sometimes doubles. The two instruments working together makes a really cool sounding section. Of this one, the chorus and breakdown are my favorite sections. The vocal work in the chorus is probably the best on the album, showcasing her skill as a singer. The bass guitar takes the lead in the breakdown, and is well played, and well written.
Overall, The Art of Manipulation is a cool album. The amount of diversity among the members makes for some memorable moments here. The concept of the album is right up my alley, and the story itself could be a movie. So go check out the album, the Facebook page, and any other social media they have. It is definitely worth doing!