The album is accompanied by a set of videos available at – archival footage of farming communities, deserted streets, children enjoying the simple pleasures of a lost world; the confronting cinematic images bring further life to Szikla’s rich narratives. Andy Szikla is no ordinary artist, and Dark Valley is no ordinary record.

The symbiotic relationship between emotional turmoil and creative endeavours remains one of the more complex equations underpinning great art.To transpose psychological dysfunction into artistic form can be more than cathartic; it can also imbue the artistic creation with a cutting edge that elevates from bland to abrasive.

Andy Szikla put together his debut Dark Valley album in the aftermath of a seismic upheaval in his life. And while Dark Valley isn’t necessarily an autobiographical treatise, it does convey a sense of intensity and pathos that’s as compelling as it is endearing.‘Blood Brothers’ is underpinned by a biblical sensibility; its tale of fraternal associates torn apart resonates for every generation.The brutal deconstruction of love in ‘Bastard Child’ might even elicit a wry smile from the cantankerous Bob Dylan. The title track is an epic, sometimes existentialist journey through the frustrations, contradictions and occasional moments of sincerity that permeate human existence.

‘Into the Light’offers a glimmer of light in an otherwise dark world; the metaphor could be autobiographical, or maybe it’s a universal tale. ‘Tomorrow Heaven’ throws back to the slave trade of yore, where the veneer of promise was quickly ripped away to expose the inhumanity of man, but the human spirit would never die. ‘The Refugee’ counters the tabloid construction of the modern refugee’s plight: real people are at the heart of those images, whatever the headlines might suggest.‘Sir Douglas Mawson’ tells the story of an explorer the likes of which the world will never see again – if you know the fantastic detail of Mawson’s travels, you’ll understand.

3.5/5 stars


Dark Valley is out now through Rubber Records.

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