GODSTICKS – This Is What a Winner Looks Like (Album Review)

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Godsticks’ prior album, 2020’s Inescapable,found the celebrated English ensemble successfully introducing more inviting arrangements and welcoming melodies into their dynamic brand of heavy prog rock/metal. Despite still being quite aggressive and intricate at times, follow-up “This Is What a Winner Looks Like” logically doubles down on that chemistry, resulting in their most immediately enjoyable and tuneful record to date.

Reflecting on how the COVID-19 pandemic affected their work, front-man Darran Charles explains: “[E]very band and their dog were writing and releasing new music. For me though, it was the least creative time in my entire life.” Fortunately, being able to perform live reinvigorated the whole band’s imagination and determination, and by dividing up artistic duties more than ever, Godsticks crafted their most collaborative LP yet. 

As for the cover art, designer Richard Beeching reflects: “The band and I agreed we needed a visually engaging sleeve to match the album’s strong title, but nothing too literal.  Something just about abstract enough to allow the audience to make of it what they will.  Our primate fits the bill nicely.” Indeed, there connection between the lead image and the name of the record makes It arrestingly bold and humorous.

Opener “If I Don’t Take It All” instantly embodies the sequence’s emphasis on fetching accessibility, Written about “the struggles we all face every day and overcoming them – whether it’s something a bit more dramatic and harrowing . . . or the more personal, inner battles that every one of us will have to face,” its subtle electronic coatings enhance what’s already a highly catchy piece instrumentally and vocally. Charles sings with poppy defiance and confidence over grungy guitar chords and steadfast rhythms, so it’s a perfect blend of nuanced style and traditional structure.

“This Is What A Winner Looks Like” Artwork

Naturally, a few subsequent tracks—“This Is My New Normal,” “Don’t Say A Word to Me,” and closer “Wake Up”—largely fit into the same box while featuring enough original elements to feel distinctive and rewarding. There are even a couple of compositions (“Mayhem” and “Throne”) that tap into the prog metal gruffness of, say, Periphery and Karnivool.

That said, much of the collection broaches lighter and gentler territories, too.

For instance, “Eliminate and Repair” and ‘’Devotion Made to Offend” are built upon morose guitar patterns, pained vocal harmonies, and crestfallen lyricism. They’ve got plenty of punch as well, but much of their duration is introspectively moody and unassuming. On the other hand, ‘’Silent Saw” and “Lying” evoke Radiohead and The Pineapple Thief with their synthy atmospheres, pleasing rock timbres, and delicate ponderings.

Whether or not “This Is What a Winner Looks Like” is better than its predecessors is difficult to say, as fans who adore Godsticks’ more experimental and gruff earlier days will find less of that here. In contrast, listeners who’ve enjoyed their increasingly focused and commercially viable trajectory will almost certainly see it as the best of the bunch. In any case, “This Is What a Winner Looks Like” represents another superb balance of freshness and familiarity, allowing the group to revise their formula once again without losing much — if any — of their core identity.

Release Date: May 26th, 2023
Record Label: Kscope
Genre: Progressive Rock/Metal


  • Darran Charles / Lead Vocals, guitars, keys
  • Dan Nelson / Bass
  • Gavin Bushell /Guitar
  • Tom Price / Drums

“This Is What a Winner Looks Like” Track-list:

1. If I Don’t Take It All
2. Eliminate and Repair
3. This Is My New Normal
4. Devotion Made to Offend
5. Silent Saw
6. Throne
7. Don’t Say A Word To Me
8. Mayhem
9. Lying
10. Wake Up

Order “This Is What a Winner Looks Like” HERE

9.0 Excellent

“This Is What a Winner Looks Like” is Godsticks’ most immediately enjoyable and tuneful record to date, with the group cleverly yet subtly revising their formula without losing much—if any—of their core identity

  • Songwriting 9
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 8.5
  • Production 9.5

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