Being named as one of the fifteen artists ‘to watch’ on this years BBC Sound of 2012 Shortlist, as well as promising great things after the release of their EP Chambers & The Values in November 2011, does nothing to stall the growing hype and expectation which surrounds Dry The River’s debut album, Shallow Bed. In a genre which is becoming increasingly staid and overdone, Dry The River have attempted, and succeed in creating a record which transcends our ‘indie-folk’ expectations. In this case, appearances are certainly deceptive. For Dry The River aren’t your typical ‘indie-folk’ band, although their elemental name, bearded and tattooed bodies and classic acoustic guitar/violin collaborations may convince you otherwise. Citing an amalgamation of classic timeless influences - Leonard Cohen, Neutral Milk Hotel, Neil Young and At The Drive-In - their sound claims another platform, removed from traditional folk and drawn instead from their mutual love of American hardcore bands - Indian Summer, Rites of Spring and Antioch Arrow. These influences have driven Dry The River’s desire to “express personal things in an intense and energetic way," evoking, in the old sense of the word, the true evocation of ‘emo’. Aside from the quiet, pensive and contemplative elements drawn from the classics, it is the ferociousness drawn from the hardcore influences which may shock an unsuspecting audience, “I think people are surprised when they come to see us live...they expect us to be really calm and quiet but in some ways we’re the opposite.”

Peter Liddle, lead vocalist, originally toured solo in 2009 under Dry The River’s name, but, in the spring of same year acquired bandmates, and later housemates, to form the tightly cohesive unit. Moving away from his solo, more folkish sound, fellow bandmembers Matt Taylor, Scott Miller, Will Harvey and Jon Warren, encouraged a heavier, more hardcore sound, which amalgamates so perfectly with the recognisable timeless folk echo of Liddle’s vocals. Pairing this amalgamation of sound with the production skills of Peter Katis (Interpol/The National) and it is a relationship from heaven; Katis really does know when to amp up the extraordinarily powerful finales as well as when to treat the more delicate and pensive tracks with more care and restraint. It is the concentration on analogue which distinguishes the band from purely folk tendencies, Liddle himself stresses the importance of their generic mix, “we wanted to record the bulk of it to tape, to use analogue stuff in favour of computer wizardry where possible, but without it sounding like an old folk record.” It certainly is a folk record, but folk on an emotional rampage after one too many coffees.

The album is a thing of beauty – it is full of delicate and imaginative hooks and big bold melodies, as well as being considered and contemplative, “I think we’ve agonised over every note of it” says Liddle. Opening track ‘Animal Skins’ is the simplest in the album, but where simplicity doesn’t not necessitate weakness, the track sets a precedent to the musical journey which follows an increasing crescendo until the climatic ending of the penultimate song, ‘The Lion’s Den’. With massive percussion, a soaring climactic chorus and choral harmonised vocals, the opening track sets up the personality of the album perfectly. ‘New Ceremony’s’ contagious melody resonates long after listening, and with the euphoric pace which characterises the album, moves joyfully into a crashing chorus, “shine a little light, don’t wrestle with the night, don’t think about your future now. I know it’s gotta stop love but I don’t know how.” The subtle guitar picking and choral harmonies in ‘Shield Your Eyes’ maintain a leg stamping pace until the perfectly timed tempo drop in the choruses, followed by the gaining pace after the beautifully vocalised bridge, “under sweet autumnal skins, is our myth dispelled. In your strange and simple way.” This track gave me one of the many unashamed moments where I was prompted to drum on any surface available.

‘History Books’, a tamer, folkier track bought forward from their old EP, displays a stronger sense of musical infancy but is brought screaming into the world of adult contemplation by Katis’ production wizardry. It is a coy cousin to the anthemic partners who sandwich it, but the transgression to sparse and uncluttered does nothing to reduce its deserved place in their entirety of the album. Another EP to album evolution lies most noticeably in ‘Chambers & The Values’, perhaps because it is the first single release and therefore looks to be more universally agreeable. It is the only case in the album where I prefer the rawer, clumsier EP track version, believing the first single from the album to stir up a more mainstream folk sound which leads to shudder-inducing Mumford & Sons comparisons [not that I don’t love them in their own right].

Up to this moment in the album, each song satisfies in building up to a soaring relentless crescendo, and the only song which fails to do so, ‘Demons’, blends so effortlessly into ‘Bible Belt’ that the two songs form a seamless two-part epic. The album definitely reeks of folklore and tradition, especially in its emotive storytelling, which while simple in the majority of tracks, moves through intricate religious profundity in a number, influenced by Liddle’s Catholic education. Prime example of this talented storytelling comes in ‘Bible Belt’ which tells a prosaic tale of hardship and experience, “Lo and Behold! Your mother is drinking again. This might be the coldest winter since records began.” ‘No Rest’ is by far my favourite of the album. It is rambunctiously, rousing, musical rampage with a patient escalating upsurge and such a densely layered cacophony as to leave you entirely breathless.

Shadowed in reverent emotional outpourings, ‘Shaker Hyms’s’ guitar picking takes a more organic route, focusing on the musical intricacy of their pitch perfect harmonies. It is here that we can truly appreciate the directness of Liddle’s trademark vocals, removed from heavy blankets of powerful instruments. ‘Weights & Measures’ contains possibly the catchiest hook line of the album - “I was prepared to love you, never expected anything of you” - the pause in between ‘prepared’ and ‘to love you’ being a tremendously effective use of powerful musical tension. Another example of tension, this time vocally, is exhibited in penultimate track, ‘Lion’s Den’. The rawness in Liddle’s vocals – “You took me to the Lion’s Den” - resounds through the track and his screams are powerfully majestic. His voice almost evokes a sense of otherworldliness which gives the entire album a brand new direction. ‘Lion’s Den’ has the power in leaving you utterly exhausted, and it is almost difficult to gain composure in the appreciation of final contemplative track, ‘Family’ which calms the escalating tension into an organic, pensive exploration of rural life, stirring up untold emotional outbursts and finishing the album beautifully.

Shallow Bed is a stunning debut album which showcases the band’s boundless talents and promises for a very bright year, confirming the band’s rightful place in the year’s hotly tipped lists. One listen will not suffice, and you will find yourself, as I have, pressing repeat for weeks to come.