After hearing about the departure of lead vocalist and songwriter Tim Smith, it goes without saying that some doubts were raised about Midlake deciding to continue without their talisman. Not only did the rest of the band decide to keep going, they also decided to abandon nearly two years worth of recordings and start their fourth record from scratch. Smith's voice and the harmonies built around it were arguably the centre-piece of the band's work up to this point and it was tricky to see how they could ever be the same again. Thankfully though, the remaining band members appear to have realised this. On Antiphon, Midlake aren't trying to be the same again. Their sound has evolved to account for the strengths of the remaining members. At no point does it feel like they're trying to recreate Tim Smith. Midlake have forged a new identity, forged an updated sound and produced a fantastic record.

From the driving bassline introduction of opener 'Antiphon', it is evident that the band have moved towards a richer sound; prioritising greater musical ambition over trying to recreate Smith's vocals. This being said, stepping up to lead vocal duties, guitarist Eric Pulido really stamps his mark on the songs. Although he lacks the haunting folk beauty of Smith, his vocals are deeper with an almost José Gonzalez quality about them. Whereas Smith's vocals were often the focal point set atop intricate musical backing, Pulido's suitably complement the more psych-tinged sound that the band have taken on. Obviously it was going to be a big ask for him to match the melodic brilliance of their previous albums. Nevertheless, he puts in a more than admirable account of his own capabilities as a frontman and songwriter, particularly on 'The Old And The Young' and 'It's Going Down'.

Comparisons to the old Midlake aside, Antiphon is a very different and worthy prospect. It is the sound of a band making the music that they want to make, not what they think fans of the band will want. Throughout, there are frantic drum fills, woozy guitars and powering basslines. The songs have a strong groove that you'd find nowhere in their previous works. The tracks all have facets of the delicate folk that we've come to know and love, but also much more as they meander between this and a more improvised, jam-led sound. Never is this more present than on instrumental track, 'Vale'. It comes in with a hazy psychedelic groove, that could almost be on an early Verve record, before dropping into minimal woodwind and folk guitar before steadily growing into a spaced out jam. It perfectly embodies the new identity that Midlake have very successfully adopted.

Only on 'Aurora Gone' do we get anything that you could imagine hearing on one of their first three records. The most stripped back song on the record, it provides a lovely interlude and a firm reminder that this is still a Midlake record. The new songs either side of it aren't an abandonment of their classic sound, but a development upon the foundations that were already in place. 'Provider' best maps this development, demonstrating the importance for the band to retain the musical heart of what makes Midlake, Midlake.

On Antiphon it feels almost as if the band have finally been set free to express themselves as musicians and not serve as the backing band to a particularly talented frontman. Recorded in just six months, you really get the sense that they thoroughly enjoyed making this record. Though far from cheery, it's a joy to listen to from start to finish.

It has to be said that the latter half of the record doesn't quite mach the former, there's still not a bad track present. Though 'The Weight' is a tad dull, the psychedelic outro and haunting vocals of 'Ages' further purveys the band's greater sense of sonic expression. 'Corruption' however, veers back towards the more familiar sound of their previous work but is a decent song nonetheless. Whilst it may sound a bit lightweight in comparison to the tracks around it, the harmonies are suitably delightful. Closer 'Provider Reprise' is a nicely orchestrated finish, but it would've been preferable to hear them close the record in the same vein that they started it. The best moments on Antiphon are where the band take the approach of a rock band, not a folk band.

On Antiphon, Midlake are a band out to make a point. The point is that Midlake weren't just the vehicle for Tim Smith's musical vision, but a collection of musicians, talented in their own right, who are more than capable of putting together a well written, ambitious and coherent album. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Antiphon is as good as anything they've previously released. Point proven.