Equals is a studio album by The Alarm, released on 29th June 2018 on CD, red vinyl, black vinyl and digital streaming. It contains reworked versions of songs from Blood Red and Viral Black and one song that first appeared on the Where The Two Rivers Meet EP. There was also a promo CD.
Musicians & Credits
Mike Peters: Vocals, Harmonica, Baritone, Acoustic and electric guitars
Smiley: Drums, Percussion and Backing vocals
James Stevenson: Acoustic guitar, Electric guitar, Slide guitar, Bass guitar and backing vocals
Jules Jones Peters: Piano and backing vocals
George Williams: Keyboards and Bass guitar
Billy Duffy: Electric guitar on Coming Backwards
Produced and mixed by George Williams.
Engineered by Mark Warden (Bethel Chapel and The Doghouse), Tony Draper (Parr Street) and Matt Glasbey (Monnow Valley)
Recorded at Bethel Chapel studios, Wales, Parr Street Studio A and C, Liverpool, The Doghouse Studios, Henley on Thames, Monnow Valley, South Wales
Mastered By – Howie Weinberg
Artwork by Dan Shearn.
Cover photograph by Andy Labro
CD Track listing:
1. Two Rivers – 5:05
2. Beautiful – 3:00
3. Coming Backwards – 3:56
4. Transatlantic – 3:27
5. Crowd Trouble – 3:20
6. Peace Now 3:43
7. Thirteen Dead Reindeer – 4:59
8. Neutral – 4:17
9. Cenotaph – 5:28
10. Hellfire – 2:59
11. Tomorrow – 3:10
Vinyl Track Listing
1. Two Rivers – 5:05
2. Beautiful – 3:00
3. Coming Backwards – 3:56
4. Transatlantic – 3:27
5. Crowd Trouble – 3:20
6. Peace Now 3:43
7. Thirteen Dead Reindeer – 4:59
8. Neutral – 4:17
9. Cenotaph – 5:28
10. Tomorrow – 3:10
The original versions of Two Rivers, Beautiful, Peace Now, Thirteen Dead Reindeer, Neutral, Cenotaph and Hellfire can be found on Viral Black. The original versions of Coming Backwards, Crowd Trouble and Tomorrow can be found on Blood Red. Transatlantic can be found on the Where The Two Rivers Meet EP, where the new version of Two Rivers was also first included. Two promo only CD singles, Two Rivers and Beautiful, were released from the album.
The Album produced official promotional videos for
April 2018 – Beautiful – Video link
June 2018 – Two Rivers – Video link version 1 – The video for this was directed by Paul Green
June 2018 – Two Rivers – Video link version 2 – live fan version
October 2018 – Transatlantic – Video link
Worldwide Release on Twenty First Records
Vinyl Album – Equals, 29th June 2018 Twenty First Century Recording Company, catalogue number 21C100 Black vinyl
Vinyl Album – Equals, 29th June 2018 Twenty First Century Recording Company, catalogue number 21C100 Red vinyl
CD Album – Equals, 29th June 2018 Twenty First Century Recording Company, catalogue number 21C101
CD Album – Equals, 29th June 2018 Twenty First Century Recording Company, catalogue number 21C101 Promotional copy
EQUALS is The Alarm’s first mainstream album release since 2010’s Direct Action. It is a barnstorming collection of 11 songs that act as a retrenchment of old values and a poignant reflection of the tough times Mike and his wife Jules have been through in recent years. Having recovered from lymph cancer in 1996, Mike was diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia in 2005 and, after an initial recovery, he suffered a relapse in 2015. To compound an already terrifying situation, Jules, who plays piano and sings backing vocals, was diagnosed with breast cancer just after. All band activity was put on hold as the pair underwent treatment and it is only now, with both in remission, that The Alarm are firing on all cylinders again. The emotional repercussions, though, are all too evident in the spirit of life-affirming optimism in the face of adversity that runs through EQUALS.
“The songs were built out of what I had become,” says Mike. “I learnt a lot about myself and my relationship with Jules, and it’s all there in the music. I didn’t set out to write about what we were going through. All I had were these incredibly strong feelings that I found myself putting into words and writing down onto my phone without even thinking they might form the basis for songs.”
Produced by George Williams (who previously worked on 2005’s Under Attack and on the Blood Red Viral Black Sessions), EQUALS features all new recordings and mixes that were created in 2018 and opens with a torrent of epic rock numbers such as Two Rivers and Beautiful, which see Peters singing about coming to terms with the past before moving to enjoy life to the full. Joined by Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros drummer Smiley and guitarist James Stevenson, (who cut his teeth with Chelsea, Gen X and The Cult), this new album encompasses twin harmony guitars, pounding drums and electronic layering, while guest guitarist Billy Duffy (The Cult) helps Peters and Stevenson blend acoustic and electric sounds on Coming Backwards.
EQUALS is the latest chapter in an inspirational story that has seen The Alarm sell six million albums while clocking up 17 Top Fifty singles in the UK. Formed in 1981 in the Welsh seaside resort of Rhyl, the original band of Peters, Dave Sharp, Eddie MacDonald and Nigel Twist broke through on the back of the singles Unsafe Building, The Stand, Sixty Eight Guns and Where Were You Hiding When The Storm Broke?, their music a passionate blend of amped-up acoustic guitars, harmonica and Mike’s stirring voice. A string of successful albums saw them bracketed alongside U2, The Waterboys, Simple Minds and Big Country as part of Eighties rock’s distinctive Celtic fringe. After an emotional swansong at Brixton Academy in 1991, the original members went their separate ways, with Mike launching a solo career and joining forces with Billy Duffy in a short-lived band called Coloursøund. The lingering allure of his old group proved hard to resist, however, and Peters entered a new millennium back at the helm of The Alarm. The group’s activities since that 1999 re-launch have included an ambitious album project, the Poppy Fields Bond, that saw them release five CDs in five months in 2003 and a ‘fake band’ escapade the following year in which they concealed their true identity by releasing a single, 45 RPM, as The Poppy Fields. They created a global news story when the song unexpectedly hit the UK charts.
Today, with Mike’s health now ‘back on an even keel’ and Jules in remission, The Alarm are looking forward to promoting Equals with characteristic vigour. Peters wouldn’t want it any other way. Not long after his second diagnosis, he founded a charity foundation, Love Hope Strength, and has since registered over 170,000 individuals to the International Bone Marrow Donor Registry. A man who refuses to be beaten, his drive in adversity is truly something special.
“The endgame of any creative period is always to share the results with an audience. The turbulence of the last few years has shaken The Alarm’s world to its core but we have survived the challenges and are now ready for the next steps, which is performing the music live with our fans adding to the experience. Nearly all of the music on ‘Equals’ has been road tested and already part of The Alarm DNA, myself and the band are primed and ready to give everything we have to make this year a life affirming experience for all our fans.”
Louderthanwar.com By Neil Hodge – June 7, 2018
Mike Peters returns with the first Alarm album in 8 years. The album is a typical Peters blend of poignancy & emotion, inspirational optimism in the face of adversity & socio-political comment. The stirring positivity is all the more admirable and poignant based on what Mike and Jules have gone through health-wise in recent years. It is all sound-tracked by a bombastic combination of acoustic and crashing raucous electric guitars, pounding rhythm section and bolstered by an additional keyboard / electronic element throughout. Suffice to say with all that they have been through, getting 170,000 people to sign up to the International Bone Marrow Donor Registry through the work of his charity Love Hope Strength, and recording this new album, Mike & Jules Peters are an inspiration. They are determined and steadfast and refuse to be knocked down.
So I feel guilty that my first comments on the album are slightly negative. However, my first thought on hearing opening track Two Rivers is, when did the Alarm embrace EDM? The album opens with full on synthesisers, and overall for me the track is a bit too reminiscent of 30 Seconds to Mars, with the synthesisers and “woah oh oh oh ohs”. That may not sound like a bad thing to many, but personally, I’m not a fan. There are however wee reminders of The Alarm I know and love with a bit of harmonica, passionate lyrics and obviously Mike Peter’s familiar warm and comforting familiar voice. While there is an element of synthesisers/electronica present through the whole album, after Two Rivers, the sound is the more of the familiar passionate rock I would associate with The Alarm. Jules keyboards adding depth and an additional layer of dynamism to the songs. There is never any doubt in the spirit that is present on music recorded by Mike Peters and Beautiful is an upbeat track full of hope and optimism. You can clearly hear one of Peter’s trademark sounds – the acoustic guitar played through electric pick-ups.
Coming Backwards sees Mike rekindle his acquaintance with The Cult’s Billy Duffy, where he joins the rest of the band – accomplished guitarist James Stevenson and ex-Mescaleros drummer Smiley alongside Mike and Jules on the track to bolstering the guitar sound and melding all the elements together flawlessly. Transatlantic, Crowd Trouble & Peace Now are more of the Alarm I know and love. Peace Now being a passionate plea and statement of determined commitment to harmony. “Peace now, peace today, peace tomorrow – that’s what I say”. No guitars in the war machine indeed. As I listen to the rest of the album, I start to reflect on how the electronic elements add to and enhance the soundscape on many tracks. Take 13 Dead Reindeer for example – the keyboards bring to mind elements of bands like Republica/Garbage and layered with the other instruments and backing vocals adds a welcome additional texture to the song. I have by now started to wipe from my mind my initial trepidation on hearing Two Rivers. Cenotaph is another strong Alarm track – a real signature track both musically and lyrically. While Hellfire is almost Muse like in its intro and pounding drumming. The track also pays tribute to Peters time as vocalist with Big Country with the lyric “ If I should die in a combat zone, box me up and ship me home” reflecting Adamson’s lyrics in Where the Rose is Sown. Tomorrow is a strong final track, mixing acoustic and electric guitars and keyboards. The upbeat message advocating triumph over hardship and looking forward to a bright future. “Stay positive, stay strong, whatever you think you are today, you can be tomorrow”
Strike my first comment about EDM, with the rest of the album being as strong as this.
Love Hope Strength.
Loudersound.com by Sleazegrinder June 26, 2018
Given that we appear to be living through a particularly unpleasant blip in the ongoing saga of mankind, a new Alarm record seems like just the salve we need. Indeed the fact that this album exists at all is a testament to the endurance of the indomitable human spirit in the wake of tragedy and woe. The first new Alarm album in eight years comes after frontman Mike Peters’s second battle with leukaemia and his wife and piano player Jules’s breast cancer diagnosis in 2015. Both are now in remission, and Equals reflects their struggles and cautious triumphs, turning their darkest days into the bright white light of chiming rock anthems.
During the flurry of earnest 80s Celtic-flavoured alt.rock, The Alarm were often dismissed as a sort of junior-league Welsh U2. Lacking the punk-cult appeal of New Model Army or the hip, whiskey-soaked strumble of The Waterboys, they chose instead to write polished, radio-baiting, sky-scraping anthems like 68 Guns, Spirit Of 76 and The Stand. While these stoic protest songs made less sense in the tongue-in-cheek bummer-jam 90s, they have since become increasingly relevant as days grow darker.
Peters remains the sole survivor of the original line-up, but since rebooting The Alarm in 1999 he has kept the band’s legacy alive and well, even while undergoing life-threatening health scares. The Alarm remain a living art form, and the music the band creates now bares less resemblance to their 80s counterparts than you might expect. Equals boasts a crackerjack band that includes former Joe Strummer drummer Steve ‘Smiley’ Barnard and Cult guitarist James Stevenson (The Cult’s Billy Duffy also makes an appearance, on the crackling Coming Backwards). The sounds they create combine Peters’s signature electric-acoustic strumming with a bubbling electronic vibe, a sort of old-school-meets-new-wave feel that’s organic enough to sound natural but most definitely brings the band kicking and screaming into the 21st century. The Alarm are still at their best, however, when Peters belts out heart-swelling anthems, and Equals is full of ’em, most notably the infectious Beautiful, a dazzling ode to joy, slinky opener Twin Rivers, and Crowd Control, a loud-quiet-loud rabble-rouser that sounds like a modern millennial pop hit only, you know, good. Fans of the band’s salad days will also gobble up vintage-sounding burners like 13 Dead Reindeer and Hellfire. Overall it’s a very tasty mix of past and future.
https://www.xsnoize.com/ by Sarah Blemster June 24, 2018
Since their formation in 1981 in the Welsh town of Rhyl the Alarm has sold six million albums and managed to clock up 17 Top Fifty singles in the UK. The original members of Mike Peters, Dave Sharp, Eddie MacDonald and Nigel Twist appeared on the scene with the singles The Stand, Sixty-Eight Guns, Unsafe Building and Where Were You Hiding When The Storm Broke with their acoustic guitars (amped-up), harmonica and Peters rousing voice they fitted into the Celtic rock set of bands like Big Country and The Waterboys. In 1991 they went their parting ways and with Mike launching a solo career and joining forces with Billy Duffy of the Cult in a short-lived outfit called Coloursøund. He returned to the fold though in 1999 where a project The Poppy Fields Bond saw them release five CDs in as many months in 2003, no mean feat. Mike Peters has come through quite a time. Having recovered from lymph cancer in 1996, he was diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia in 2005 and, after an initial recovery, he suffered a relapse in 2015. To add to an already terrifying situation, his wife Jules, who plays the piano and sings backing vocals for the band, was then diagnosed with breast cancer soon after. The band stopped all activity as they underwent treatment, and luckily they are now in remission and back together as The Alarm and raring to go with their latest album. Equals is their first album since 2010’s Direct Action.
As I’ve always associated The Alarm with stirring guitars their first track on the new album surprised me and took a bit of getting used to. Whilst Two Rivers begins with the strum of an acoustic guitar it then comes in with a very 80s synth pop beat which I wasn’t too sure about, though Mike Peters’ vocal is still a passionate call to arms. It’s good to experiment with different sounds, however too much of it and it started sounding a bit Europop territory. Their riotousness spirit and thumping drums manage to carry it off though. Beautiful sounds like more classic Alarm with driving guitars and drums. The song speaks of gratitude; “Everything I had is gone….everything is beautiful tonight”. It dips in the middle with a piano bridge that works well before the guitar reappears. Coming Backwards is performed with the usual Mike Peters gusto and has The Cult’s Billy Duffy to complement this resolute track. Transatlantic has a melodic introduction with softer vocal, piano and more of that bombastic drum. It’s dreamy before melting into an explosive refrain. Crowd Trouble contains jagged soundwaves intertwined with harmonies and a great keyboard. Peace Now references Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall with harmonica again and is a strong anti-war song performed with zest. “No guitars in the war machine, my amplifier will drown your speech.” By now there are electronics played on various other tracks but it works well. Thirteen Dead Reindeer has a clipped electro beginning with a keyboard reminiscent of Supertramp and jubilant electric judders. Neutral has a glimmer of an electronic dreamy landscape before more of that fervent rock we know so well comes in. “I’m not on anybody’s side, except my own. I live and die as I was born to this world.” Cenotaph contains a background electronic loop that really adds to this feisty song lush with crunchy guitars whilst Hellfire is another strong song. Tomorrow is great to finish on as it sums the whole album up well: positive determined and a triumph to the band’s indomitable spirit over life’s adversities. A few surprises in there too.
https://2loud2oldmusic.com – Published on October 24, 2018
Has there ever been a band that you loved and then suddenly stopped paying attention to any new releases? The Alarm was that for me. I followed them throughout the 80’s and after 1989’s album ‘Change’, just stopped listening to new stuff. No reason, just stopped. It is strange and I can’t figure out why. So when I saw they had a new album being released, something told me to listen to it. Now if I wasn’t doing this blog, would I have cared or paid attention? I can’t answer that, but the thing is I did pay attention and I did listen to their new release this time. And I am hear to tell you I am so glad I did.
Now Mike Peters is the only original member still in the band and usually that would bother me, but Mike was always my draw anyway. I loved his vocals, his delivery and his style and with him still at the mic, I am still getting what I liked.
From the first notes of the opening track, “Two Rivers”, there was a familiarity to it with the minor exceptions of some electronica sounds which I don’t recall the band ever doing. However, that was a minor distraction. Mike Peters sounded amazing and he hadn’t lost anything which is amazing considering he has been around singing since the late 70’s. Then came “Beautiful” and the band sounded almost happy which is new as well, but the song still resonated The Alarm sound. I imagine Mike is feeling good after battling chronic lymphocytic leukemia a second time and coming out on top again. That could easily produce a song as great as this where everything is beautiful. And when I got the third track, “Coming Backwards (with Billy Duffy)”, it was filled with the punch of old and reminded me more of what I have always loved about the band. It is amazing how in three short songs, my love and excitement about The Alarm had returned in full force. I have since devoured this album over and over and the back catalog that I have missed has been added to my library and I am now exploring what I might have missed and apparently I have missed a lot. And if that wasn’t enough, the song “Peace Now” took me even further over the edge. The Alarm has also had some social commentary in their albums and they have done them in such a way that made it interesting and made you take notice. And they used the harmonica in grand affect in the past and was part of their signature sound for me. That had been missing so far on this album until this song and that is when I lost my shit. At the build up of the chorus at a little over 2 minutes into the song, Mike whipped out the harmonica and I was taken back to the 80’s Alarm. It was over for me at this point there was no going back to not listening to The Alarm.
There were several other songs that I thought were amazing, the acoustic opening of “Crowd Trouble” that exploded into a rocker with the chorus then back to acoustic for the next verse before just rocking out the remainder of the song. Brilliant. “Hell Fire” brings us a heavier, almost slight industrial sound that is a nice change of pace and gives us some variety which is always appreciated. The electronica sound was also used on the sensational “Thirteen Dead Reindeer” which is a single off the album. It too only enhanced their sound and didn’t take away from anything. I am actually digging how they incorporating the electronica sound as they did it again on “Neutral”. There can be a place for it in rock if used correctly and they are doing just that. “Neutral” is another little rocker that I thought was strong. Along with the politically charged “Cenotaph” both songs seem to be discussing the issues with the world and the constant possibility of another big war taking place. It is the social commentary they have always had, but turned into great songs and not preachy. The final track on the album is “Tomorrow” and it is another great, upbeat track that catches you singing along with “Whatever you think you are today, you can’t be tomorrow”. The album starts off on a high note and ends on one too. The only track that was negative for me was “Transatlantic”. I never connected to that one as it seemed a little flat and didn’t have the heart or feel of the rest of the album. Not bad though, only one track that I would delete.
What is amazing about this album is the ability to take me back to their earlier albums of “Declaration” and “Strength” yet not make the songs dated. They threw those little nuggets to remind you of days of old (cue harmonica), yet they are fully entrenched in today’s sound with the electronica elements. It was really a masterful collection of songs. The album has only the one song to delete so it gets a 91% on the Track Score (10 keepers out of 11 tracks). And the overall score for the quality of the songs and the overall album is a 4.5 out 5 stars. If this is what I have been missing out on over the years, I can’t wait to absorb the albums I missed. If you were ever a fan of the band from the 80’s, you have to revisit this band now and you won’t be disappointed. Mike Peters has found a new joy and passion for music and it is obvious in the collection of songs he has released. Great job!!