IT BITES – Map Of The Past (2012)
Since they first burst into the rock business in the latter half of the ’80s, IT BITES were associated with the progressive rock scene but the band always defied that categorisation.
After six years, It Bites return with a new album, “Map Of The Past”, still crossing the borders between genres, and as usual delivering a captivating musical experience.
In 2006, It Bites recruited singer / guitarist John Mitchell (who has worked with everybody from Arena to John Wetton) to front the band, while original bassist Dick Nolan left and was replaced by southpaw Lee Pomeroy.
“Map Of The Past” is the second studio album by the revived It Bites, breaking new ground for the band while still somehow sounding reassuringly true to their past, both recent and not so.
Starting very slowly, “Man In The Photograph” finds us dialing through an old fashioned radio, finding sounds, music and voices from decades past, before an extremely melancholy melody breaks through. The heart rendering tones are joined by Beck’s keys and Mitchell’s voice, for what almost sounds more like the end of an album, rather than its beginning.
The guitar riff of “Wallflower” however is classic It Bites. Dalton lays down a thunderous beat from which Mitchell strikes out a warbling, whammy-barred riff that Beck builds layers of keys and Hammond over. It is uncompromising, but dripping with melody and when the bridge slides into view with an ever so restrained vibe, the effect makes the instantly memorable chorus all the more impactful. Perhaps surprisingly this track, and a few others like “The Big Machine”, remind me of Winger in the chorus department. And perhaps that’s less this band emulating Winger and more Winger’s flirtation with prog on their recent discs.
The title track “Map Of The Past” mixes Peter Gabriel era Genesis with a catchy song-based neo prog feel ala Marillion. Mitchell again illustrates what an underrated vocalist he truly is, with tons of character and emotion. Another strong chorus combined with complex prog and classic It Bites-isms pretty much sums up where this band is right now.
“Clocks” is the first ballad, and a truly haunting one. It’s evocative of old It Bites but also very new given what vocalist John Mitchell brings to the table. It has a steady beat sitting well with the song’s theme. As the song progresses, the music takes on the whirling wheeze of a fairground ride, swirling and bobbing, making the pumping bass work from Pomeroy and crisp snare snap that heralds the introduction of “Flags” simply jump out of the speakers.
If band’s of this ilk still had ‘hits’, “Flags” would be the chart crosser over from Map Of The Past, with its bouncy Melodic Rock beat and super sing along chorus burrowing into your consciousness at the very listen.
“The Big Machine” is bold and brassy, getting its message across in a melodically uncompromising manner, before “Cartoon Graveyard” comes on like a punchy, modern take on Prog, especially in the way in which the more sparsely arranged sections are phrased. It really is a quite wonderful song, which segues into the bombast of church organs and melodic guitars.
Oddly we are then whisked back into melancholia, via the unsettling “Send No Flowers”. Keyboards again come rushing to the front for “Meadow And The Stream”, where It Bites are possibly as close to all out, traditional Prog as you are ever likely to hear.
The beautiful “The Last Escape” simplifies things again in a Floydian / Marillion way to one of the most attention grabbing songs on this already spell-binding album.
Then as it all began, radio sounds crackle into life, this time accompanied by dreamy acoustic guitar and news clippets under the guise of “Exit Song”, which brings the album to the end.
“Map Of The Past” is a brilliant new offering from It Bites, one of the most creative UK bands in the last 25 years. This new album awesomely blends enchanting Neo Prog sounds – both relaxed and upbeat – with bouncing Melodic Rock overtones.
There are still plenty of classic It Bites touches, provided by the majestic layer of keyboards courtesy of John Beck, while Mitchell has brought to the band a new sonic horizon. Both have successfully mixed their talents writing together a varied collection of songs, somehow chained by a concept.
Don’t be put off by the labels ’prog’ or ’concept’, “Map Of The Past” is a stunning album full of melodious rock melodies and catchy, sensible harmonies.
This is It Bites as they always were, ever evolving, never the same, yet reassuringly recognisable and utterly fantastic.
01 – Man In The Photograph
02 – Wallflower
03 – Map Of The Past
04 – Clocks
05 – Flag
06 – The Big Machine
07 – Cartoon Graveyard
08 – Send No Flowers
09 – Meadow And The Stream
10 – The Last Escape
11 – Exit Song
John Mitchell: Vocals, Guitar
John Beck: Keyboards
Lee Pomeroy: Bass
Bob Dalton: Drums
BUY IT !