The neon lights are still there, so too is the lure of a “transient town”, and the many fabled characters who reside in the Silver State. The Killers are back with their fourth studio album, and Battle Born is their call to bear arms – open arms, embracing both folly and fear. From the start of epic opener, Flesh & Bone, the Killers set up what’s to come on this offering – much reflection and digging deep to find those things, those experiences that define a life.
“What are you afraid of, and what are you made of?” Brandon Flowers asks in the opening track, a theme of mettle-testing echoed further on in songs like From Here on Out and Carry Me Home. Redemption, grace, forgiveness – grand subjects the Killers are known for mining to find the universal experience in an individual one. Albeit a unique one. Flowers’ life as frontman for a world-renowned band, with his family of four left behind at home, makes for searing subject matter on tracks like the single Runaways.
With his voice sounding better – more resilient, more powerful – than ever, Flowers channels the advice and the anecdotes that come through Mark Stoermer’s bass, Robbie (ahem, Ronnie) Vanucci’s drums and Dave Koening’s anthemic guitar.
Much has been made of the hallmarks of each of the Killers’ career defining albums – from debut Hot Fuss’ 80s-style new wave, the homage Sam’s Town paid to Springsteen, to the shiny dance-pop sprinkled over Day & Age. In a sense, elements of these albums combine here to form the grandiose sounds of Battle Born. Coming after a hiatus, during which the band members all explored side projects, the record was made in the studio of the same name, with an array of producers, some of whom the band has worked with before, like Steve Lillywhite and Damien Taylor, on previous albums, both solo and as a group.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, the Killers said the title Battle Born comes from an unofficial nickname for their home state. “In a sense, all Americans are battle-born,” Flowers said. “Our ancestors came here for something better.” This album tells stories of fighting and winning, and fighting and not winning, yet staying strong in the defeat.
Flowers has spoken of how he honed his songwriting skills, and for that, there are gems to be found in encouraging lines such as “rise up like the sun, labour ’til the work is done.”
Battle Born is out on iTunes now.