On 28th June 2019, The Alarm will release new album Sigma, exactly one year & one day after the release of its prequel – Equals. Equals received some of best reviews the band have had in over a decade. ∑ Sigma (released by The Twenty-First Century Recording Company and distributed by InGrooves) takes up and carries forward the themes that have been expressed since lead singer and songwriter Mike Peters was plunged into a deeply intense period of life, following a relapse from leukaemia, while his wife Jules was also being diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer.
The beginnings of Sigma can be traced back to the origins that fostered Equals, a collection of songs that acted as a retrenchment of original values and a poignant reflection of the tough times the band and its fans have had to contend with in recent years. With The Alarm firing on all cylinders again, the band released Equals on June 28th 2018 and committed to a vast amount of live concerts in support of the new music they had created, and with over 150 shows played, the emotional repercussions became clear for all to see through the spirit of life-affirming optimism that fuelled every single show.
With so much material – almost 30 finished songs in all – The Alarm initially envisaged a double album (which started out under the all-embracing handle of Sigma’s opening cut Blood Red Viral Black). “All the songs had a similar emotional core although there are also fundamental differences,” explains Mike. “So I divided the songs into categories – inwards / red / blood / outwards / black / viral. Road-testing the new songs live, helped us decide to release the music in two stages. First as Equals / = with the knowledge that a sequel would come in the form of Sigma / ∑, a year later.”
∑ Sigma sees the band once again team-up with producer George Williams (who has worked with The Alarm throughout this entire period) and the album opens up with a pulsating rocker in the shape of Blood Red Viral Black, a track that features bursts of signature guitar colouring from The Cult’s very own instrumental maestro Billy Duffy (who also supplied the solo on Equals stand out track Coming Backwards).
“Having Billy Duffy play guitar with The Alarm has become part of our DNA,“ says Mike Peters. “It’s a relationship that goes back to the start of this new century, when the beginnings of new eras for both The Alarm and The Cult were being formed. Blood Red Viral Black defines our relationship as friends and opposites, human beings united through the colour of sound.”
Watch the video to new track ‘Blood Red Viral Black’ – BELOW:
Can You Feel Me shows just how deep emotions must have run in the Peters’ household with a lyric fraught by tension and release, while the psychedelic explosion – Brighter Than The Sun, trips a wire of white heat rock music. Time with its eternal musical countdown, echoes the fragility and resolve of the human condition as ∑ Sigma comes to an apocalyptic ending with ‘Armageddon In The Morning’, and a solitary piano/vocal reprise of Two Rivers (a song that spans and connects both albums), only this time with a completely different lyric and musical focus, bringing unity and closure to all of the themes and explorations.
∑ Sigma utilises the vast array of instrumentation that The Alarm currently has at its disposal, with guitarist James Stevenson (who has also performed guitar duties for Gene Loves Jezebel, The Cult, Scott Walker and Tony Visconti’s Holy Holy), playing both guitar and bass through a unique combination of pedals, double neck, six and four string instrumentation. Charismatic drummer Smiley drives the rhythm unit with a traditional acoustic drumkit augmented by electric percussion and diverse tribal beats. Pianist Jules Peters deploys a wide-ranging palette of orchestral string and synthesised tones, along with pure pianoforte for some of the stripped-down sections the songs demand. Throughout, Mike Peters is at the forefront with his impassioned vocal delivery and ever-changing use of electro-acoustic instrumentation, custom developed by British luthiers Auden Guitars, to represent the beating heart of the group’s signature sound.
∑ SIGMA is the latest chapter in an inspirational story that has seen The Alarm sell more than six million albums worldwide while clocking up 17 x Top Fifty singles in the UK. Formed in 1981 in the Welsh seaside resort of Rhyl, The Alarm broke through on the back of the singles Sixty-Eight Guns, Rain In the Summertime and Spirit Of ‘76, 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 line-up splintered, with Mike going it alone and joining forces with Billy Duffy of the Cult 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 studio albums of original material in the first five months of 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.
Mike Peters was diagnosed with chronic leukemia in 2005 and, although temporarily disabled from touring, still managed to continue making new music through the albums Guerilla Tactics and Direct Action, which was followed in 2018 with the release of ‘Equals’ which charted on both sides of the Atlantic.
Mike is also co-founder of the Love Hope Strength Cancer Foundation and after taking musicians to many of the world’s most iconic mountain locations to perform fund raising concerts (Everest, Kilimanjaro, Snowdon and later this year to Iceland), signing up over 200,000 people to the stem cell donor registry that has resulted in over 4,500 potentially lifesaving matches for blood cancer patients who need a second chance of life, he was recently awarded the MBE (Most Honourable Member of the British Empire), by HRH Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace.
Mike Peters is a man who refuses to be beaten and his drive in the face of adversity is an inspiration to many – “All I have ever tried to do in my life as a musician and songwriter is to write honestly and openly. I never thought my personal life would become so wrapped up with the lifeblood of The Alarm and the charity Love Hope Strength. ‘Sigma’ exists for that reason – it’s about the will to stay alive, the summation of all that I have aspired to and all that I have to give’.
Watch The Alarm EPK – BELOW:
Sigma full album tracklisting:
∑ Side One
BLOOD RED VIRAL BLACK [Billy Duffy – guitar]
CAN YOU FEEL ME
BRIGHTER THAN THE SUN
EQUALS (Dave Sharp – guitar)
∑ Side Two
LOVE AND UNDERSTANDING
THE WHITE COUNT [CD ONLY]
ARMAGEDDON IN THE MORNING
TWO RIVERS [REPRISE]
To launch ∑ Sigma, on 29th June 2019 The Alarm will play a special one-off show in the Great Hall at Cardiff University. Tickets are available now via https://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/event/1F005507F66D9E0B
The Alarm has also announced three new UK tour dates for February 2020:
21.02.20 GLASGOW – THE GARAGE
27.02.20 BIRMINGHAM – INSTITUTE
28.02.20 LONDON – ELECTRIC BALLROOM
Tickets for the above new shows go on-sale on Friday 28th April
“The Sigma UK tour will see The Alarm return to Britain after over 150 shows played in the USA and around the world” states Mike Peters. “Alarm fans can expect to see the band at its absolute best. The new music we have created through Equals and Sigma has added to the legacy and reignited the spark in songs The Alarm is known for. All that we have endured in recent years ensures that every time we hit the stage is like our last night on Earth. Bring it on.”
Before that, this summer the band fly straight to the US to undertake an extensive 40-date American tour. The Sigma LXXXV Tour #sigmatour2019 will showcase a fraternity of alternative British rock bands led by The Alarm, post-punk auteurs Modern English, and the charismatic Gene Loves Jezebel, presenting the very best music and ideas from a generation of enduring artists, brought together through a legacy of timeless sound and song. Tickets and information are available at www.thealarm.com
Throughout the Sigma Tour, Love Hope Strength (co-founded by Mike Peters), will be hosting bone marrow drives at each concert aimed at finding donors for people suffering from blood cancer who need a transplant for a second chance at life. The charity has already registered over 200,000 individuals and located some 4,500+ potentially lifesaving matches. Visit www.lovehopestrength.co.uk for more information.
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