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Album Reviews : Figures – Operating in Unsafe Mode

By on July 8, 2020

Operating in Unsafe Mode is a very appropriate title for this, the debut album from Melbourne heavy alternative band Figures. It also finds a band who are approaching the early part of their career in the right way: two EPS that had some excellent songs on them and gave a glimpse of what they could do, then biting the bullet and undertaking the challenge of creating a full-lengther, rather than doing the single release thing or another EP. That would have been the ‘safe’ thing to do.

And they’ve used the opportunity presented by the LP format in the ideal manner, that is, they’ve stepped out of themselves, challenged themselves, and come up with something that is a major extension of, an expansion on what they came up with on the earlier EPs. They could have played it safe and put out a bunch of tunes that sound similar to their previous output. And that would have been more than acceptable, because what they did previously was excellent.

But no, they didn’t do that. They’ve taken their sound into uncharted terrain, adding several new musical strings to their collective bow. Second and third tracks Syntax and Someone Uninvited are cases in point, the former a little edgier and a little proggier than what we’re used to with Figures, while latter adds a little punk anger to the mix. Inside You’re Alone is more of a moody, melancholy slow burner that builds sweetly to a powerful climax before pulling back to ambient minimalism again.

The very next track, Underpaid Machinery, sees them extending themselves even further, stepping into almost industrial and experimental territory. And it works a treat, displaying a band in full command of its output.

All that said, they haven’t ventured so far into left field as to alienate the fans they would have picked up from the previous releases. Highly melodic opener Failure to React and mid-album stomper Another Injustice, at least, would sit comfortably on either the first two EPs. Most of the tracks still offer massive, cathartic chorus payoffs too, that will have you howling along and thrusting your fists of rock to the sky.

On top of the creative successes this album brings to bear, there are some fabulous sounds and performances at play here. Singer Mark Tronson shows off his excellent range, from delicate to roaring to screaming to soaringly melodic, to great effect, the band behind him are in exceptionally fine fettle and the production is electric. The enormous drums, guitars and bass guitars bludgeon the senses and sit in a nice pocket at the same time, which is always hard to achieve.

So yes, Figures have managed to extend themselves mightily, while retaining their core sonic and artistic philosophy on Operating in Unsafe Mode, and it’s beautiful to behold. What this album does for their notoriety around the nation and the world remains to be seen, but at this stage they are to be congratulated for the exceptionally strong statement they have made on their debut long player.

Band: Figures
EP: Operating in Unsafe Mode
Year: 2020
Genre: Alternative Heavy Rock
Label: Independent
Origin: Australia


Rod Whitfield is a Melbourne-based writer and retired musician who has been writing about music since 1995. He has worked for Team Rock, Beat Magazine,, Heavy Mag, Mixdown, The Metal Forge, Metal Obsession and many others. He has written and published his memoirs of his life and times in the music biz, and also writes books, screenplays, short stories, blogs and more.