Review: Brendan Friel – ‘Life Is Not A Game’



Something of a musical enigma, Brendan Friel doesn’t currently have a big or expansive presence online. A prolific songwriter who dabbles in the vast and diverse worlds of indie, folk, and timeless rock, his music is an intricate patchwork of rough demos, developed ideas, and passing musical whims. While his Soundcloud page might be a treasure trove of hidden acoustic gems, they haven’t quite gained the recognition they deserve, and so today we’ve thought it only right to shine a light on one of his more accomplished releases.


Clad in a subtle veil of rough static, ‘Life Is Not A Game’ begins with a series of staggered guitar chords, forging a dark melody through controlled strands of sound that crash into one another, forcing the melody to form through the melee. It’s a slow, building opening beginning that lays a sturdy musical platform for Brendan’s vocals, cutting into the song with a brooding, atmospheric sound. Drenched in reverb, the vocals carve their own secondary melody in the song, pushing through the guitar with an almost forlorn quality, pushing sombre lyrics such as “or wonder how you will die” to the forefront of your mind.


There is a definitive weight to the song, one of bleak atmospherics and emotional depth. It’s something that arises predominantly from Brendan’s lyrics, but it’s backed purposefully by the simple, minimalist instrumentals that echo the nihilistic qualities of Brendan’s words and vocals. Firmly build around a melancholy ambience, there is little deviation from the central melody, with Brendan’s guitar stoically repeating the same chords without fail, even as the song creeps well into its seventh minute.



Textured and unyielding, there is a quality about ‘Life Is Not A Game’ that will hold you transfixed. Perhaps it’s the erratic flow of his vocals or the honest nature of his lyrics that speak to the darker parts of our psyche, but after a few minutes, the single becomes an overwhelming force that closes around your reality. Not for the faint of heart, or even for the casual listener, ‘Life Is Not A Game’ is something for those who feel at home in the dark.


Available to stream now alongside a seeming endless back-catalogue, ‘Life Is Not A Game’ is a dark and ominous new track that cuts right to the core, offering an unyielding look into the melancholy soul of an emerging artist.


Score: 7/10


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