Slowly burning like a smouldering wick in the passions, the debut EP from UK alternative rock band City Of Ashes ensures its ultimate persuasion is a full and lingering declaration through a melodic breath and enterprise which will not be denied. Offering a breath to their sound which can ignite the senses with either a soft indie caress or a post hardcore quall, the quartet from Eastbourne, Sussex have taken their first bow with a record which ripples with strong promise and marks the band immediately as one to watch, and enjoy, very closely.
Formed in 2009, City Of Ashes delivers a sound which though not one to open new avenues for their area of rock music it certainly offers an imagination and accomplished skill alongside thoughtful songwriting which flames like a torch against many of the other emerging alternative rock toned bands. Comparisons to the likes of Thursday and Lostprophets have been cast upon the band with the former of the two references certainly an open influence one feels when emerged within the stirring tracks on the Then There Was A Hand In the Darkness EP. Since its beginnings the band has honed its sound and earned a deserved recognition for their hard working and impressive live performances and ethic as well as a formidable underground following. The past years have seen the band light up stages alongside bands such as Skindred, Yashin, Young Guns, Exit Ten, Polar, Fei Comodo, and Hildamay to name just a few whilst enduring line-up changes and other obstacles. Produced by Matt O’Grady (You Me At Six, Deaf Havana, Don Broco, Your Demise), Then There Was A Hand In The Darkness is the first nationwide statement from vocalist Orion Powell, guitarist James Macdonald, bassist Dan Frederick, and drummer Dan Russell and one which it is hard to imagine falling on deaf ears.
The release opens with the compelling Falling Star its initial guitar rub and vocal stroking from Powell an immediate lure to the ear and attention. Soon the vocals hit full range with fine accompaniment from others in the band whilst the melodic gait of the song erupts into a passionate roar to match the great vocals. At times the song reminds of eighties band The Vapors when the Guilford quartet moved away from their oriental doodling, whilst throughout there is an earnest and expansive atmosphere and energy pulling the emotions to merge with those of the song. The rhythms are sinews which enthral without defusing the potency of the heart of the song and all in all, the track is impressive as an opener and stand-alone track from the band.
It is also quite infectious as is its successor Beggars & Thieves. It is a feistier track than its predecessor offering a view of the band with their post hardcore gait at play. The bass of Frederick is a riveting prowl alongside the again firm beats of Russell whilst Macdonald blazes with sonic enterprise behind his shards of melodic coaxing, both acidic and warming. Once more the vocals are an expressive highlight and at this point it is a given Powell will wring the heart of a song of all its passion and pass it over impressively to the listener. The track does not unveil obvious hooks to capture its recipient but uses subtler yet no less contagious weaves which feel familiar but new.
The Highest Point Of Living and Hourglass bring another diversity to the release, the first an emotive ballad whispering which wraps tender but heavy hearted arms around the ear with great surety. The song is an impassioned fever exploring and showing off the immense tones of Powell supported by the warm gentle yet passional sounds of the band whilst the second of the pair is a tower of shifting intensity and power which is bristling with creative intriguing and inventive accomplishment.
The release saves the very best to last with the thumping A Calm Like Lethargy, a track which fully shows the adventure and depth of inventive opportunities within the band and their open creative intent. Again merging a muscular aggression with fine dazzling melodic ingenuity, the song is a magnetic and irresistible confrontation with intimidating riffs and mesmeric sonic brilliance scoring the eloquent and assertive vocals.
It is a mighty close to an EP in Then There Was A Hand In The Darkness, which ignites all the right thoughts and reactions inside. It might not top best of lists in the long term but easily sets City of Ashes as a band which deserves proper attention especially from fans of the likes of Thursday, Shadows Chasing Ghosts, 30 Seconds to Mars, and Fei Comodo.
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