Alternative rock band City Of Ashes started off the year in fine style with their debut EP, a release rich in promise and accomplished craft to suggest the UK band as a bright emerging spark in British rock. Now the Sussex quartet are seeing out the other end of 2013 with an equally attention grabbing release in first album All We Left Behind. Consisting of twelve vibrantly emotive and melodically potent tracks, the release is a continuation of the introduction made through the Then There Was A Hand In The Darkness EP. It may be a small expansion of the impressive starter but makes a firm confirmation of the band’s strengths whilst providing an engaging presence.
Formed in 2009, the Eastbourne band took little time in honing their sound and taking it to stages across the South East and subsequently the country. Simultaneously their fanbase rose as the band shared stages with bands such as Skindred, Exit Ten, Polar, Shadows Chasing Ghosts, Fei Comodo, Hildamay, Young Guns and many more. The Then There Was A Hand In The Darkness EP brought Orion Powell (vocals), James Macdonald (guitar), Dan Frederick (bass), and Dan Russell (drums) into sharper focus within a brewing awareness of their expressively impacting sounds as paraded on the release and you can only suspect that the returning Matt O’Grady (Deaf Havana, You Me At Six, Don Broco) produced album will reinforce and push further that recognition.
It is fair to say that All We Left Behind has not made a major leap on from its impressive predecessor but certainly shows that the band has a range of songwriting depths and songs which have a wide high quality base to spring from. From the short intro instrumental Initia, the album flows into the dramatic Ode To Innocence. Guitars coax the ears in sonic angst from the start whilst the compelling bass line seeds strong intrigue into the emotive narrative of the song musically and vocally. There is a Placebo edge to the sound and voice of Powell, as well as a feel of Mind Museum and Funeral For A Friend which adds spice to the strong voice and design of the song. It is a smouldering enticement with fiery bursts of passion which only accentuates its persuasion and makes a deeply satisfying start.
Next up Falling Star takes things up another level, the guitar coaxing which starts things off immediately riveting and soon given extra potency as persistent beats and the continually engaging vocals of Powell join the tempting. The first stretch of the song reminds of Waiting For The Weekend by The Vapors but soon finds its distinct character as the guitars expands their melodic arms and intensity unveils its weight and emotion. The song never explodes into dramatic action but offers a persistent almost nagging declaration which is very easy to devour and want more of.
Both Recovery and In Retrospect present a lingering enticement, the first a gently building slice of hard/alternative rock with a slight Manic Street Preachers essence to its evocative flavouring and the second a reserved stroll of provocative melodic textures and emotional bait. Neither matches the opening pair of songs but still continues the album’s weighty call upon thoughts and appetite whilst The Highest Point Of Living provides a tender ballad of fine vocals and chilled guitar suasion which from a decent start grows bigger and more impressive, especially through melancholic strings and the excellent tones of Powell, alongside band harmonies. It is a song which inspires tingles in its latter climactic parts and leaves the senses and emotions ignited in appreciation and pleasure. The song seeps into next up Brand New World where the band creates another healthy slice of alternative rock with a melodic pop glaze. It does not set fires in the passions but still adds to the flavoursome richness flowing through the release.
Across the likes of Decay and Dorian Gray, City Of Ashes keeps attention firmly locked in their direction even if the album has lost some of the potency found in its first half, the skill of the band and the craft of songs an attractive constant. Alongside those though the rhythmic tantalising of Masks and Waves, with its dark prowling shadows provided by the bass a conflicting yet complimenting union with the sonic breeze and melodic stream of invention, bring All We Left Behind to a formidable closure. The album leaves a strong taste for City Of Ashes and their inventive sound even if maybe it does not have that spark or ingredient yet to send the passions into full ardour. The feeling that this trigger is waiting within the band’s horizons is impossible to dismiss and something to add spice to the suspected rise of one very promising band.
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