Over the course of this review there will be a wealth of reasons supporting the whole hearted recommendation of Across The Water, the debut album from UK rockers Castor Troy, but with just one reservation which is it lacks the spark to ignite the passions. Certainly there are times where appetite drools eagerly but these are scattered moments within certainly an impressive and enjoyable yet merely simmering landscape. Undoubtedly it is a personal thing which is why we heartily suggest a b-line for the album is taken by fans of heavily boned and rigorously punchy alternative rock. As suggested there is little to throw against the nine track encounter worth a skirting around of its presence, its songs thoughtfully and skilfully composed and delivered with individual craft as vibrant as the passion which drives its heart, but there is just that one niggle that it is missing something.
Consisting of four school friends, Castor Troy began in the middle of 2012 in Newcastle upon Tyne and has taken only a short time to make their presence known and eagerly followed by fans across the North of England. The quartet has drawn comparisons to bands such as Alterbridge, While She Sleeps, and Alexisonfire but for a first plus about the release, it is hard as the album fills thoughts and emotions to really find an equivalent to the band. Though their sound is not so distinct as to be shouting from the rooftops it is a proposition which leaves the band with an individual presence from the pack.
The Sam Grant produced release opens with Chapter One, an atmospheric instrumental which casts a sonic mist over ears before a melodic haze paints an evocative if underwhelming scenery. There are little hues like the vibrant picking of the guitar and erupting sonic flames which spark enough intrigue to have attention keen before welcoming Winter Lights which flows seamlessly from the climate of the opening piece. With bold rhythms and brash riffs courting the ear first, it is an instantly appealing suasion, one enhanced by the great lead vocals of rhythm guitarist Benn Gibson. His voice has a hint of gravel and a full wash of emotive expression which has little problem lighting ears as sounds work away on the imagination. Soaring melodies, heated passion, and a rhythmic tempting engage senses and thoughts from start to finish but epitomising the album as a whole it lacks the fuse to reap the fullest reactions and ardour it probably deserves. It is strange as raging crescendos and earnest expulsions of passion only lift the song to greater heights across its body but certainly for these ears something indefinable is smouldering rather than burning feverishly within the song.
The following Undivided though is a different beast, a major triumph on the release which almost alone reveals the potential and fire that is still to be explored within the band. Riffs from the first second have a snarl and crackle to their voice which immediately grips, a hold soon reinforced by the dark shadows offered by the bass of Joey Dryden and antagonistic rhythms from drummer Chris Gilks. Standing boldly above all of this are the vocals of Gibson whilst beneath him intensity begins to boil as those earlier riffs take on a carnivorous aspect as lead guitarist Michael Fulcher sculpts a web of sharp sonic netting. Despite its predatory intent there is plenty of room for melodic endeavour to also flame and seduce, its presence almost tempering the aggression as it eventually evolves into a rampant stroll of heavy weight rock which again twists and entwines with the many designs of the song. This is another big attribute of Castor Troy, creating songs which defy predictability and keep attention and imagination alive even if emotions have yet to find the same depth of submission.
Nineteen next brings another twist and diverse episode in the album, its semi-acoustic entrance of guitar and vocal a seducing caress where the voice of Gibson really shines. He may not be destined to be put in the list of classic vocalist but he is one of the more interesting and extremely listenable to have emerged in recent years. With floating harmonies and crystalline shards of additional melodic guitar graced by a dark throated bass line, the song from a strong first showing evolves over time into another big highlight of the album, its broad band crowded closing stretch bringing a potent finale before the piano led instrumental Infatuation engages ears. The piece is a melancholic reflection which as the first track, is masterfully crafted and presented but underwhelms a little, though it is hindered by being between its brilliant predecessor and the excellent title track. Like Undivided, the song strides purposefully across the heaviest side of the band’s sound and passion, riffs and rhythms a rapacious treat around which Fulcher colours air and the muscular canvas with evocative flames of sonic invention. For some reason, and it has to be said not for the first time on the album, Castor Troy remind of nineties rock band Skyscraper even though sound wise they are very different. Merging aggression with emotive elegance, the track is an enthralling adventure which again in itself holds all you need to know to feel that the band can be a potent and important protagonist ahead.
Both Jenny 23 and This Is Not…. impress without finding that essence which made the last song leap into ears and passions so effectively. The first is deeply passionate in sound, intensity, and delivery whilst the second is melodically tender which is emulated in the vocals and its emotionally sultry breath as well, and both are beautifully presented but neither find the same formula to excite, though to be fair the album’s penultimate song is another which grows and flourishes given time to become a compelling joy over time.
Closing with the thoroughly enjoyable and rivetingly textured The Condemned, a track which right away found a hunger for it with an opening melodic coaxing which reminded of Julian Cope’s Spacehopper before evolving into a different kind of invigorating incitement, Across The Water is an undeniably captivating and impressive introduction to Castor Troy. There is so much to praise about the album and very little to find issue with but that most important ability to excite us means it is more potential in waiting than realisation, though you can only feel that the band will be succeeding in lighting a fire in our belly at some point as they evolve and grow.
The self-released Across The Water is available now!
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