Without doubt for The RR one of the year’s surprises and exciting events has been the return of UK rockers Ace Mafia from a six year hiatus. Unexpected, it instantly raised anticipation, eager questions, and intrigue now fed by the release of a new self-titled EP. Offering up four slices of the band’s rousing hard/melodic rock, the release took us back to the days when we first discovered the London hailing band as if they had never been away.
Emerging in 2007, the beginnings of Ace Mafia were pretty much sown when Argentinian born bassist Geos Letona relocated to the UK and subsequently met guitarist Richie Faulkner. Writing and recording demos together, the pair in time enlisted drummer/producer Bruno Agra and vocalist/rhythm guitarist Kay Ghibli. With the line-up in place, Ace Mafia was officially uncaged and soon luring praise and attention with 2009 debut album Vicious Circle. Faulkner was already a well sought after guitarist and due to touring commitments with Lauren Harris stepped back leading to the band bringing in Ben Lundy. Faulkner’s eventual return brought the band to a quintet with the emigration the following year of Agra seeing drummer Jerry Sadowski added to the line-up. Even with their reputation ever growing though, the band eventually went on a temporary hiatus after Faulkner was recruited by Judas Priest.
Now Ace Mafia is back, a quartet of Letona, Lundy, Ghibli, and Sadowski though the new EP also features the craft and invention of Faulkner on lead and rhythm guitar. It took mere seconds to find the band rocking as boldly and enterprisingly as ever, the EP opening up with new single Snakes ‘nʼ Ladders. Its first breath unleashes a trespass of predacious riffs and intrusively imposing rhythms yet with a contagiousness which is only escalated by the distinctive tones of Ghibli. A great Stone Temple Pilots hue adds to the track’s instinctive and flavoursome hard rock nature, it’s harrying of ears and appetite very easy to swiftly succumb to with guitar imagination icing on the captivating and arousing proposition.
With its tracks seemingly written before the band went away it is maybe no surprise that the EP feels like a continuation of previous releases but as the opener and the following Face To Face alone show there is also a distinct fresh adventure revealed. The second track opens with the gentle but earnest invitation of keys, melancholy lining their charm before its main body rises up. Settling into its weighty but controlled saunter, the song smoulders with emotive and physical intensity; its heat erupting with fiery flames and guitar spun tendrils as emotional intimacy springs its own captivation.
The instantly infectious Stop Loss is a mix of the predatory and contagious, the spring in its grooves and riffs tempered by the formidable swipe of Sadowski’s beats and the brooding bassline of Letona. Grungy in its hard rock exploits, animated in its compelling exploits, the track quickly had ears hooked especially when Faulkner’s web of temptation caught light.
Closing track Breathlessness also has an ominous prowl to its magnetic seduction, instinctively tempting grooves and melodic enterprise matched by vocal and rhythmic prowess. A bouncing body and eager participation was the quick outcome to its eager suggestiveness, the song rivalling the EP’s other book end for best track honours.
Not so much more of the same but certainly more of what Ace Mafia does best their new EP is a welcome joy as is their return. There are also hints of new adventures to come which are just as compelling but just having the band back roaring is one of the year’s major pluses.
The Ace Mafia EP is out September 15th.
Pete RingMaster 14/09/2018
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