City of Souls – “Synaesthesia”


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Some bands unleash their music suddenly, while other bands start the hype train many months or even years in advance.  Last year, City of Souls began their lengthy campaign towards their debut album, and so they have become something of a familiar name to me already.  Their first record “Synaesthesia” releases on May 1st, and I have to say that it has been worth the wait.

City of Souls comes to us from New Zealand, the number one place in the world I want to visit.  The music scene there is really growing, and the quality is, too.  The band consists of Richie Simpson on vocals, Marcus Powell on guitar, Trajan Schwencke on guitar and vocals, Steve Boag on guitar, Daniel Insley on bass, and Corey Friedlander on drums.

As you can clearly see, there is a ton of guitar work on this album.  The band offers an alternative rock/metal with some progressive elements.  Sometimes those elements are strongly felt, and other times they are not.  Their music often reminds me of Aussie band Dead Letter Circus combined with someone like Sevendust.  In other words, they have plenty of high-tuned guitar work, soaring melodies, and creative song structures, but they also offer heavy riffs, complex grooves, and sheer style.

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What is most important to note, however, is that City of Souls knows how to write quality songs.  Their songs stay below the five-minute mark, but they make up for that with high quality compositions that, in all honesty, don’t need to be any longer than they are.  Again and again, the band fires off song after song of strong hooks and addictive rhythms.  There are sixteen—yes, sixteen—songs on this album, and each and every one ranges from solid to brilliant.

Yes, this is a long album.  I was surprised that the album clocks in over one hour in length.  It is honestly a little intimidating at first because of how long the track list really is.  Before the album launched, I wondered why the band was releasing so many singles, but really they’ve only given a small taste of the full album.

Speaking of the singles, the band chose well.  “The Ferryman”, “Shimmer”, and “Cruelty” seem to be the main ones, though there are now visualizers for each song available on their YouTube channel.  Anyways, those three songs are absolutely stunning, with towering choruses, roaring guitars, and utter memorability.  “The Ferryman” was an earworm for me last year, so it really helped give me a touchstone for getting into this album.

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These three songs are part of the first seven tracks on the album, starting with “Lifeblood” and ending with “White Ghost”.  For my money, these seven tracks are as good as anything out there right now.  I am blown away every time about how truly inventive and catchy each of them is.  I would probably point to “Wolf” and “White Ghost” as my favorites in that bunch.  Both of those songs really carry me away with unrelenting melody and sing-ability.  “Wolf” is heavy and, man, that chorus is amazing; “White Ghost” is something close to a ballad, and the chorus sticks close with me every day.

The next nine songs are all great, too.  I would point to “Tying Tongues”, “LWTUA”, and the instrumental title track as my favorites here.  “Tying Tongues” really stood out on the first listen with its catchy chorus, while “LWTUA” took a few times for me to love.  However, it is more because of its unabashed presence that it took some time, and the lyrics are definitely sad.  Surprisingly, right near the end of the album, the band offers an instrumental title track that is truly wonderful, leaning towards the crescendos and atmosphere of post-rock.  It is truly beautiful, and sort of feels like a palette cleanser.

City of Souls is at large now, and their debut is impressive.  Obviously, there is always room to grow, but the maturity, strong songwriting, and pure charm of this release are undeniable.  They really have something going for them, and I’m excited to see what they might put together in the future.

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