City Of Souls – Synaesthesia [Album Review]
Review: Benjamin Coe
If New Zealand prog-rock powerhouse City Of Souls aren’t on your radar yet they damn well should be! Featuring members of hard rock mainstays from across the Tasman, Blindspott and Blacklistt, the boys from Auckland have slowly drip-fed singles over the last 5 years and are now ready to unleash their debut album, Synaesthesia upon the world. And boy is it worth the wait!
Synaesthesia’s first track Life Blood opens with the sound of a heartbeat heard through ultrasound before vocalist Richie Simpson comes in with a quiet croon over quietly plucked guitars and an atmospheric backing track that sets the tone for what’s to come. It is an incredibly atmospheric album layered with moments of aggression and angst that are beautifully conveyed not only musically but also lyrically through Simpson’s wondrous vocal delivery.
The years of experience between the seasoned professionals, all of whom have careers spanning as much as 20 years in the NZ post hardcore, prog and metal scenes, make for an excellent listening experience unlike anything that any member has committed to previously. It’s a more mature and direct sound that not once falters throughout the expansive 16-song track list.
Gems such as the previously released single, Ferryman, give a more energetic outlet with it’s driving rhythm performed flawlessly by drummer Corey Friedlander and bass guitar superstar Daniel Insley coupled nicely with the aggressive riff work of the dual guitar combo of Steve Boag(founding member of Blindspott) and Trajan Schwenke.
Standout track, and my personal favourite, 2016’s single Long Gone proves that these guys know how to write a catchy hook and once the soaring chorus hits I bet your goose bumps will have goose bumps! It’s an emotional rollercoaster of a record that runs the gamut of inspirational to melancholy and everything in between.
Tying Tongues is a nice, delicate foray into the softer side of the band with a softly sung verse giving way to another epic, soaring chorus. These guys grab your heartstrings and dance them around like a crazed marionette with their beautiful arrangements and painfully honest lyrics. There’s even a cheeky little Joy Division cover thrown in for good measure, albeit a bit beefed up with the originals driving bass line slightly distorted and Simpson’s powerful vocals adding a completely different energy to the song.
This album has been a long time coming for fans of the band. Having formed in the winter of 2015 and releasing two amazing singles (the rock-centric Sleep and the dreamscape-esque Water) the same year, City Of Souls have taken their time perfecting their craft and, with the help of legendary producer Forrester Savell (Karnivool, SkyHarbor), birthed an absolute beast of album that will most definitely strike a chord with any prog fan and surely spell big things for the band. Do yourself a favour and get around this one, it is a sprawling classic from start to finish.
SYNAESTHESIA is out on May 1 and can be pre-ordered at: