Rock, alt-rock, post-alternative rock, prog-metal – there remains some confusion about exactly how best to identify the music of Auckland sextet City Of Souls, but you can pretty much safely choose anything that combines ‘rock’ and ‘melodic’ in its connotation.
The sporadic trickle of singles since the band settled in as a kind of Kiwi rock super act back in 2015 has finally come together as a stream of melodic rock, in the shape of a seriously lengthy album called ‘Synaesthesia’, also the title of the album’s 16th and final track.
Let’s start there. A surprisingly gentle and gloriously evocative instrumental (with string arrangement credits to Heavy Metal Ninjas’ Richie Allan) that might as easily have started the album, used as a closer Synaesthesia delights in a way similar to turning off the tap at the fully satisfied end of a luxuriatingly long, hot shower.
Carrying us there over a fully immersive hour have been a series of tracks in which Richie Simpson’s effortless rock-into-metal voice is that water, flowing, soaring and tumbling over the rocks and boulders of an ever changing musical riverbed provided by the three guitars of Trajan Schwencke, Steve Boag and Marcus Powell, the double kick drumming of Corey Friedlander and terrain smoothing bass from Daniel Insley.
No doubt much credit for the consistent quality on show here belongs with Aussie metal maven Forrester Savell who produced, engineered and mixed the album. Savell already has strong NZ rock credentials that include I Am Giant’s ‘Science & Survival’ and mixing/mastering Shihad’s ‘FVEY’. City Of Souls’ ‘Synaesthesia’ further polishes his local reputation.
There are highlights aplenty, including their oh-so-worthy cover version of Joy Division’s classic Love Will Tear Us Apart, but returning to the stream analogy (made all the more appropriate given the unfortunate timing of this genuinely long awaited album debut which was released on May 1, 2020), each turn, eddy, rapid or calming lee will hold delight for different rock hikers. Go have a listen and pick your own.
Sure, the six members of City Of Souls have all had considerable experience in other decent bands, and five years together to get to this release, but still, as debut albums go it’s hard to imagine this one being outclassed ahead of the next big ‘live’ awards ceremony.