Band – And So I Watch You From Afar
Album – And So I Watch You From Afar
Label – Smalltown America Records
Release date – mid April-ish
Sounds like – Marching to battle. Destroying a satellite. A Headbanging competition with Steven Seagal.
I would really like to know who was responsible for the artwork on And So I Watch You From Afarâ€™s eponymous debut because it is quite simply, fantastic. Itâ€™s a cross between the insane horror of Hieronymus Bosch, the baffling nonsense of Salvador Dali and in places; Renee Magritteâ€™s bemused solitary confusion. Itâ€™s one of the most interesting pieces of album art Iâ€™ve seen in ages and something that I wouldnâ€™t mind having blown up to full size and hung on my wall. But I digress from the point, which is to focus on the self-titled effort from Belfastâ€™s 4 Armageddon machine that is, And So I Watch You From Afar.
Lazy journalists would labour this with the post-rock tag. I think even in my review of their mini album ‘This Is Our Machineâ€Â¦â€™ I batted about this label, which I feel is not an accurate representation of the bandâ€™s music or what they are trying to achieve. Nor does the tag instrumental fit correctly either. For one thing, many of the tracks are littered with whoops, howls, screams and even a choir. The simple factor is, thereâ€™s no singer, but their music says more than any skinny twerp belching down a microphone ever could. I stand by my claim in previous praise of the band that they should be soundtracking epic battle scenes. Fuck, it should be made law that their music is used every time 2 people are shown hitting each other with swords.
It starts off with a track that Iâ€™ve had on repeat for several days now, the monstrous ‘Set Guitars To Kill.â€™ The surging rush of air, followed by the combination of stamps, claps and steadfast drumbeats and the droning guitar and the raucous cheer are greeted with a thunderous stomping blast of percussion and stabbing guitar lines that blur the barriers between noise and heavy rock superbly. Iâ€™d previously stated how this sounds like a continent marching to warâ€Â¦.screw that, itâ€™s more like a whole fucking planet striding to the beat of an apocalyptic barrage. The subtle â€œwhoos!â€Â and meandering, drum patterns, plus grinding bass add a nice touch to proceedings, breaking up the solid blast-beat attack, before the flurry of guitar shredding and rampant drum rolls decimate any notion of a break in play. Quite simply, an astonishing composition. ‘A Little Solidarity Goes A Long Wayâ€™ keeps the relentless pace at breath-taking speed, shifting technical wizardly to new levels, with such effortlessly tight and intricate guitar playing, over the steady onslaught of the rhythm section, giving a heavy nod towards the math-rock tendencies of Oxes.
The setting I have imprinted in my mind features corpses being tossed in the air as shells rain down on the battle field, hurling charred pieces of meat, huge sods of earth and twisted, broken machinery in all directions. People are screaming, guns are blazing, tanks are churning up the ground, rolling over everyone and everything in their path, bludgeoning the landscape beyond repair. In the background the mid-section from ‘Clench Fists, Grit Teethâ€Â¦Go!â€™ is playing are ear-splitting volume. Iâ€™ve never heard such crunching heaviness as this before â€â€œ the sound is burying me beneath a wave of pummelling riffs, and grotesquely huge drumming. If music could destroy the sun, this would be the track to play. It sounds like a country being pulled apart. The squealing, ‘waaahhh-waaaaahhâ€™ bits around the 2 minute mark howl like demons, whilst the cacophony of shrieks and screams at the 4.30 point only foreshadow the incoming dread of the last minute, which is the kind of coda that sinks battleships, due to its monstrous weight.
Thereâ€™s an air of trepidation concerning ‘Tip The Hat, Punch The Faceâ€™ in the way the tune seems to stalk the listener. The steady, patient build up that grows in volume, complexity and layer is an threatening, yet rabble-rousing call to arms.
‘If It Ainâ€™t Broke, Break Itâ€™ contorts and twists the kind of spasmodic sound that could easily be mistaken for a Mike Oldfield track. Such is the nature of the glass-shattering electric guitar over the steady, militant drums it could quite easily slot into a more rampant section of Tubular Bells, no questions asked. The very fact that it gives nods towards this is simply astounding and itâ€™s yet another section of music Iâ€™m baffled about that hasnâ€™t been used in some destructive battle sequence, either on the big screen or to first person shooter.
If the monstrous ‘HUH!â€™ on ‘These Riots Are Just Beginningâ€™ and itâ€™s math-metal wrecking destructive wizardry doesnâ€™t get your heart beating like a metronome thatâ€™s been submerged in coffee, then the see-saw riffs and theremin-like guitar lines of ‘Donâ€™t Waste Time Doing Things You Hateâ€™ will surely have that most important of organs thumping at the walls of your ribcage with manic ferocity. The chant at the halfway point, supplied by Belfast Hallion Battalion alongside claps, cries and whistles, backed up by the superb drumming from Chris Wee is the icing on a very delicious and superbly crafted cake.
Itâ€™s the finally track ‘Eat The City Wholeâ€™ that truly sums up the And So I Watch You From Afar listening experience. The tantalising, tormenting build up of sound that almost reluctantly spews forth in a torrent of devastating aural firepower, that only lets up for a second, before smacking down yet another skyscraper riff of breeze-block thick grooves and corrosive distortion.
There is nothing I donâ€™t like about this; itâ€™s another triumph from Smalltown America Records and And So I Watch You From Afar, who truly capture the very essence and depth of powerful, exciting and invigorating rock music into their monolithic sound. Theyâ€™re the kind of band that will land you in hospital with neck spasms from all the head-banging their music demands you do â€â€œ truly one of the most astounding and bone-crunching releases of the last few years, why theyâ€™re not headlining all major festivals or demolishing buildings with their guitars is beyond me – absolutely stunning.