Emo rockers City of Ashes are an interesting prospect. The band often sound like Brand New and Pitchblend wrestling with In Case of Fire but on occasion they throw in a chunky, alt metal riff that wouldn’t sound out of place on an earthtone9 album. ‘All We Left Behind’ is the band’s debut album and it comes pretty late into the band’s career as City of Ashes formed back in 2008.
It’s no surprise then to hear that all that time touring and mastering their craft has allowed the band to deliver an extremely polished album that is superbly crafted and well produced. ‘All We Left Behind’ sounds enormous and it makes songs like ‘Falling Star’ sound absolutely epic. ‘Falling Star’ in particular sounds like the making of a huge radio hit as vocalist Orion Powell belts out an amazing chorus.
Powell’s vocals become the big draw on ‘All We Left Behind’. The man never sounds like he isn’t giving it his absolute best and he impresses with his wide vocal range that allows him to deliver some absolutely soaring high notes. Lead single ‘In Retrospect’ was clearly chosen to showcase Powell’s talent because all the aforementioned elements get their time in the spotlight during that one song.
It’s a shame then that the band lose their way around ‘Sententia’ which marks the beginning of the last third of the album. This isn’t to say the band get any less talented at this point but the songs begin to meander and lack the focus of the first two thirds of the record and even that showcases a bit of what happens after ‘Sententia’. ‘The Highest Point of Living’ in particular simply follows a single guitar melody for the whole song and doesn’t change for the entire 4 minutes. ‘Sententia’ is almost identical in this sense. I don’t quite understand what causes this but it’s almost like the band run out of steam.
There are glimpses of greatness in this last section of the record but it simply isn’t as inspiring as what came before it. ‘Dorian Gray’ certainly has power but it lacks a strong melody. The final two tracks ‘Masks’ and ‘Waves’ feel unfocussed and generally a bit too long for the amount of ideas they’re trying to portray. It’s a bit of a limp ending to what was generally a solid and well crafted record.
‘All We Left Behind’ is an album of two halves. One showcases City of Ashes as an exciting rock band with tonnes of talent, massive choruses and stunning melodies. This side of the band is the one that will see them blow up into one the UK’s biggest bands and with this sort of quality there’s no doubt they’ll make it. But unfortunately there’s a side to the band that isn’t quite sure of what it wants to do and it can create songs that sound rushed and unfocussed. Luckily City of Ashes’ brighter moments outshine their duller moments but there’s definitely still room for the band to improve.
City of Ashes’ ‘All We Left Behind’ will be released independently by the band on 11th of November. A pre-order isn’t live yet but I’m sure it’ll be live on the band’s Big Cartel soon.