Album Review: City of Souls – “Synaesthesia” 8/10 (Prog Metal)

Written by Xan Dune

  • City of Souls
  • Synaesthesia
  • Progressive Metal
  • May 1, 2020
  • Highlights: Whispers, White Ghost, Tying Tongues
  • 8/10

City of Souls are a 6 piece progressive metal band formed in Auckland, NZ in 2015. The members are previously from well known bands (Blindspott, New Way Home, Cold by Winter, In Dread Response and Solstate) in the NZ hardcore and metal scene. They have been steadily dropping strong singles since forming, revealing a sound that is altogether heavier, deeper and more emotional than previous projects.

The album opens (LIFEBLOOD) with the sound of a heartbeat through and ultra-sound and builds gently with icy clean guitars, strings and clean vocals. It is immediately apparent that this was album made to immerse us in an expansive, dreamlike haze. It sounds fucking incredible. By the time the first chorus hits, the power of the full band makes its presence known. Huge bass and drums underpin the trio of down tuned chugging guitars and vocalist Richie floats above all this with an ethereal baritone, though he turns a corner at times and has a great snarl going on. That’s quickly contrasted by the next 2 tracks, which are punchy and bludgeoning, driving deeper into this dark dream sequence which totally surrounds you. Expertly recorded, mixed and mastered by Forrester Savell (Karnivool, Animals as Leaders, Skyharbour, Shihad ) this album is excellent to listen to anywhere but especially immersive in good headphones. The vocal performance and layering is exceptional. It really gives off a feeling of being underwater or dreamy floating.

This cinematic feeling is supported by the trippy cover art which reminds me of Pink Floyd or Deftones. A smoky vapour curls around what appears to be a green and pink coloured cube with a cloudy night sky in the background. It will look awesome on the vinyl cover. The art is made by Kim Keever from NYC. Apparently the look is created by dropping paint into water and photographing the results through the glass wall of a 200 gal. aquarium which is fairly immersive in itself… no wonder it ties in so well with the vibe COS have created.

The lyrics, to me, deal with heartache and loss, dissatisfaction with the material world and its trappings, regret, overthinking things we do and say.My favourite lines in the album were in WHITE GHOST “The weight of gold/ I fear the burden it will break us all/ Down into the river” and WHISPERS “Carried on in you, is part of her truth/ And the kingdoms left behind, would’ve eased her heartache/ Come and go like the moon/ Spinning around our tomb. The more I listen here, the more I am pulled into the ethereal world being created. It’s clear that the band has spent a lot of time meticulously crafting the 15 songs on the album over the last few years as there are no examples of random jams or bits of interlude and filler. There is even a cool cover of Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart which fits in well with the overall sound of the album. The album runs for 68 mins. I honestly thought all of the songs were great but the real standouts here are WHISPERS, WHITE GHOST and TYING TONGUES.

I loved this album from both a songwriting perspective and a sound geek, it also tickled my fancy as far as beastly downtuned guitars go. An awesome first album especially considering that it is self released. Highly recommend you listen for yourself and see where this takes you. It would make a good Friday night isolation drinks companion along with some scented candles or other scented things that burn. If you are in New Zealand at the moment the band is touring the country with Blindspott definitely check them out if you get the chance. As far as the rest of the world goes it is hard to predict whether these guys will be able to tour with Covid looming over us all.

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