Bristol 4-piece Ashestoangels have been plugging away at the British music scene for some years now, with their gothic, synth driven rock and it’s clearly been a struggle. They’ve already weathered a couple of line-up changes and released one rather underrated album as they make their slow climb towards stardom, and it’s hard not to feel they’re somewhat in need of a catalyst to propel them to the wider audience they’re seeking. With their second album, the William Control-produced, ‘With Tape and Needles’ they may just have found it.
The album kicks off with ‘The Highest Choir’, a mix of pounding drums, industrial synths and dramatic vocals that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Marilyn Manson album; it clocks in at barely a minute and half, and makes a suitably atmospheric introduction to the dark mood of the album. Next are a couple of anthemic sing-alongs in the form of ‘Dolls Dolls Dolls’ and lead single ‘Dorian’. While both are catchy and enjoyable it’s easy to see why ‘Dorian’ was chosen as the first single from the album. Its gentle piano intro soon swells into a powerful gang-vocal lead chorus which will lodge itself in your head all day and refuse to leave.
After this we have ‘Lumi’, a short and gentle song which is more of a ballad, which provides a quiet interlude before the next massive sing-along chorus comes along on ‘Wintervention’. This song is one of the album’s highlights, and it’s also where the influence of producer (and former Aiden vocalist) William Control shows through most strongly. The influence of goth punk pioneers Aiden can definitely be heard here, but it’s no bad thing at all. On the contrary, the combination of uplifting lyrics and a soaring chorus makes for a brilliant song certain to become a staple of the band’s live show.
The other highlight of the album is ‘Elsinore’ which begins simply with a faded out vocal effect and a simple drumbeat and swells into more gang vocal chants and swirling synths, with vocalist Adam Crilly howling out the dark, emotional lyrics over the top of it all. There’s also a combination guitar and synth breakdown somewhere in the middle of the song as well. It sounds like a mess on paper, but in practice it’s a masterpiece, one of those songs that just draws you in and causes you to forget all about your surroundings for the entirety of its four and a half minute running time.
At only nine tracks ‘With Tape and Needles’ is a short but sweet delight of an album with no filler whatsoever. There’s a nice balance of catchy energetic songs to darker, more atmospheric numbers and it’s a clear step up from Ashestoangels’ first album ‘Most Beautiful Things Are Dead’. The overuse of vocal effects can get a little irritating at times, and isn’t really necessary, but this is a minor complaint. Overall, ‘With Tape and Needles’ is a strong album and one which should definitely propel Ashestoangels from being ‘the ones to watch’ to full on cult superstars.