If you’ve been paying attention to certain circles of UK rock press as of late, you’ll undoubtedly be aware of the ‘phenomenon’ of New Grave. Basically, it’s a scene that’s essentially been plucked out of thin air, encompassing any generic metalcore or post-hardcore bands with more of a focus on a gothic image that actual music. Bristol’s Ashestoangels have been given the dubious honour of being poster boys for the whole scene, with the expectations of something great consistently resting on their shoulders. Judging by new album How To Bleed though, there isn’t really too much to get excited about.
To their credit, this album at least shows that there’s more of a focus on actual songwriting with Ashestoangels compared to the vast majority of their peers. The thing is though, while that may be the case, a large chunk of How To Bleed sounds so dated, more suited to many a post-millennium emo band than anything in 2016. It begs the question of why this band are raking in the hype they are, especially seeing as there’s virtually nothing on How To Bleed that bands like Aiden or The Used haven’t done at some point in their career.
Still, pragmatism is the main problem facing Ashestoangels, as a lot of How To Bleed is solid enough in terms of actual songwriting; if Wil Francis worship was the overall aim, they’ve at least done a decent job of it. Not In My Name couples some dexterous, Avenged Sevenfold-style guitar work with a powerhouse chorus, while Down We Go shifts down a few gears for a Thirty Seconds To Mars-esque ballad with some of the best vocal work from frontman Crilly on the entire album. There’s nothing life-changing or world-beating on this album, but it can’t denied that, for the most part, Ashestoangels have a good track record at penning strong post-hardcore songs with an ever-so-slightly gothic tinge. Nothing Lasts Forever is probably the best example of their abilities when at full pelt, with its driving guitar line and surprisingly impactful screams, acting as a great change of pace from the album’s hitherto more melodic, clean-driven tracks.
It’s not without fault though, and while many of the low points are more forgettable than outright awful (the one-two of Bound And Broken and Something To Believe is bound to incite more shrugs than anything), there are a couple of instances where Ashestoangels put out some absolute howlers. I Could Never Miss You is your standard wet, emo ballad that really isn’t helped by some incredibly one-note vocals (it should be noted that the vocal performance on this album is really inconsistent), and the flabby electro-bore Ghost In The Machine limps along with no presence. It’s probably not entirely the band’s fault – the advent of the hype machine is bound to have some sort of effect on how this album is viewed from a critical standpoint – but even on their own, these songs feel inescapably generic.
How To Bleed really is a difficult album to get to grips with. While it is, without a shadow of a doubt, the evidence needed that Ashestoangels are streets ahead of the rest of the New Grave crew in terms of quality, a few stupid, easy to avoid mistakes avoid How To Bleed from becoming a great album in its own right. It’s still good overall, but there’s still a bit of work needed to get the longevity they’ll ultimately need.
For fans of: Aiden, FVK, New Years Day
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘How To Bleed’ by Ashestoangels is released on 15th April.