It’s easy to feel sorry for From Ashes To New. They’re out here peddling a dramatically uncool sound in their electronica-coated rap-rock, but you can tell how much they really believe in it regardless; the desire to be this radio-conquering behemoth is too strong to conclude that they aren’t totally convinced by what they do. Even with some major lineup changes and the decidedly lukewarm response awarded to their debut Day One, that hasn’t dissuaded the now-quartet from ploughing on, and more power to them for it.
Saying that though, it’s only really worth celebrating if the music turns out well, and that can’t exactly be said for The Future, mostly because it feels like very little has changed since their debut and the same negative shockwaves can be felt here. If Day One sounded dated in 2016, then there’s little hope for The Future, and even when it’s tricked out with glossy synths and the most immaculate production money can buy, it still feels like a collection of Hollywood Undead first drafts. Even when Hollywood Undead released an album last year, there was some urgency and variety there; with From Ashes To New, they’re relying on a clunky, overworked approximation of anthemia to achieve similar results.
And to From Ashes To New’s credit, the fact that they know their way around a chorus to this extent is what instantly makes this album a smidge more tolerable. Danny Case has the sort of blockbuster vocal range to suitably impress on power alone, and on the likes of Crazy and Enemy, scope can make up for a lack of real nuance. Even in Matt Brandyberry’s rapping, there’s not a lot of complexity in flow and some lines can feel painfully forced (see Gone Forever’s “I won’t defend you, I won’t pretend you / Act like I believe ‘cause now I read you like a menu”), but it’s clear and weighty enough to maintain some kind of likable aesthetic.
Sadly though, that’s where the majority of praise for The Future ends, as elsewhere, the attempts at sounding as contemporary as possible feel squandered by instrumental work that really does feel mismanaged. More often than not the floods of thick synths take over and swamp anything organic, particularly on Forgotten which sees an already toneless guitar undercut by shrill, omnipresent synths to fill up as much space as possible. The balance feels hugely skewed, with an already bland nu-metal rumble given even less to do under such oppressive electronic work, not to mention a suffocating production job that only makes it all feel even more mechanical. What’s more is every song is like this, failing to modulate even slightly to potentially dissolve the homogeneity that weighs this album down even more – sure, there’s the acoustic guitar in Crazy that’s something of a change of pace, but even that’s held back by an overly slick, bombastic presentation.
As for the writing, that’s pretty par for the course for this sort of modern rock, typically relying on similarly broad, over-the-top subject matter that trades greater detail for more size with little payoff. More often than not, this is as boilerplate as this sort of thing gets, another reiteration of angst and uprising that becomes thinner and even less interesting with each variety, and here is no exception. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the fact that From Ashes To New can actually capitalise on their own size in their hook-crafting abilities, there would be far harsher words to say on this front.
Even so, The Future rarely hits a peak that could be called great by any stretch. It has moments where the sheer size can just about overpower its real shortcomings, but they’re few and far between in an album that can’t fashion its presence into much worthwhile. Alongside some unworkable production and a foundation whose age can’t be glossed over, From Ashes To New aren’t exactly doing a lot to progress or win the detractors to their course. They’re doing well though, so there’s that.
For fans of: Hollywood Undead, Falling In Reverse, Starset
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘The Future’ by From Ashes To New is released on 20th April on Eleven Seven Records / Better Noise Records.