Lancaster, Pennsylvania’s From Ashes to New will be hitting the stage on the opening day of Carolina Rebellion this year. The band has a new album coming out on February 26, and to be honest, before giving it a listen, I had no idea what to expect. Their music is described in various sources as incorporating hip-hop, EDM, nu-metal, and post-hardcore. I don’t know about you, but when musical genres become overrun with prefixes and hyphens, it seems to become more difficult to encapsulate the true sound of the group in a simple description. All you can do is listen. So today, with no expectations, I listened to the new album set for release through Better Noise by From Ashes to New, titled Day One.
In “Land of Make Believe,” the band makes short work of getting the album up to operating speed. With rhythmically consistent rapping over guitars, the band conveys an urgency that is well contrasted with a pulled back chorus, “Don’t fall asleep / ‘cause you can’t run from me / I’m coming for you.” The track is a nice inception to the album, ensuring the listener that they’re going to like what they hear. If this song didn’t do it, the rest of the album will pull you in.
The next song makes the inclusion of EDM in descriptions of the group’s sound make sense. “Farther from Home” is a balsa wood rock song floating on a sea of electronics, like a techy Kon-Tiki. As I listen, I get the confusing urge to simultaneously bang my head and dance with all the energy of being at a show led by a dude with half his head shaved and a computer. But as confusing as it is, I like it. The song ends after three and a half minutes, but I wish it was twice as long. The next track, “Lost and Alone,” begins with a comfortable electric guitar melody backed by drum power, before transforming into a gem of ingenuity. The song is familiar but new, like meeting someone who looks exactly like your childhood friend for the first time. The lyrics paint a dismal picture (e.g., “lost and alone in this world with no hope / trying not to let go but there’s nothing to hold”), but the driving force of the music demonstrates that whatever the band faces, they can (and will, I hope) come out on top. They may seem soft in their solitude, but after all, didn’t Lao Tzu say “The soft and the pliable will defeat the hard and the strong”?
“Shadows” begins like the first bite of a slice of cheesecake. There is something ultimately satisfying in that perfect triangle. The song moves along with the energy and momentum characteristic of From Ashes to New, with smart use of electronic elements to give the track the brilliantly simplistic syntax of a Hemingway sentence. Not too much, not too little.
The band released a video for the next song on the album, “Through It All,” which chronicles the end of a relationship. Shots of a happy couple alternate with shots of unhappy singles, and the band rocking through the song on a backlit stage. In the chorus, which begins, “You saved me / You made me / And through it all you changed me forever,” the band gives a nod to their pasts, and the things that have made them the musicians they are today. “Face the Day,” appropriately, begins with a primal scream. With unclean vocals (if you know me, you know I revere good use of the false vocal folds) alternating with clean vocals, the band sings of getting out there and getting shit done. “I hope I can make it through another day / and I hope I can make it going all this way” hears the listener, before a guitar solo melts their face off. This song is an example of something that, by simply existing, fulfills its meaning. That is, this song is autological. I like the way these boys think.
From Ashes to New “Through It All” on Youtube
“Downfall” opens with a showcased guitar, before it pulls back for vocals as restrained as couscous boiling low and fast. The title of the song seems to speak to the exact opposite of what the group wants and is currently experiencing. But if you listen carefully, that is not the case. This is a song the listener can sympathize with. “We all fall down sometimes,” begins the chorus. But despite the occasional downfall, nothing is forever. From Ashes to New has paid their dues and survived many downfalls. What do they have to show for it? Not sniffling noses, but a great album.
Again, we hear that irresistible mix of guitar over electronic elements in “Breaking Now.” The vocals in this song are somewhat detached, which matches the theme of the album well. That is, you’ll fall down, you’ll feel beleaguered, but all of that molds who into you are so you can do amazing things, like rock through the chorus of a song as layered and fun to listen to as “Breaking Now.” A keyboard intro to “Every Second” pairs nicely with vocals that could comfort the loneliest soul. The drums kick in with slick syncopation, then you’re blasted by the chorus with that juicy sound that finally makes sense of those hyphenated genres in descriptions of the music by From Ashes to New. That characteristic, urgent sound in some of the other tracks on this album does not palpitate as powerfully in “Every Second,” but the lyrics push that urgency to the analytical forefront. When listening to “Every Second,” one is not passively receiving the band’s message that idleness is a waste of time and space, but rather ruminating and cogitating the thought. “Same Old Story” bombards you with styles to the point where, I strongly suspect, your brain experiences concurrent activation of areas of the cortex that is completely new. This song is the sentence “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously” in auditory form. This song is over before you can make sense of it, pulling the George Costanza bit “Alright! That’s it for me” to end on a high note so you’re left with the strange feeling that you want more but can’t quite explain why.
Day One is the first studio album from a band that has miraculously created the auditory equivalent to umami. From Ashes to New’s sound could be Rock 2.0, a modern-day amalgamation of digital technology in the post-internet world with all the glory and elegance of metal, made human with a range of vocal registers. For a band that sings about the messiness of life, the sound is perfect.
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