A Road To Damascus

A Road To Damascus

Written by: TL on 01/09/2011 00:57:13

It took one show for A Road To Damascus to catch our attention. Since then, we've met the local Copenhagen quintet, we've been to a handful of their shows, we've reviewed their debut EP and we've interviewed them about the recording of their self-titled debut album. An album which is now finished, and is awaiting a release on Monday, September 5th. While you guys have to wait a little longer to hear anything from it however, we've had our hands on it for a while now, so by all means, read on for the full scoop on what to expect.

The very first thing to instantly notice when popping the disc on, is that it doesn't sound like anyone's debut-anything. The production is crisp and powerful, and with all the chimes, pianos and violins backing the bands own traditional instrumental setup, it all sounds like something you'd expect from a band that got signed to a major before even picking up their instruments. ARTD are releasing this on their own however, and they've paid for the show from their own pockets, and while I don't know the price, it sure sounds like it's been enough to hint that these guys mean business.

As for the actual music, the band has grown noticeably since the scream-backed pop-punk of their EP, and are now - as cliché as it may sound - much catchier in their catchy parts, and much heavier in their heavy parts. New singer Mikkel Raavig has a more full voice than the departed Matthias Møller, while still handling high pitched notes without breaking a sweat, and when eventually he does go for a falsetto break at the top of various melodies, it only sounds sexier and helps strengthen the grasp on the listener's attention. Meanwhile, the bands many sentimental melodies seem to have put on further emotional weight, while also gathering a bit of darkness to contrast the bright, youthful moods the band started out with.

Take opener "Decelerate", which quickly turns an eerie opening into a sweet pop-punk verse and chorus, only to briefly and delightfully unexpectedly re-introduce the dark twist after the second chorus. It's a bit like imagining super pop-rockers There For Tomorrow, mixed with the emocore of bands like Matchbook Romance or Hawthorne Heights (which essentially sounds like what? The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus maybe?). It makes for an excellently nuanced sound, yet it's only a base really, because the album actually explores various directions of the band's sound surprisingly well for a debut.

"Heads High, Hands Down" for instance, has moments where it sounds like it could've been on Green Day's "American Idiot", and ballad-turns-anthem "The Best Is Yet To Come" has all the trappings of a melodramatic chart-single alá Yellowcard. Meanwhile "What A Waste Of Breath" goes beatdown, heavy, scream-driven verse and then angry, clean chorus, and all of it has me thinking of Silverstein. Incidentally, it needs mentioning that this song is probably also the very best of the album, as it presents the climax moment in a massive, super-dramatic ending. Others, like "New Perspective" and "No Wonder" are probably also in the mix for the title though, even if they are harder to sum up and give references as I've done with the others mentioned so far.

In terms of weaknesses, you've probably already guessed that I don't have many to complain about, but if I had to put my finger on one thing, it would be that ARTD's biggest strength, paradoxically also is their worst constraint. You see it's pretty clear while listening that these guys don't leave anything in the songwriting to coincidence, as all shifts, structures and dynamics are kept tight as hell in order to maximise song potential. It's awesome because it keeps the album an almost lull-free affair, and extracts the force from the band's heavier parts while not letting them go on long enough to feel like glued in chug-fests. However, it also means that a song like central track "Talk Is Cheap" - which sees the band go fully heavy and dissonant with almost Emery-ish class and efficiency - is cut short at one minute and twenty-two seconds. Okay fair, so guitarist Mads Møller's screams probably lack the diversity to do well in more than his usual back-up role, but still, seeing as the guys have likely placed the song here to stubbornly emphasize that the heavy stuff is an essential part of their music, I think it would have been an even better statement if the track had been made to feel like a full song rather than just an interlude.

Beyond that, there are some small observations to be made about Raavig's overly ambitious attempt at some notes that sound shrill even for him in the second verse of closer "Forever And Another Day", and about that particular song being the only one that occurs to me as being a little weaker than the others. In the grand view of the album though, complaining about it feels like complaining about having had eight large, free beers, and then having a ninth small, free beer - rather ungrateful. And this is really an impressive album, that one should be grateful or at least appreciative for. It is engaging and entertaining for more than ninety percent of its running time, and while its somewhat simple lyricism and constantly intense moods might seem a little much to those not accustomed to listening to emo, even they have to recognize its dominant feature: That in a country where small bands tend to stay small and modern rock music has virtually no scene worth speaking of, "A Road To Damascus" actually manages to sound BIG!

Download: What A Waste Of Breath, New Perspective, No Wonder
For The Fans Of: A Thorn For Every Heart, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Hawthorne Heights, Silverstein
Listen: facebook.com/aroadtodamascus

Release Date 05.09.2011

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