This Feeling

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Album Review :: Cast Of Lions - Eyes Wide To New Places





Cast of Lions

Eyes Wide to New Places

August 19 2013 (Self-released)

8/10


Words: Dave Beech


Ambitious, uplifting, anthemic. All words which could be used to describe 'Eyes Wide to New Places', the debut album from London's Cast of Lions. Formerly known as Chapters, the band have completely self-funded the release of 'Eyes Wide...' through sales of their previous EPs and as such, we find a record which is completely unadulterated by label influence resulting in an album of rich and varied textures and aesthetics that are entirely of the band's own choosing.

Beginning with 'Astronauts', Cast of Lions mount expectations through the delicate use of an arpeggiated duality of analog and digital in the form of a synth and a piano, quickly joined by some impactive percussion lending weight to a track so light it's in danger of floating away. It's a hugely ambitious introduction and one which stands the rest of the record in great stead as it mounts towards it's inevitable conclusion. The slower tempo set out by 'Astronauts' however is soon forgotten as 'Sticks and Stones' (a re-recorded track that will be familiar to those who followed Chapters) launches in to it's optimistic and uplifting hook. It's a method repeated throughout the course of 'Eyes Wide...'; listeners are drawn in to a false lull before tracks build and 'drop' in a manner more akin to dance music than to indie-pop but it works for the band and while no doubt be a testament unto itself in a live environment.

The way Cast of Lions play with and manipulate their music is nothing short of brilliant; tracks which at first appear melancholy and somewhat innocuous burst forth with vibrant euphoria. A perfect example of this would be 'Softer We Fall' as both the intro and conclusion are juxtaposed with the song's exuberant center. This is a track made for festivals. That doesn't mean to say the whole album is peaches and cream, however. 'Paint' provides a darker edge to an album that bubbles with youthful optimism. Hard-hitting percussion backbones the track whilst guitar and synth swell beneath singer Stefan Abingdon's layered vocal work in what is possibly one of the album's most understated highlights.

'Masks' is the second of two tracks that will be familiar to fans of Chapters and is perhaps the most uplifting of 'Eyes Wide...' concluding tracks in which the latter third of the album plays out like the comedown from the euphoria which precedes it. For a first, fully-realised record, there isn't much that Cast of Lions could have done differently. Okay, so there are the occasional moments of easy rhymes within the lyricism and the production (coming courtesy of James K Sanford) is occasionally overbearing, but these are personal and aesthetic quibbles which others will be sure to disagree with and even these are forgotten by the time the emphatic if not maudlin album closer 'Hush, Hush World' is halfway done. It's a fine way to close the record, allowing one to feel as if you've really come full circle with the band, and even though it's completely instrumental, it could be argued that this is the record's pinnacle, a brooding and swelling soundscape which lets the listener know that even though the journey they embarked on is over, the experience will stay with them for weeks to come.

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