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Choice Prize, The Letters EP

"...skilled noise-mongers..."

Hard rocking Belfast instrumentalists follow their Choice Prize nominated debut with a short four track EP, bursting with aggressive energy compelled by competing guitar sounds and angry drums. And So I Watch You From Afar sounds like the name of a metal band, so it's only half appropriate for the Belfast foursome it identifies. Sure, the heavy bass lines, mountains of distortion and fervent drums are informed by metal, but there's so much more at play here. 'The Letters' kicks off with the unspectacular distorted guitar introduction of 'S Is For Salamander', but that's all part of the trick. It's not long before the unspectacular is pulled asunder by rampaging, rolling rhythms and jerky math-rock guitars. In one of those strange combinations that make ASIWYFA stand out from their peers, "D Is For Django The Bastard" revels in tribal beats before breaking off into a light jazz break. Meanwhile, closing track "K Is For Killing Spree (An Ode To)" establishes these boys as skilled noise-mongers, with crunching distortion and squealing guitar noises raining down on each other as if locked in some volatile and uncertain battle. 'B If For B-Side' is the least stimulating track here, opening brusquely like vintage Biffy Clyro, but failing to develop and sadly trundling towards its own end. Still, the Scottish rockers' earlier work is not a bad reference point for a band rooted in hard rock but only truly excelling when they experiment and play with the genre. With the refreshing and innovative approach to instrumental hard rock they proffered on their self-titled debut album, And So I Watch You From Afar may just be the most deserving of this year's Choice Music Prize nominees. This short follow-up EP doesn't quite have the same ingenuity as the album, but it's still pretty powerful stuff.

- Jenny Mulligan, entertainment.ie