4 Dec 2020

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City of Souls - Gig Review: City of Souls @ The Tuning Fork, Auckland - 21/11/2020

22 Nov 2020 // A review by Kev Rowland

Tonight it was off to one of my favourite venues, The Tuning Fork, to see recent Aotearoa Music Award winners for Te Kaipuoro Rakapioi Toa (Best Rock Artist), City of Souls, at the launch party for their debut album, Synæsthesia. Outside the venue I bumped into Ben Reugg (Channeled) who had brought some of his music students from Waiuku College to see what a proper rock show is like while I spent the evening in the company of Jodie (Miss Peach and The Travellin Bones) and Te Matera Smith (AAA Records), also bumped into Chris Webb (White Nøise Mafia), Francis Wheeler (SIS Studios, a judge at the recent Ding Dong competition), and so many others from the local scene. Everyone knew that tonight was set for a very special night indeed.

Outside In were first up, and immediately I had some concerns as although Mikey was as resplendent as ever in his dressing gown, not only where there no visible keyboards, where was guitarist Joe Park? It transpired that due to the gig being rearranged Joe already had commitments tonight elsewhere, so in stepped Graham Bell, who had played on their amazing album Karmatrain. Mikey was somewhat concerned prior to the gig that he was still having vocal issues (they had to cancel a gig with Coridian a few weeks earlier as he was so sick), but it didn’t come through in the performance. Musically this was a somewhat unusual sound for the band, as Graham has a far more straightforward approach than Joe, who adds additional melodies and nuances to the main, while Adam used a drum pad to trigger keyboard sounds and additional backing vocals (Elliot of course provides BV’s as well as bass).

Outside In are one of the most interesting bands in the scene at present, creating a tapestry of sounds which allows Mikey to really get into the character and persona of each song. He is an incredible performer, really capturing the eye, definitely the focal point which was what was needed tonight with both Graham and Jonnie being fairly rooted to the spot, and while Elliot is incredibly animated, even kneeling to play his bass at one point, he was stuck at the rear of the available space. So, it was all down to Mikey to capture the eye, which he does with aplomb, as he puts in his very being as he lives out each song. The use of vocal effects for certain lines also really works well, adding an extra element and cadence. Mushrooms was probably the highlight, with Mikey easily moving into a clear falsetto, while the rest of the guys built the sound and the emotion. Mass harmony vocals made a very positive difference as he told his tale, and when they finished with Om it was over way too soon. A special call out must also be made to Adam Tobeck, who demonstrated yet again why he is rapidly becoming one of the most in-demand session drummers around as his control and direction of the band is simply superb.

Next up was Cherry Blind, a trio formerly known as Minimal Silence, who won Smokefree Rockquest back in 2017. They opened with the single Papercut and we were immediately into a world of 80’s/90’s metal with more than a hint of grunge. Whereas Outside In were creating sounds and space which were broad, these guys are far more direct and, in your face, piling in the energy and expecting the crowd to give it back to them in return. Although they never really got the mosh pit going, it certainly was not through want of trying as these guys just never let up. Bassist and singer Logan Anderson was continually pushing the audience to react and with both guitarist Sabastian Munro and drummer Mark Tohovaka providing backing vocals there was melody combined to the power.

Their self-titled number has an incredibly catchy chorus, and with no guitar solos to be heard this is a band who never stop driving forward to take the crowd with them by sheer force of will. There was hair everywhere, and while Red had loads of hardcore crossover elements Black Sheep took it to another level with Logan saying this short, punky, fun number was his favourite to play. Then all of a sudden it was over, and they were off. They only played six songs, none of them were particularly long, and there was a lot of time before City of Souls were due on stage so it did feel somewhat strange as their set seemed a lot shorter than Outside In. Their music is designed to be fun, lightweight, and for people to just bounce about and have a great time, and on that level, they certainly delivered, and I look forward to seeing them again soon.

Some 15 minutes before City of Souls were due to take the stage the houselights came down, so I thought the gig was going to start earlier than expected. But instead there was now a lot of time being spent ensuring everything was tuned and working correctly. I was surprised at the length of time it took for these to be completed, but possibly there was no real soundcheck earlier? The weird thing was having the houselights dropped, but what after what seemed an age all lights went out altogether and delicate sounds came through the speakers, building into a crescendo and then City of Souls were there, a rhythm section and three guitarists pumping out the music with Richie Simpson at the front. Simpson strides the stage like a musical colossus, always in control, providing powerful and melodic vocals while guitarist Trajan Schwencke also has an incredibly important role to provide with his harmonies.

Anyone who has been involved in the New Zealand rock scene for any length of time will have seen at least one of these guys in some of their previous bands, which trip off the tongue like musical royalty with the likes of 8 Foot Sativa (I’ll never forget them ripping Fear Factory to pieces at the Powerstation some years back, the headline just could not compete), Blindspott, BlacklisttIn Dread Response, and so many more. But since forming in 2015 they have been fighting back against the hype, having to prove themselves time and again, and it has taken way too long for their debut album to be released (produced, engineered and mixed by Forrester Savell (Sikth, Karnivool, SkyHarbor, Animals As Leaders, Shihad)), and tonight was the launch and they were going to have a blast.

The whole band is incredibly animated, all of them fully into the music with loads of movements, shapes, and showy guitar moments. The band have moved from their individual influences to create something which is incredibly heavy, bringing in elements of the likes of Killing Joke, System of a Down and hardcore while never moving far from their metallic roots. They create a wall of sound, with just one guitar creating over the top melodies, the other two locked in on the riffs, while the rhythm section keeps it tight and then there is Richie. He pitches himself against this wall, knowing he has the chops to bend the music to his will, and keep the crowd engaged at the same time. He has a very melodic voice, full of power, and the way he locks in with Trajan at certain points is a real lift.

The highlight of the night for me was Shimmer, a track from the debut, which is incredibly powerful and moves us firmly into nu-metal territory. Their choice of a cover was somewhat unusual to my ear, Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart (can that really be 40 years old now, I remember it being released!). This was stripped back, removed of much of the original emotion and taking the melody into a new and far more metallic direction. Tying Tongues was dedicated to the kids of Waiuku College and their version, and they recommended everyone should seek it out on YouTube (I have, and all credit to Jessye Darwen and all those involved as they have turned this belter into something quite different indeed, truly magical).

Tonight, was a great night, with City of Souls also having a blinding light show (literally – the strobes at the rear were very powerful indeed), and three very different bands giving their all. At one point Richie questioned if The Tuning Fork was going to be the new Kings Arms, and it will certainly be interesting to see what happens in the future, but for now those who were there saw some great bands tonight. Long may this continue.

Photo Credit: Morgan Creative


About City of Souls


It is a word that Auckland six piece City of Souls were bound to deal with from their inception. Boasting members from bands that have etched their mark on the local and international hard rock and metal scene such as Blindspott, Blacklistt, 8 Foot Sativa, New Way Home, Cold By Winter, In Dread Response and Solstate, City of Souls was set to stir some interest, and stir they have.

Too often when something is hyped it is followed with disappointment, yet the first City Of Souls single Sleep arrives unashamedly explosive, touting emotive energy juxtaposed with a certain calm which will become this band’s signature. Recorded between Dreadstorm Media Auckland and Roundhead Studios, it was mixed by legendary engineer Clint Murphy, and mastered at Sterling Sound in New York.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for City of Souls


Year: 2020
Type: Album

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