In 2014, UK alt-rockers released their debut EP ‘Tempers’, a short collection of meaty rockers focusing on the contrasts between a heavy riff and melodic vocal. With the perfect mix of riffs and hooks, it showed the workings of a new band with solid foundations and promised great things for the future. A year on, their second release – ‘Fragments’, released early in the summer of 2015 – takes everything that was promising and really tightens it. The five featured songs are very heavy on the riffs, but more so than before, but to counterbalance that, there’s also a greater focus on vocal melodies.
The title cut wastes no time in announcing Of Allies’ return by instantly confronting the audience with a crusher of an alt-rock riff, previous dalliances with post-grunge pushed aside for a crunchy tone more akin to math-rock. There’s a bigger complexity in the arrangement too – twin lead guitars weaving in an out of a fat bass. If they’ve not caught your attention within seconds, there’s something wrong with you. Stepping back to make way for Rich Nichols to offer a vocal, the guitars tease with cleaner styles, occasionally punctuated by a high pitched ring. Eventually both styles collide on the chorus, and its here that Of Allies’ brand of rock is at its best. Heavy and melodic, with a hint of Staind (although far less dreary), the sound of 90s rock dragged firmly into the twenty first century, each of the band members steps up a gear to ensure this hook is driven firmly between your ears. ‘One19’ steps things up with the increased use of downtuning, a distinctive guitar sound driving things forward. Ensuring the pace never drops, Danny Barrick’s drumming is often fast and aggressive – his attack on the snares occasionally reminiscent of the youthful Dave Grohl. Meanwhile, Nichols keeps things melodic with a clean vocal, his English accent shining through on every word; by the time the chorus hits, this is the sound of Of Allies at their absolute best.
Taking a largely quieter stance, the band allow even their more melodic traits to shine through on ‘Old Bones’. Throughout the bulk of this number, the guitar work favours a clean, ringing indie-rock sound, over which a more sedate vocal is in keeping with the radio-friendly tune. There are a couple of heavier moments, of course, and as before, there’s a deep chugging riff occasionally surfacing. The end results are entertaining with the push and pull between heaviness and light, with a huge potential for attracting fans of Don Broco and Twin Atlantic. ‘Tempers’ revisits the title of the previous EP, but doesn’t sound like it pre-dates any of this material. Showcasing another absolutely killer riff borrowing from post-grunge influences, the band already sound like they’re ready to take on everyone, but once they push things into even heavier and faster territory before showing off a really hard post-rock sharpness, they sound absolutely immense. There are moments during this track where bassist Nick Tyldsley cuts through with a huge rattle, but as with ‘One19’ the tune is absolutely owned by the twin guitars. Kicking off a dark echoing tone, underscored by jangly guitars and a thick melodic bass, the closing number ‘Call It Home’ is instantly likeable. Nichols instantly asserts his power and place behind the microphone, with a powerful and equally melodic performance, made even more suited to radio with the inclusion of a couple of subtle filters. From the second verse onward, things build gradually: the jangling guitars add a strong sense of depth to the overall piece before everything explodes. For the second half of the tune each of alt-rock elements really begin to stretch out as the band crank the volume – combining a heavy riff with a simple but killer hook revolving around the title. In terms of style, this is perhaps closer to the material featured on the debut EP, but the band’s increasing maturity as composers is obvious.
If you’re a fan of huge riffs, then Of Allies should more than deliver. If you’re looking for something wholly contemporary and yet familiar, ‘Fragments’ delivers the goods at almost every turn. This is the sound of four young musicians ready to break out. It seemed unlikely they’d be able to top their debut EP, but somehow, they have. This…is unmissable – grab it as soon as you can.