Review: And So I Watch You From Afar – “Heirs”


Group chants, twisted guitar shreds, and an apparently perpetual frantic vigour. Sound familiar? For followers of Belfast’s And So I Watch You From Afar, this ought to echo emphatically; have no fear, the quartet shows no signs of variation, as is clear from new release Heirs. Written in solitude over six months, their fourth full-length is archetypal ASIWYFA, and possibly too much for its own good.

At ten tracks in length, Heirs has been painstakingly whittled down and chose from thirty tracks recorded in anticipation for the album in the band’s Northern Ireland home. Regrettably, as the record starts and finds its feet, there is a feeling that maybe the best were not selected. Opening tracks “Run Home” and “These Secret Kings I Know” sound so familiar that I need to confirm that I am really listening to the latest release. It’s not so much that a new album should necessarily indicate progression or a colossal departure from the sound that earned them kudos in the first instance, but it feels that the interlacing micro-genres of post-rock and math-rock have long been laden with carbon-copy formulas – trite rhythm changes, over-reliant clean/distorted contrasts – and these songs appear to reinforce this, regardless of their sway and technical panache.

It is with some irony, then, that a track titled “Redesigned A Million Times Before” fortunately acts as a tipping point and it is from henceforth that ASIWYFA demonstrate why they remain champions of their genre. Upbeat but cutting guitars layer on top of one another to generate a backdrop for an alluring pop melody in a manner not dissimilar to the likes of Tubelord and Dananananaykroyd. It’s cheerful as usual – this band are a big fan of the major key – however it has an inspiring quality to it that can often be absent in ASIWYFA’s songwriting.

Other highlights include “People Not Sleeping” which is quick and fun and executes the band’s endless affection for the ‘epic’ in a basic, driving tone; it is distinctive and exceptionally effective. Furthermore, the production of the record is superbly suited to the band’s live sound, not least in “Fucking Lifer”, which is absurdly punchy. Conversely, the prettiest track by a long shot is the album’s twinkly closer, “Tryer, You”, which chooses not to exude quite as much of the band’s typical power, although is not so fragile as to exclude a typically ASIWYFA dramatic denouement.

Heirs, as its name implies, is about the passing of influence and adaptation. Whilst there are splintered glimpses of influence peppered throughout, the record stays true to And So I Watch You From Afar’s sound; excessive at the outset, yet brilliantly later on. Surely, as troublesome as it may have been to cut thirty tracks down to ten, they would have done better to cut down just a touch more.