Some may say music in the UK is headed in One Direction.
I urge you to look beyond the glam, screaming teenage girls and endorsements that make Nascar appear lacking. What you will find is bound to please.
Runcorn’s own trio, The Fireflys, took their time after Cathedral For Your Ashes to reassess their approach; and the result could not have been better.
While Cathedral For Your Ashes holds its own and becomes a fantastically addicting record, there was a faint glimmer that The Fireflys were holding close to their comfort zone and following the “safe rock” path. In all fairness, I absolutely loved (and still love) their sophomore release, but after diving into their newest release, they’ve gone from good to stellar.
Lee Wylding, Stephen Roberts, and Andrea Packer breathe harmonies that are so natural they feel as though they were born to play together. We were told we’d be given a new, tighter sound, without compromise, and did they ever deliver.
Embers Of The Autumn slows things down just enough to hit a sweet spot that I wasn’t aware was missing, until now. Continuing to surprise, the trio blends an incredibly passionate southern rock style, which beats with a pulse of Neil Young, Creedence and The Allman Bros, with the modern Brit-Rock style we’ve known them to produce, but then raises the bar even more.
The eleven track album seals the deal very quickly with the ballad of a lost friend in “Unplayed Guitars.” Then, in a four-track stride that I can only describe as a monumental step forward for The Fireflys, transcend anything they’ve done thus far.
Beginning the run with “Autumn Soul,” Wylding lays down an opening guitar patchwork that can only be described as Fireflys war paint. If you didn’t realize it, it is on. It is immedately followed by Roberts’s rolling bass licks along with Packer’s simple, yet elegant mellow rock beat, that can only be rivaled by the sheer amount of heart poured into the lyrics. It slides, ever so elegantly, into the moving ballad “Hummingbird;” a track that if you are not teary eyed by the end, I suggest you check your pulse. This track is The Firefly’s masterpiece (to date). It will reach into your soul, tap into your passions and pull your heartstrings. It is easily one of the most beautiful songs I may have ever heard by an independent band. Coming down off the track, but hardly lowering the bar, “Julianne” sings to heartbreak with superb melodious intent. And capping off the four-tracks, the pulse of Embers is still beating strong with the again melodiously rich “Broken Pieces.” We were promised tight melodies and a fresh sound that keeps tight to The Fireflys foundation and this is, without a doubt, what we’ve been waiting for.
And we’re only five tracks in.
The “B-Side” or remaining six tracks put the acoustic sense of the record down and reach into the rock The Fireflys simply cannot resist. Though the first five and last six could possibly be seen as two separate albums, it would be like The Who playing Quadrophenia live. Sure, by the end you need to take a deep breath and soak in what you’ve just heard, nay, experienced, but you’re hardly ready for it to be over.
“Der Reise” kicks the chair out from under you and gets you moving while it dances huge rock licks on a solid rock foundation. “She Said” brings the heartfelt passion back, this time with an electric approach. The record ends, brilliantly enough, with the instrumental “In His Name.”
If Wylding, Roberts and Packer were trying to lay claim to a bold new Southern Rock sound, they own it. If they are looking to sneak up on the unsuspecting pop fans with a strong left hook of rock, they’ve got it.
This is the face independent music needs. You can sit on your patio, front steps, lawn, whatever you may have, spin Embers Of The Autumn, stare up at the night sky and easily become lost in the awe inspiring beauty of The Fireflys.