On releasing their self-titled debut in 2009, And So I Watch You From Afar caused quite a stir, seemingly arriving from nowhere to become one of the most talked about acts in the Irish scene, North or South. Following it with their "The Letters" EP, the Belfast noisemongers return with more visceral instrumental rock and deliver easily their most deliberate and cohesive piece of work to date.
Having scrapped more than twenty tracks from initial sessions for 'Gangs', the finished album was written in just eight weeks, the result being a single, solid piece of work, rather than the sum of its parts. Its eight tracks come together harmoniously, frequently self-referencing with repeated patterns and sequences, and moving with ease from the band's characteristic ferocious vigour and vehement intensity to periods of reflective respite. While single 'Search:Party:Animal' patently demonstrates the former with its brutal screeching guitars and obstinate crashing drums, ASIWYFA have also extended their range here, developing their more introspective side on the more low-key '7 Billion People All Alive At Once', where math-rock meets a simple waltz before building up magnificent dense soundscapes and incorporating some rare vocals.
But though ASIWYFA have no trouble proving there's more to them that just distortion and testostone, it's still their raucous, rampaging riffs that dominate 'Gangs', bouncing off one another to create wonderful interplay between the guitars. Having earned a Choice Music Prize nomination for their debut, expectation for this album was always going to be high, but even with that on their shoulders, 'Gangs' sees And So I Watch You From Afar reach a whole new level.