And So I Watch You From Afar delivering their best yet with an outstanding, slow-burning odyssey

Imagine a parallel universe, where instead of knives and guns, gangs of youths live, fight and die by the guitar. Sub-woofers are carted around the city by kids in their droves, carving deep into the minds of the passersby with plectrums, in the endless struggle to be the greatest band in existence.

In this place, one gang from Belfast (place names haven’t changed) knows that a little solidarity goes a long way when fighting against the tyranny of mediocrity. This band of brothers is And So I Watch You From Afar, who blew us all away with their full-on assault of a self-titled debut album, heaving with anthems and energy.

Back in 2009, we thought ASIWYFA were the assailants who knocked us over and ran off laughing into the industrial smog. With Gangs, we wake in the realization that they were pushing us out of the way of the unexceptional. A more considered album by comparison, ASIWYFA can now be viewed rightfully as superheroes in this dystopian world, keeping the peace and standing up for what is right, musically at least.

‘BeautifulUniverseMasterChampion’ gets the ball rolling with a storming introduction, no hanging about with Chris Wee’s clean drumming and Johnny Adger’s bass pushing the energy onwards, accompanied with both guitar lines layered beautifully.

The tempo picks up on ‘Gang (starting never stopping)’. As the name suggests, it doesn’t let up. ‘Search:Party:Animal’, the first single from the album, gives the first real departure in the sound we’re used to.

ASIWYFA - Search:Party:Animal

The waltzing introduction of ‘7 Billion People all Alive at Once’ gives way to a celebratory super-anthem with a wandering party bassline. On ‘Think:Breathe:Destroy’, Rory Friers and Tony Wright on guitar are right back into attack mode as the trademark ASIWYFA waves of riffs wash over the listener. The introduction of echoing flutes on ‘Ghost Parlor KA -6 to...’ is a nice surprise and makes for an interesting diversion on the record.

The penultimate track ‘...Samara to Belfast’ is one of the standouts, a trance-like driving force that rises to an epic hands-in-the-air moment and then falls for the finale. ‘Lifeproof’ finishes the album with a ridiculously sublime section of samba carnival drumming, nothing less than you would expect from the odyssey the four-piece have created.

Gangs delivers a matured sound, with the outstanding production allowing each part to breathe. Undoubtedly, it's more accessible than their debut, but will definitely not disappoint the fans.

Even with other highly anticipated album launches on the horizon from Cashier No.9 and Girls Names – records set to raise the bar ever higher for Northern Ireland’s music scene – there is no doubt who will let out the battle cry.

Respected among their peers, ASIWYFA have come back with a slow-burning collection of tracks that is greater than the sum of its parts. In the parallel dimension, there already was a ‘BeautifulUniverseMasterChampion’. With Gangs, now we need wait no more for our own.

Gangs is released May 2 and is now available for pre-order on Richter Collective. Check What's On for the Belfast album launch details.