The follow-up to Mandroid Echostar‘s self-titled debut EP has been a much anticipated release, not just in their home town of Guelph, but in Southern Ontario as a whole. Having been warned by the band not to expect a repeat of their first release I didn’t know what to expect but was eager to listen none the less.
Citadels opens with a slow guitar track relying heavily on singer Michael Ciccia’s voice. It’s something you’ve never heard from Mandroid Echostar before but it sets the stage for the same amazing storytelling that the band is becoming known for. Imagine going to the theatre and having the narrator come out to deliver the prologue before the play actually starts. That’s exactly what “A Death Marked Dream” does. As the song fades out, the curtains open and the action begins. The smooth sound of an electric guitar creates anticipation and as soon as drummer Matt H-K counts “Ancient Arrows” in with his symbol you have a feeling that something epic is about to happen (and it does). That feeling remains for the rest of the EP.
By the time “Haunted Vows” is about half way through you realize that Mandroid Echostar are playing songs about love in a medieval place in time. Most bands in heavy genres try to avoid the topic of love unless they’re really mad about losing one. “I can’t find love here, so we’re going to march until I find some” seems to be the paraphrased message to the army. The chanting parts of the song create an anthem that is a call to arms to all, if you’re willing to come along for the rest of the ride. You are on a quest to find the main character’s true love. “To The Wolves” takes you through the travels of this quest, ultimately finding this love, but it’s going to take a lot of work to actually make it happen. Mandroid Echostar find a way to musically and poetically get this message across to the listener.
The final act (this whole album listens like a play) starts with “Ethereal Dawn”. The songs starts with such a crispy riff that you’ll want to pour milk on it and eat it like cereal. This is where the conflict becomes apparent. This love that is worth saving has become a real struggle. Our hero can’t seem to find where it’s gone but he knows it’s worth saving. One thing that has always amazed me about Mandroid Echostar is their ability to use their guitars as a means of communication. Rather than leaving all the responsibility to the singer, Stephen Richards, Sam Pattison, James Krul and Adam Richards have collectively figured out a way to SPEAK with their guitars. The final track, Citadels, starts down right evil. You can tell that the force holding back our hero is now in control. He’s still trying so hard, but the back and forth between our hero’s story and the good and evil guitars continues to intensify. The calmness with less than three minutes left in this 29-minute EP just crush you. You want the climax at the end of the story. You want to know what happened to our hero and their lover. I’m not going to ruin the ending, but the suspense should be eating away at you already. All you need to know is that the curtain finally does fall.