City of Thieves debut ‘Beast Reality’ gives the rock world ‘a good shake’

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Grade: 4.0/5.0

If you think rock is dead, think again. There’s a new group of rebels in town, and they won’t be leaving without a fight.  

On Friday, the hard rock band City of Thieves lit up the rock world by releasing its debut album, Beast Reality. This London-based group features Jamie Lailey on bass and vocals, Ben Austwick on guitar and Will Richards on drums, with the addition of a new guitarist, Adam Wardle. Their mission? “To take rock by the scruff of its neck and give it a good shake,” according to the band’s website.

Beast Reality wastes no time in jumping into the action, starting off with a heavy-hitting, guitar-smashing tune called “Reality Bites.” With lyrics such as “Reality bites and this ain’t make believe,” frontman Lailey is here to remind you that City of Thieves is not a cheap imitation that’s copying the sounds of older rock legends such as AC/DC or Guns N’ Roses. They’re the real deal.

In the band’s search to find a unique sound, City of Thieves has drawn upon influences from across the rock scene, both modern and classic. In an interview with The Rockpit, Lailey cites the modern American rock band Black Stone Cherry as a musical influence in its song, “Right to Silence.” At the same time, the stop-and-go guitar riff at the beginning of the song evokes memories of AC/DC’s classic, “Highway to Hell.” Other riffs sound as though they could have been taken off a lost Aerosmith album from the 1970s, such as the lively and high-intensity riff at the beginning of an equally intense song, “Animal.”

In certain ways, however, this intensity can be overwhelming. To a listener less familiar with hard rock, the band’s chaotic sound begins to blur together after just three or four songs, and as a result, less notable tracks feel lost in the noise. Likewise, Lailey’s grizzled voice, although well-suited for the genre, can at times be grating to the ear, especially on “Incinerator” — a track that’s meant to sound like an angry, rumbling march.  

In fact, some of the best moments from Beast Reality are when the band members ease back on their intensity and just play around with their sound. “Buzzed Up City,” easily one of the catchiest songs on the album, takes almost a full minute to show off the group’s instrumental skills before diving into Lailey’s vocals. What develops is a lively riff, along with a little back and forth between guitar and drums, that feels light and energizing without losing any of the band’s swaggering confidence.

Likewise, the album’s closing song, “Something of Nothing,” begins with Lailey’s vocals on full display, easing back on guitar and drums as Lailey passionately sings about a lost opportunity. As Lailey finishes crying out his accusation, “But then you went and threw it all away,” the instruments pick up and send the song on its way with an energy so infectious that it just can’t be stopped. In the prechorus, Lailey continues to show off all the honest emotion in his voice with lyrics such as, “We’re making waves on the run / Yet they told us it couldn’t be done.”

Ultimately, “Something of Nothing” is the perfect conclusion to Beast Reality: it showcases the band’s high-energy intensity without sacrificing any meaning or heart, and it knows when to pull back and let a single band member shine. Moreover, it’s the kind of song that’ll make anyone, rock lover or not, start singing at the top of their lungs.

City of Thieves may still have some work to do in terms of experimenting with its sound, but in the meantime, the band produced a strong album that’s sure to delight classic hard rock fans and bring a little edge back into the world of music.

Lauren Sheehan-Clark covers music. Contact her at [email protected].