The duo consisting of Ulysses Perez and Kayce Armstrong make up Aceskully. For about a year's time they have been working on their debut entitled Licks & Strokes. After glancing at the artwork I was thinking I was in for a straight guitar rock album but that wasn’t what I got. Licks & Strokes is a dense album with synths, piano, guitar and just layers of sound. It's obvious the duo put a lot of work into it. The proof is in the pudding.
They open with “Bend” and it is indicative of the complexity and level of detail they put in each song. It has a slight dark ominous vibe and actually reminded me of NIN in a number of ways. The bass drum hits hard as guitars scream and synths bubble. Perez and Armstrong share duties on the vocals and it works out quite well.
“Am I Bound” is a heavily electronic song you get away with classifying as a Goth dance track. The kick drum hits hard and steady and arpeggiated synths swirl around the stereo spectrum. As with the opener the vibe has a dark quality to it.
As the album progresses there are no fillers. Each song has depth and plenty of sounds to explore. The centerpiece may be “Devil’s Tree” which is a sprawling ten-plus-minute song and also the most experimental. It starts off very atmospheric and ambient. Pads float in the air and other elements start to make their introduction. The first half of the song feels very mysterious in a Knights Of Templar type of way but eventually builds into a powerful second half with fleshed out instrumentation.
As the album progresses there were some more highlights that came to mind such as “Delirious” and the rather mellow and ethereal “Telescope.”
Licks & Strokes is an impressive accomplishment. Each song has a unique palette of sounds but manages to sound cohesive. On top of that the band isn’t afraid to think outside of the box and take some chances. Recommended.
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