The latest incarnation of Down From Up is going for broke on its new disc, a heavier and faster set of moody modern rock than anything they’ve ever done before. It’s also a showcase for the band’s chops. Both drummer Andy Campbell and bassist Matt Reynolds have plenty of room to show off the band’s bottom-end range, and singer Matt Brewster shifts from gruff verses to soaring choruses in a heartbeat. But guitar shredder Andy Wood is the real star of From Ashes to Empire; the songs are set-up primarily for Wood to throw in maddeningly technical licks and runs of jaw-dropping dexterity.
Some of the credit goes to go-to local producer Travis Wyrick, who’s captured the sound of a band swinging for the fences. There’s no getting around the standard alt-rock format, and the songs themselves do get lost amid the neck-wrecking time changes and Woods’ guitar-nerd solos. But few Knoxville bands, especially unsigned ones, have ever demonstrated the instrumental mastery that DFU shows here.