As Cities Burn
Hell Or High Water


4.5
superb

Review

by Caleb McAlpine USER (108 Reviews)
April 21st, 2009 | 316 replies | 26,753 views


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: In all the moments when Come Now Sleep was lulling and calming, Hell or High Water drives like a summer-lovin' locomotive filled with frivolous good memories and tea times.

23 of 23 thought this review was well written

Change, as a whole, and especially in music, is a daunting subject. Historically, bands evolve casually and slowly, in an effort to keep their original fanbases while simultaneously striving not to make the same record twice. Fortunately, not every musician feels tied to a type cast, and make the decision to change artistically. In some cases, a stylistic change ends up being adored in an amorous case of rabid fanboyism (Radiohead's Kid A, Thrice's Vheissu), and succeed in roping in a new fan base while staying relatively true to their core sound. In less fortunate cases (He Is Legend's Suck Out the Poison, Underoath's They're Only Chasing Safety), the change has been been greeted with abhorrence and distaste. For some fans, it often feels like they've been betrayed by their own bands -- as if somebody traded their whole milk buffet in for a skim milk snack, or snuck a pepperoni on to their strictly vegetarian pizza.

The progression of As Cities Burn has been a pleasure to witness. Their Solid State debut, 2005's "Son, I Loved You at Your Darkness" was a solid but painfully mediocre metalcore record that displayed a decent amount of technicality and a unhealthy helping of repetition. A fair two years and one lost vocalist later, As Cities Burn released "Come Now Sleep," a nearly post-rock meandering musical experience that presented a pleasant 55 minutes of clean vocals and snaking guitar lines. Without warning, As Cities Burn had made a complete reversal of their heavy sound and benefitted copiously from it -- Come Now Sleep was a completely, undeniably solid record brimming with hooks and spilling over with tasteful restraint. This brings us to today, the release day of As Cities Burn's third concoction, "Hell or High Water," the next, less abrupt, step of progression for the Louisiana quartet.

You may be pleased to hear that no disconcerting leaps and bounds are made on Hell or High Water -- in order for As Cities Burn to make a change as huge as Come Now Sleep did, they'd have to become a trip-hop group. Luckily, the territorial step this time around is an a more indie direction, for the lack of a better word. While restraint is still a powerful tool that the band beautifully utilizes, many new strange steps are taken. In the moodily shape-shifting opener, '84 Sheepdog, vocalist Cody Bonnete croons powerfully ("Good lord, have you ever seen so many teeth marks?") while soaring falsettos and Muse-like distorted basslines pave the way for fuzzed over guitar licks and jaunty drum fills. A similar dynamic is used throughout the album, notably on the nearly danceable closer "Capo," which trickles playfully through with hooting background vocals, appropriate foot stomps and hand claps, complete with a tasteful call and response moment between bassist Colin Kimble and guitarist Chris Lott.

In all the moments when Come Now Sleep was lulling and calming, Hell or High Water drives like a summer-lovin' locomotive filled with frivolous good memories and tea times. "Errand Rum" recalls labelmates Jonezetta (whose lead singer Robert Chilsom makes an appearance on "Capo") with anthemic drumming, kittenish chord patterns and cutesy sing-a-long melodies. Drummer Aaron Lunsford, in particular, is a highlight of songs like this -- his snare fetish, refined fills and his, at times, utterly bombastic drumming is as remarkable as it is beautiful. Guitarists Bonnete and Lott's infectious licks and tones are further complimented by a spot-on production, which accentuates every vibration of Hell or High Water by cleanly showcasing the band's talent and keeping a crystal clear sense of lucidity. That's not to say that no production tricks are thrown in -- the stomping and clacking of "Lady Blue" (which is arguably the album's masterful centerpiece) exhibits the record's quirkiness perfectly. In fact, it should be noted that Lady Blue skips smoothly through charming vocal lines a few minutes before exploding into a schizophrenic roller coaster of a song -- clocking in just over six minutes, and circling every possible genre (including a few electronic moments) with a fine red line. Kimble's nimble bass playing is a particular delight in the length of the song (and I may add, his beautiful tones are audible through the entire album) and hums infectiously through deliciously catchy hooks before halting the song to a dwindling end.

Words fail to describe the success of the quartet's more alternative sound on Hell or High Water, particularly because the variation within the album's length is so diverse and cohesive, that it's difficult to summarize appropriately. Whether they're channeling a more technically pleasing Sam Roberts ("Petty"), or mimicking a lounge-infatuated Aaron Marsh ("Daughter"), it is obvious that Colin and the boys are alarmingly capable of nearly everything. The bright Telecaster tones of "Pirate Blues" displays the more 'indie' aspect of the album, almost akin to the Decemberist's latest offering, while the previously mentioned "Capo" (and many other moments on the album) almost shamefully emulate Muse's more recent work.

Luckily, none of the obviously diverse influences hamper the record or even come close to making Hell or High Water seem unoriginal. While it's a branching out of sorts stylistically, it still rings true as a As Cities Burn record (whatever that means) and comes dangerously close to becoming a alt-rock classic. With this very record, As Cities Burn make it deafeningly clear that there's little they're not capable of -- which leads me to suggest this album to nearly anyone I know, for it is completely musically neutral without being boring, and incredibly fun without becoming tiring. Hell or High Water is truly a magical piece of work.

But I'm still holding out for their trip-hop album.



Recent reviews by this author
The Oh Hellos Through The Deep, Dark ValleyDan Mangan Oh Fortune
The Decemberists Long Live the KingThe Reign Of Kindo Rhythm, Chord & Melody
Antoine Dufour ConvergencesThe Head And The Heart The Head And The Heart
user ratings (544)
Chart.
3.9
excellent
other reviews of this album
Alex Trinkner CONTRIBUTOR (4)
If we are the body, how'd the pretty man get so ugly?...

Sean Rizzo (3.5)
...


Comments:Add a Comment 
ninjuice
April 21st 2009



6758 Comments


Is it streaming somewhere?

Samwyze55
April 21st 2009



83 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

funny comparisons in the review lol. well written with a couple minor flaws. i disagree that their first album was only mediocre...liked how chaotic it was, and they had some nice catchy tunes. i agree with your review of HoHW, you bring out the strong points in the album. i find it funny how thiis album is called hell or high water, but its evidently the calmest and most cohesive project they've completed XD

AlexTM510
April 21st 2009



1396 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Awesome review pos

Digging: Daniel Blomquist - measureless oceans of space

Samwyze55
April 21st 2009



83 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

---http://music.aol.com/new-releases-full-cds/#/9


for full stream
This Message Edited On 04.21.09

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
April 21st 2009



17914 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

ugh i should write something for this but i've only listened to it once and it's already out

ninjuice
April 21st 2009



6758 Comments


lol nvm

This sounds a lot more interesting than their previous stuff.
.This Message Edited On 04.21.09

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
April 21st 2009



17914 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

it comes out today doesn't it? it wouldn't be deleted

kitsch
April 21st 2009



5105 Comments


lol at recommended

joshuatree
Emeritus
April 21st 2009



3743 Comments


mostly good review, but you have awkwardly placed commas throughout, and using 'beautiful' when describing drum fills and bass tones is pretty lol

and that last line

but mostly good shit

Golgoroth
April 21st 2009



1084 Comments


Great review. Though like Samwyze, I loved their first. Even more than CNS actually, it's a 5 in my book whereas CNS is 4.5

Waior
April 21st 2009



11421 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks for the input. I think I might be improving. Also, I just love calling things beautiful. Perhaps it's a bit colloquial.

The last line I toyed with putting in or not, for it's maybe to satirical to be remotely funny.

And about the recommended, this album is strikingly similar in tone to Cruel to Be So Young by Jonezetta. srsly

I fixed some errors in it, let me know if there's still anything that stands out as blatantly wrong.

Cheers. Go buy this album.

kingsoby1
Emeritus
April 21st 2009



4830 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Not a bad review, but it seems like you get a bit too bogged down in specifics. Let's be honest, anyone can write a billion pages about something, but condensing that into a marketable amount is what's key.

Listened to this earlier today and couldn't get through it.

edit: you should add the album art, just go to your profile, edit my reviews, then upload it.

This Message Edited On 04.21.09

Digging: Nmesh - Dream Sequins®

Waior
April 21st 2009



11421 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Appreciate the feedback. I'm working on the art right now, it's not really working.

I find that I'm bothered by reviews that don't go deeply into the little ditty details. But that's just a personal preference.

rotterdog
April 21st 2009



486 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I liked your last line. And the rest of the review is good too.

ninjuice
April 21st 2009



6758 Comments


I don't think it's too long really. It could be shorter, definitely, but what's here is just fine.

Waior
April 21st 2009



11421 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Amazing albums get long reviews. aka Cocaine's review for Fortress. When there's so many titillating details, it's impossible not to pour over them.

Or that's what I think.

roofi
April 21st 2009



959 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

some of your descriptions are a little too over-the-top, but aside from that excellent review

i don't think i'll ever love this like i love come now sleep, but this is still really really good

kingsoby1
Emeritus
April 21st 2009



4830 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

that's totally fine and all. i look at things from an everyman/ marketing perspective more than anything... maybe (if you're lucky) 1 in 10 viewers would read a review this long. i think you did a decent job definitely, just too much detail than what i'd bother sharing.

cocaine has a large following on this site... coupled with the suborbital-length boner this community has for PtH, a lengthy review would be well-received in that situation.

fast paced media to coincide with our fast paced culture. sucks, but it's truth.

Waior
April 21st 2009



11421 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah, I definitely see what you're saying. Good points.

Hence why I'm totally expecting Channing to make a shorter, more concise review to coincide with our fast paced culture.

And then all the detail-oriented can come read my long review. I guess.

Edit:

some of your descriptions are a little too over-the-top


I could probably fix some of those. Could I get an example or two? Or nine? This Message Edited On 04.21.09

IAmInsect
April 21st 2009



3800 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

album is great. it gets a little boring at times though. i'll probably have a review up within the next couple days.



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2013 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy