Review Summary: A haunting amalgam of Botch, Dillinger, Deadguy and post-hardcore.
Before you even push the CD into your PC you can tell this album is going to be taking a heavy influence from Botch. The cover and the title point to yet another band left in the wake of the seminal band's legacy, indeed one might even mistake this as being nothing more than a rip-off of the aforementioned band. However this band and this album are much more than that.
This album is one soaked in despair. Where Botch was cynical this album is a downward spiral of shattered illusions and crushed dreams. Riffs are discordant and chaotic, up-changing and down changing, switching in and out of acoustic sections without a seconds notice. The drumbeats are stretched across the entire set of skins, dynamic yet filled with form and the bass is a very cynical, throbbing contrast to the high and low tuned whailing of the guitars. The handling of all these disharmonious elements of the band's sound is handled with precision and care. Guitars, drums and bass are layered upon each other, each element retreating and entering at precise time intervals. "The End of Something" shows the bass not entering until midway through the song when the lowtuned riffs exchange to the higher tuned guitar riffs. Similarly in "And the Engine" the blastbeats of the drums only enter later, instead opting for a slower tempo rhythm or just tapping the cymbals. This attention to the music shows an awareness of the mathcore's conventional problems; the bass being buried underneath the other instruments and the drums becoming too dominant. It is an awareness that points to an experienced view of the genre, an unsurprising fact considering this band is the fourth incarnation of the Rorschach
/Kiss It Goodbye
For those not familiar with these past three bands (or one band with three different names) they, along with Starkweather
and possibly Burn
, were the bands who created the genres of mathcore and metalcore. Playing Enemy is only too happy to flaunt this heritage. The miasma of guitar riffs and drumwork harkens back to the instrumental work of Fixation on a Co-worker
. The heavier, denser sections and the lead weight of a metal influence is reminiscent of the hard, mathmatical shell of Kiss It Goodbye
. All of these are built behind the vocals, a writhing pit of hardcore rage reminiscent of Tim Singer's work. Yet the band isn't afraid to acknowledge the bands who have taken this sound to new levels. The very fact that this album is heavily influenced by Botch's We Are The Romans
is a testament to this. The band also displays a healthy influence of The Dillinger Escape Plan's Calculating Infinity
within the faster sections. I Was Your City
does not act so much as a catalogue of progression for the band members but more as a catalogue for the history of mathcore and metalcore, citing all the important explosions of originality within its timeline.
As much as this album is a nostalgia trip, it is not afraid to show progression. The vocals, while taking an influence from Tim Singer, are more drawn to the hardcore side of the genre. Indeed they display a greater range, with distorted clean vocals muffled within the long, winding structure of "The End of Something." Electronics are used to echo the vocals and through these, elements of the post-hardcore and possibly even post-metal are grafted onto the band's sound. Soft, ambient notes interchange with slow, crushing riffs, a formula reminiscent of Isis. This grafting of new influences and new genres upon their sound takes their established sound into new territory yet these new additions never become overwhelming.
The addition of these elements, while not conservative, is not overly liberal either. The clean vocals are only used once throughout the entire album. The ambience is never a constant either, interchanging with the other instruments. The genre and instrument are streamlined into a flowing structure that allows for ease of change in between songs as much as in the songs. Each song flows into the next one with only minimal intrusion yet each one is distinct, alive with "Angels in a Trailer's" intricacate guitar riffs through to the ever changing textures of "The End of Something". This album's smoothly changes between soundscapes of grandiose emptiness to claustrophobic struggles against fate and because of it unifies the album in descending steps. It is this unity that is a reflection of mature songwriting and compositional skills and it is this maturity that has created a haunting album of progression, power and fatalism.