Shai Hulud and Underoath are two bands that have a heavy "scene" following. Both twist the hardcore paradigm to produce a different flavor in a genre that has classically been linear and straight-shooting. Shai Hulud tints its melodic hardcore with metal and unique song structure. Underoath takes the suddenly popular use of electronics and an equal portion of pop punk to produce a catchy yet ultimately shallow version of hardcore. Though these approaches seem distant these bands have two primary things in common; their styles are founded in hardcore, and As Cities Burn rip of them like there's no tomorrow. As Cities Burn could be described as either a heavier Underoath or a poppier Shai Hulud, or if this review were in the hands of an Alternative Press reviewer, "The Next Big Thing!!" While I'm not a fan of blending styles or genres in a contrived way, I can definitely groove in the moment to a saxophone solo in the middle of a hardcore song ("For Marcus" by The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower), or a jazz break in the middle of a hardcore song ("The Deadly Rythm" by Refused), and even a full choir breakdown in the middle of a pop punk song ("It's Dangeous Business Just Walking Out Your Front Door" by Underoath), but the long term of value of such mixtures is pretty non-existent. I'd prefer that the band realize a synergy that creates a result that is greater than the sum of its parts. As Cities Burn is a confusing attempt at that. They borrow from both Shai Hulud and Underoath, almost verbatim in some phrases, to produce a style that at moments will seem to brilliantly juxtapose catchiness with progressive thinking musicianship, but at other moments will seem like it panders to a more...myspacesque fan base. This balance is surely difficult to achieve but can more easily be understood by focusing on how they replicate each individual style.
In terms of sounding like Shai Hulud, the band knows how to be aggressive yet also intriguing. The first track "Thus From My Lips, By Yours, My Sin Is Purged," which probably clues you in to the band's obvious Christian slant, maintains its complexity and energy the whole song. There aren't many sections with clean vocals and most of the variety in the vocals comes from adding effects and cleverly mixing their vigorous screams into the background. One thing I love about the band is most present at their hardest moments; they know how to handle chords that are purposely dissonant. Their use of diminished chords are particularly effective. Often, there's a weight placed on vii? chords at key moments to lead back into the tonic at which point a song will be its most intense dynamically. They'll have an octave guitar line hit the arpeggiation of the chord in a catchy yet nails-on-the-chalkboard kind of way. They're the first band to employ this technique this originally and emphatically and for this reason alone, I keep on listening to this band. Not only is it interesting on a harmonic level, it also helps the songs shift its energy and gives all of the songs a really good sense of the moment. This great technique is made even better by the furiocity with which As Cities Burn plays their instruments. There's a lot of feeling on this album. Sure, "feeling" is a nebulous word to use in a review, however upon listening to the album this effect should be pretty apparent. The album makes the band come across as if they're physically playing their instruments harder than other bands, which may be due to the genre they play, or maybe the mixing, but in any case, the playing is incredibly emphatic and aggressive. It's never aggressive in a meat headed way and never emphatic in a way that cloys, which keeps the bands playing inspiring even at the weaker moments of the CD.
Those weaker moments can most accurately be summed up as the Underoath sections of the album. Not to trash Underoath too much, but most of their substance comes from a now-clichéd use of sampling and electronics, and the always clichéd use of catchy, token melodies. As Cities Burn are obviously influenced by these two shortcomings. Their album, though extremely challenging at moments, can also have moments that leave the listener amused at the simplicity. This simplicity within itself isn't so bad but under the glory of the complex sections seem to be laughable. The melodies at the beginning of songs like "The Widow" and "Terrible! How for the Great City" remind me of the worst moments on Underoath's They're Only Chasing Safety. There's also that odd use of electronics that finds itself in a gratuitous trip hop beat at the end of "Love Jealous One, Love" and all throughout "One: Twentyseven." Only rarely do the electronics really help out the song. Also, many of the chords progressions just rekindle my hatred for New Found Glory (listen closely to "Of Want and Misery: Nothing That Kills," which I might add has the cheesiest use of piano I've ever heard in my life).
So why even bother including the poppy moments if they seem so ridiculous in the light of the cooler moments on that album? Well, the juxtaposition of the two elements is sort of interesting and occasionally produces a good effect. At the beginning of "Terrible! How for the Great City," there's a laughably trite introduction followed by a brutal and furious introduction to the main bulk of the song, which is unfortunately tame and uninteresting. However "occasionally" isn't good enough to redeem the painful contrasts between an amazing metallic section, and a woeful melodic one. The synthesis of the two is awkward for every time it's brilliant, which renders the effect rather neutral in my book. Also, as these sections alternate, the album becomes more and more homogeneous. Each song loses its flavor with the flip flopping of styles. The exception to this is the enjoyable variety to the pacing that rolls over every few songs with songs like "The Widow," which gives the album a sweet moment before returning to heavier territory despite its own flaws as a song. I guess overall I'd say that As Cities Burn shouldn't ditch their Underoath mode, but should refine its importance in their style. Instead of using it as a catchy gimmick they should use it to make the interesting moments stand out more on their own and give beautiful moments of rest in between the harrowing dissonance of the harder sections. I guess that's what the band attempted to do, but I don't believe that effect was actually realized. All in all, this band has created a fun album and should listen to some Gatsby's American Dream or Life in Your Way to learn how to best present their amalgam of ideas and styles. That and learn not to write such fucking terrible lyrics. "The Widow" alone is lyrically shameful enough to induce the self-castration of even a mediocre, has-been lyricist like Skee-Lo or Weird Al. Also, whichever pretentious Bible-bearing retard band member named those songs should have his myspace account banned. Terrible! How for These Song Titles. Jesus save us.
Recommended Tracks: "Thus From My Lips, By Yours, My Sin Is Purged," "Love jealous One, Love" "Wake, Dead Man, Wake"
Well there's a lot of different styles of hardcore. There's straight up hardcore like Terror and Madball and stuff, then there's melodic hardcore like Thrice, Strike Anywhere, Marathon, etc. then post-hardcore, which is broad and can range from a band like As Cities Burn to Trophy Scars, metalcore, which has a lot of cool bands like Dillinger Escape Plan, Botch, With Resistance, and Converge, and lastly I'd say there's popcore, which is stuff like Underoath. Tons of variety. I feel the most interesting is post-hardcore (see The Fall of Troy, Trophy Scars) and the most straight forward is plain hardcore (but this genre has a lot of cool bands that are including more melody and cool instrumental things like With Honor).
Also, this band is anything but boring and generic. As Cities Burn does a lot of good things but tends to waste them on songs that are 60% cheesy pop punk, 40% ill.
Gotta respect a person who writes a Britney Spears review.
A very bland album, I would even go to say Underoath is better. I really like Bane and With Honor in terms of Hardcore music. But then there is Comeback Kid, which I guess would be a totally different version of Hardcore, Im not really sure what to classify them as. Oh and post-hardcore, I guess These Arms Are Snakes are pretty good.
Yes. I just "gotta" respect a person who criticizes me for doing no musical analysis even though my review pretty clearly takes a bite out of the album theoretically and aesthetically, when said person writes a whole lot of fluff about Britney Spears.
Don't read into that. I was obviously making a joke.
I know you're not criticizing the music. Either you can't read or are insane. I fairly obviously engaged in a measured analysis of the music rather than going on a vaguely relevant ran. Did you even read the review?
I linked to the Britney review so that other people could see what I was referring to.
I don't know what has incited this odd response. It's as if you planned to say that I didn't analyze the music no matter what I wrote, even though I did, and even though your reviews don't even come close to the depth of my reviews.
It's funny that you say it's just a website. I talked about the workshop I had with this guy in my jazz class in the jazz forum and the guy googled his name, found my comment on mx, and e-mailed it to my jazz teacher and he brought it up in class yesterday, so I guess this does sort of correlate to real life.
Out of curiosity what constitutes a detailed analysis?
I guess vividly describing how a band combines elements of two different bands to forge their own sound by analyzing theory, aesthetic, tone, and instrumentation isn't enough to give you a reasonably good picture of what to expect if you were to buy the album. That's unfortunate.
this album is one of the best albums ive heard in awhile. if you want to say they are generic and boring then you can go off and get your face hit in a damn mosh pit. Hardcore like Madball and Terror are generic and boring all they play are breakdowns and have shitty vocals. Yea Shai Hulud is good, but ACB is much better
why must hardcore bands always be measured next to underoath in some way or another? you cant expect a band to be perfectly 'unique' and write an album 'different' from the previous others. ya know, occasionaly, people like bands because theyve heard other bands that sound like them. i didnt pick up the acb cd and say ''this sounds too much like underoath..forget it''. i bought the cd because i enjoyed it and i also bought underoaths. there are thousands of bands out there that are trying to write music that is THEIR OWN and unique, making it nearly impossible for others to do just that. its very difficult, obviously, to write an album that hasnt, to some extent, already been written. this is what seperates the great bands from the good. but in my opinion..as cities burn is pretty unique. they throw in unexpected, off beat, all-over-the-fret-broad picking guitar parts if you know what i mean. you cant bash hardcore bands for sounding like underoath. you cant even read an album review without seeing UNDEROATH.