Review Summary: You were born inside the city walls, but you were born to be a wrecking ball, born to wreck it all...
There was always this weird instability surrounding As Cities Burn. After one album the main vocalist left, the band almost broke up, but stayed around to write their magnum opus Come Now Sleep. Introspective frontman Cody Bonnette took over full vocal duties from his brother T.J. and recorded As Cities Burn’s definitive masterpiece in a style completely different from Son, I Loved You At Your Darkest, toning down their previous post hardcore sound to a more streamlined indie/post hardcore/post rock amalgamation. Hell or High Water was, again, completely different, tying into a more southern rock’n’roll indie influence. As Cities Burn never toured for Hell or High Water and broke up in 2009. Two years later, Bonnette and drummer Aaron Lunsford return under the moniker Hawkboy with a completely reinvented sound, again. Right?
Well, sort of. Coming from a band where the only constant seemed to be change, Hawkboy is really not that big of a jump from Hell or High Water. Hawkboy combines the raw, aggressive intensity of Son, I Loved You At Your Darkest with some of the production values and franticness of Come Now Sleep with the overall southern indie rock sound of Hell or High Water. And aside from Come Now Sleep, Hawkboy might be better
than As Cities Burn altogether.
While Hell or High Water frequently slowed down (and featured a generally mellow middle section), Hawkboy’s debut EP is basically what you would get if you compressed absolutely everything on Hell or High Water into 4 songs. Traditional song structures are completely thrown out the window, and the songs are completely spontaneous and change direction frequently and unexpectedly, but everything just works
. Hawkboy is spastic, uncaged, and gritty. All of the restraint shown on Hell or High Water is let loose. Hawkboy blurs the lines of post hardcore and indie more than As Cities Burn ever did, destroying any previous indie/post hardcore/rock genre tag they might have ever once had.
Individually, “2 Bit” stands out as the highlight, climaxing into an epic frenzy reminiscent of “This Is It, This Is It” or “Pirate Blues.” “Young London” features frequent driving tempo shifts and some of Bonnette’s most distinctive vocal moments of his short career. “Scoundrel” is perhaps the most tightly packed song on the EP, feeling like a five and a half minute song but in actuality clocking in at just 4:10 and experiments with new guitar styles that bring Glassjaw’s Coloring Book to mind. Closer “Damnkneesya” is by far the slowest song, with the second half ending instrumentally in the same vein as “Timothy” but without the emotional impact, although it does feel perfectly necessary and well done. In fact, if there’s one complaint to be made about Hawkboy, it would have to be departure of Bonnette’s cutting, introspective lyrical commentary. The topics discussed here are the rapture, the military, something about being a seventh son, and....... I’m not really sure about the last song. It’s obviously not that the lyrics are bland by any means, but they are incredibly ambiguous and indirect, especially compared to the deeply critical commentaries of As Cities Burn. Hawkboy thrives on its instrumentation and musical innovation though and is possibly musically better than As Cities Burn ever was.
So what sets Hawkboy apart from their contemporaries? Quite simply the fact that in every way imaginable they refuse to be put in a box, and not in the way that most bands claim such. Instead of drawing on heavy influence from other
artists that refused to be in a box, as so many bands seem to do, Hawkboy both invents a completely new sound and draws most of their influence on their former selves. They take the best qualities of each of As Cities Burn’s three full lengths and combine them into one. And considering the fact that all three of those albums were pretty great, it should be no surprise that Hawkboy is phenomenal.