Review Summary: A surprising debut.
When Sumerian Records first signed City in the Sea during the fall of last year I assumed the worst. All there was to go off of was the band’s name, and an odd video by Sumerian asking fans to compare and choose one of two song mixes. Stigmas I associated with their name, and a lacking promotion by the label, caused me to dismiss City in the Sea and move on. Needless to say, I was very surprised upon first listening to their debut Below the Noise
Below the Noise
is a relatively conventional metalcore album in the scheme of things. It relies heavily on central tenets of the genre, which usually doesn’t turn out very well. Conventionality is not a bad thing in this instance though. The instrumentation on the album is excellent. Well-phrased solos, bass parts, and drum patterns prevent the album from stagnating, while the synth work adds welcome flourishes without feeling overburdening (cough, new BOO, cough). The end of “Without an Answer” exemplifies City in the Sea’s interest in avoiding monotony; rather than just ending in a typical breakdown they choose to add other instrumentation to vary the part. Below the Noise
may not be a reinvention of the genre, but its superb composition keeps it from drowning in a sea of its contemporaries.
The clean singing on Below the Noise
is something that certainly needs special recognition. Whereas many current metalcore/post-hardcore bands employ high cleans, sometimes even beyond their singer’s capabilities, City in the Sea’s guitarist Jeffrey Christian employs a lower, gravelly tone; it is extremely refreshing, emotionally engaging, and helps to keep the music feeling diverse throughout the album. Songs like “Dead Beliefs,” and “Discovering Oceans” fully illustrate the extent to which Christian can utilize his voice; it definitely helps to set City in the Sea apart in an oversaturated genre full of uninspired mimicry.
Lyrically Below the Noise
is what you would expect from an album within the metalcore genre. Themes of hopelessness and redemption dominate the album, which is interesting enough. Unclean vocalist Todd Christopher does an admirable job shifting between deep growls and high shrieks that sound full and powerful. He definitely feels committed to what he’s singing about, which is important in a genre that often relies on emotional conveyance. Guest appearances from Aaron Matts of Betraying the Martyrs and Ben Bruce of Asking Alexandria strengthen their respective songs, the latter being surprising.
Overall, City in the Sea have released an excellent album. Although they fall back on central conventions of the metalcore genre their compositional skills more than make up for it. Below the Noise
is a great debut showcasing all of the band member’s talents, and should gain the band some new fans.