Review Summary: The rating isn't a mistake. For every flaw, As Cities Burn has enough energy and passion and unique musicianship to elevate them above any of their peers.
As I sit here entering my review, the box I've chosen rests comfortably at "5". A Classic, it says. A term that I've learned (through years of experience and maturing) is only to be applied to the best of the best; a piece of art, music, or visual entertainment that is either a:nearly flawless, or b:so overwhelming beautiful, emotional and memorable that despite its flaws its artistic depth and worth simply cannot(and should not) be ignored.
I can already imagine the responses I'm going to get, so from the get go I shall state with full conviction that I stand by rating one hundred percent. I believe that, even though there are some very obvious flaws in this CD, the positives weigh them out overwhelmingly enough to warrant this album a classic rating. Not perfect, not revolutionary, but a CD i cant go a week without listening to again.
There are numerous reasons I feel so consistently drawn back to this CD, many of which are the same reasons that I was repelled when I first listened to this band on purevolume over two years ago.
The basis of this CD, as with almost any great CD, is the instrumentation. I can remember hearing the opening song to this CD two years ago and hating it. The guitars, to put it simply, were beyond my musical grasp to honestly enjoy. As I had little musical theory knowledge then, I failed to understand the pinpoint tempo changes, the sometimes unusual time signatures, and the sporadic use of dissonance to enhance the overall harmony of the songs. Now, with several years of theory under my belts, their ability to so perfectly transfer from a very minor, dissonant passage of music to beautiful, full chord harmonies and melodic leads is unmatched in their genre of music.
The guitars are obviously the biggest contributor to this. Their plentiful use of clean guitars, reverb, and delay, as simple as the effects are, helps to keep their guitars interesting and makes each track have its own unique depth and (gasp) has actually driven me to tab these songs out simply to study the harmonies between the guitars, bass and (every once in awhile) keys just to improve my own knowledge of unique harmonies. The guitar work is especially prevelant on the first three songs. "Thus From My Lips, By Yours, My Sin is Purged" expertly transfers between heavy, beating guitar rhythms into clean, delayed, harmonized leads in a way that is neither cheesy nor forced. "Love Jealous One, Love" starts out with one of the heaviest sections of music on the CD, but juxtaposes quite easily back in forth between the heavy and soft and transfers into a beautiful outro that actually takes up most of the songs three minute length. "Incomplete is a Leech"'s 5/4 intro lead keeps the listener appropriately off kilter as it leads into the dark and moody middle of the song. Again, dissonance is used expertly to not just add the "metalcore" heaviness, but to actually improve the song's harmonies.
The main thing that draws me back again and again to the CD is the raw emotion and passion that goes into every second of this CD. Their faith is very evident throughout, and it is clear that this is what drives them. Things I once viewed as imperfections in their vocals I now hear as raw energy or emotion, as the vocalists sometimes some to be near tears or near bursting with unexpressable rage, yet it never seems forced. I know people who cant stand their vocals; honestly, I used to be one of them. And they are indeed the most flawed part of the album. But I honestly wouldnt have it any other way. In my opinion, the depth of emotion they add to the CD is worth so much more than if they had made an effort to have them more clean or more on key.
If there was one thing I cannot deny is a make no excuses flaw, it is definetly the lyrics. Though I truly love some of them, such as the clever play off of Amazing Grace in "Thus From My Lips, By Yours, My Sin is Purged", some of them are just flat out awful (see "The Widow"). Honestly, though, it is something I have grown to overlook on those songs, as the music and energy present are enough for me to overlook any sheer ridiculousness (such as "my mother's heart breaks like the water inside of her").
I don't really have anything left to say. I have stated my case plainly, and can only hope that if some of you had cast this CD aside as trash, or had given it a listen but shrugged it off as nothing special, give it another try. This is my review, and as such, is simply my opinion, but to be honest there are few other CD's that I would defend as strongly or passionately as this one. It's brutal at times, poignately honest and sensitive at others. Any genre it is placed simply serve to do it a disservice. Go into this CD with no preconceived notions, no excess baggage because of their faith or their style or their insane song titles, and just listen. You may just be surprised by what you hear.
actually interesting musically(!!!!)
passion and energy are tops
guitar work is phenomenal
lyrics and songtitles
vocals at times can be weak
"Thus From My Lips, By Yours, My Sin is Purged"
"Love Jealous One, Love"
"Of Want and Misery: The Nothing that Kills"