As Cities Burn
Scream Through The Walls


2.5
average

Review

by instantradical USER (64 Reviews)
June 7th, 2019 | 67 replies


Release Date: 06/07/2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: You wanted As Cities Burn version 3.0. What you got was more like version 1.5.

One question has dominated the discourse about As Cities Burn since their first breakup and reformation (of approximately seventeen total): is the band better with or without part-time screamer/full-time realtor TJ Bonnette? Sure, scenesters loved their debut, Son I Loved You At Your Darkest, which holds up pretty well as a piece of screamy post-hardcore. But there should be little debate that the album’s TJ-less successor, Come Now Sleep, is much better in pretty much every way. And their third album, Hell Or High Water, is also better than their first.

Which is why it’s a bit frustrating that in the several reunions that followed the release of Hell Or High Water a decade ago, they always seem center around TJ being back in the band. It’s also weird in light of the fact that in the band’s own words, their early style was more influenced by the metalcore bands with whom they toured, while their musical interests always gravitated more toward bands like Jimmy Eat World and Pedro The Lion, leading to the indie rock sound of their latter releases. Sure, the two sides of the band sounded cool on “’84 Sheepdog,” which featured a guest appearance by TJ at the end, but could you really make a whole album like that?

Their first new record in a decade reveals the problems with the TJ-centric approach. Scream Through The Walls sounds like a mishmash of all the different styles the band has ever explored, and often it sounds like a disjointed mess. Unsurprisingly, TJ’s screaming sounds out of place on a lot of these songs, which aren’t as dark, aggressive, or discordant as their first record.

ACB has always eschewed typical song structures, but the formula doesn’t work on most of Scream Through The Walls’ songs. “Live Convinced” is the most disheveled, cobbled-together opener of an album you’ve likely heard in some time, where almost nothing works right, and those problems persist through the next four or so unmemorable songs. It takes until “Chains,” halfway through the album, to finally get a song with some decent hooks. This is one of the few songs here that sounds like classic As Cities Burn, which great vocal interplay between TJ and Cody, and plenty of Cody’s twisty guitar playing. Hearing this song live a year ago, it was easy to get excited about a new album if the other songs were this good.

The second half of the album is a little better, with “Bright White Light” holding some of “Chains”’s momentum. But “Venture” sounds like a halfhearted effort to write a song that sounds like something off of My Epic’s “Yet.” On the plus side, “Die Contrary” actually ends the album on a high note, a little more evocative of Come Now Sleep than most of the other songs here. It’s one of the few songs with strong lyrics reflective of their Christian hardcore origins. A lack of engaging lyrics throughout the record is a glaring problem for a band whose previous albums all boasted some great writing from Cody Bonnette.

As Cities Burn are a tremendously talented band and have it in them to make another great album, even lacking former contributors Chris Lott and Colin Kimble, but almost everything about Scream Through The Walls feels lacking, largely because they can’t figure out their own identity. The album feels like a regression for a band that had a much surer sense of itself on the preceding two albums, and much tighter song craft. The unfortunate implication is that nobody in the band is too enthusiastic about their own music, and mostly going through the motions because their other ventures, musical or otherwise, haven’t been as successful as a post-hardcore band whose heyday was nearly fifteen years ago.



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3
good
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Comments:Add a Comment 
spanndrew58
June 7th 2019


131 Comments


I haven’t given this a full listen yet, but your review pretty much sums up my thoughts after checking out the singles. This is a shame, their last two records were both huge for me and still hold up as great pieces of music, I would have loved to see them continue in the direction they were headed with the Hawk Boy project instead of this.

Lucman
June 7th 2019


3594 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Couldn't agree more with this review. A few fine moments prop up on occasion but it's so lacking as an engaging experience. Meh.

Digging: Swans - To Be Kind

DeadBitchAlexis
June 7th 2019


2568 Comments


Upset they threw away Goldmine because it sounded great. I actually like the debut more than their last two (Come Now Sleep is pretty good but I needa go revisit Hell or High Water because its been so long) but the singles that have come out aside from Goldmine all sounded mediocre to me. Ill still get around to this one eventually.

dmathias52
June 7th 2019


1082 Comments


Ugh was nervous about this. I wasn’t particularly impressed with the singles, so the fact that Chains is a highlight isn’t a great sign for me. Nice review though!

Danred97
June 7th 2019


2472 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I think the album is very good, at least initially, but it is hard to digest, sometimes unnecessarily so. I think it’ll need time to grow, but I’m not shocked at anyone who doesn’t like this.

outliers
June 7th 2019


1150 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

"Scream Through The Walls sounds like a mishmash of all the different styles the band has ever explored, and often it sounds like a disjointed mess."



ding ding ding. They pull it off in Hollowed Out and Chains, but nearly every other song is a mess.

instantradical
June 7th 2019


313 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Yeah, I actually liked Goldmine and Prince Of Planet Earth. Whether you liked them or not, they felt much more coherent and composed than most songs on this album.

outliers
June 7th 2019


1150 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I had zero expectations for this album based off the singles and am still somehow disappointed

MotokoKusanagi
June 7th 2019


2394 Comments


damn i didn't know they got back together, excited to listen to this. bummed about the review rating though. Come Now Sleep is legendary but Loved You at Your Darkest was the album that got me into them, so maybe i'll like this

cvlts
June 7th 2019


9653 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

impeccably written review, my man!

GPooch21
June 7th 2019


132 Comments


Holy fuck, how has it already been 10 years since Hell or High Water?

JeetJeet
June 7th 2019


7415 Comments


Chains is pretty awesome. Haven't heard the rest of this yet but hopefully its not too bad.

Source
June 7th 2019


14854 Comments


" But there should be little debate that the album’s TJ-less successor, Come Now Sleep, is much better in pretty much every way. And their third album, Hell Or High Water, is also better than their first."


L

dangerousdarrin
June 7th 2019


133 Comments


I was going to buy this hoping that the singles were not really a representation of the whole album. Shame its not better after all these years

tjbonnette
June 7th 2019


1 Comments


Hey there. Thanks for taking to the time to listen and review. We've been very blessed to have had the opportunity to share our music over the years and we are super grateful for that. We understand when we put ourselves and our projects out there that not everyone will connect to it and that is totally ok. It has been our goal through all of our career to write honest music to help us get through our lives and hopefully it reaches someone else who may be going through the same thing. Music is a great outlet for everyone and it keeps a lot of us going. Thanks again for listening and reviewing the album. Cheers! TJ

Pikazilla
June 7th 2019


6971 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

Dang, I loved the first three.

instantradical
June 7th 2019


313 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

By the way, everyone! Let's be clear, I think TJ is great and he's a fine vocalist. I don't want to make it sound like I think "TJ's back, therefore ACB sucks!" I just prefer the style of the middle two albums because they feel less musically constrained by the need to accommodate screaming. And I think it's entirely possible that old-school fans will love this, and if people think this album rules, I totally understand why. I don't think it's objectively awful by any stretch.

instantradical
June 7th 2019


313 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

ALSO By The Way, I don't think SILYAYD is a bad album at all, unlike a lot of people who like the later two. I think it's great, probably a solid 4.0 in my book. I just think CNS is really, really, really great.

Source
June 7th 2019


14854 Comments


I think their second and third albums are decent, but Cody's voice is kind of a drawback for me

DeadBitchAlexis
June 7th 2019


2568 Comments


I really dont get the hate for the debut either. I get that people prefer the indie infused Post-Hardcore sound of their stuff after but the guitarwork on the debut holds up incredibly well.



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