In 2007, Louisiana native four piece As Cities Burn released their sophmore album, Come Now Sleep. A follow up to fan-favorite “Son, I Loved You At Your Darkest”, Sleep was an album marked by it’s absence of their then frontman TJ Bonnette. Along with TJ, went the band’s often generic polished brand of screamo, which was replaced by a more progressive blend of post-rock and bluesy post-hardcore stylings. Since then, As Cities Burn have been a band recognized for their progression. The expectations were no different with the band’s third release, Hell or High Water. Written by vocalist/guitarist Cody Bonnette and friend Tyler Orr, Hell or High Water does not resemble the black and white difference from it’s predecessor that was so polarizing in their previous release, but strays just far enough from the formula to garner the attention of the new and familiar ears alike.
The polished opener, “84 Sheepdog” starts the album with the paranoid lines “They fix your brain when you were young”. followed by an electronic-marred bass line and their trademark riffage, Sheepdog calls out shallow-rooted faith with lyrical themes very familiar to the band. The difference between Hell or High Water and Come Now Sleep is immediately apparent with it’s kick-off. Instead of the barren yet epic building formula of “Contact”, “Sheepdog” sets an unusual tone, one that is more instantly gratifying and poppish in it’s demeanor yet ultimately unfamiliar to the band.
“Errand Rum” continues where it’s previous track left off, but never really takes off due to it’s lack of a strong chorus. “Into The Sea”, one of the albums best cuts combines a slow brooding verse, with an uplifting chorus and features some of the albums best guitar-work. While the complexity of the songs are not as apparent as on Come Now Sleep, frontman Cody Bonnette’s improvement in the vocal and lyrical departments is hard not to notice. On “Made Too Pretty” the formula for the rest of the album is pretty much set. In comparison to CNS, HOHW is much more reserved in it’s delivery. Where CNS featured a stop and go pace backing heavy-hitting post-hardcore anthems with slower gloomy hymns, HOWH never gets as angry or confrontational as it’s predecessor, which becomes one of it’s biggest faults.
“Lady Blue”, features what sounds like two songs molded into one. Featuring floor stomping percussion and distant hollow vocals it is probably one of the more “experimental” songs on the disc. “Daughter” is a stripped down piece that features the traditional band plus a piano. Bonnette owns the track with his simple yet effective vocal delivery, creating the perfect atmosphere for the follow-up track “Pirate Blues”
“Pirate Blues” is hands down the album’s shining prize. The track ecompasses everything that this band is about, and everything that has made me fall in love with them. The track, much like the rest of the album, showcases a band less concerned with the intricacies of their songwriting. With an uncomplicated song structure and an inspiring chorus, Bonnette once again takes the spotlight with lyrics like “I wanna catch in a song, notes I don’t hear yet, but I will when I’m gone.”
What follows is without a doubt the worst album closer I have ever had to sit through in my entire life. I almost cried the first time I heard “Capo”, a dance-rock failure that sounds a bit too much like Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. The track has no business on this album, or anywhere in As Cities Burn’s discography. I’m honestly still trying to figure out if putting it on the album over the I-Tunes exclusive “Gates” was some kind of cruel joke played by the band.
With that exception, Hell or High Water may not be the bands best work, but it is still ultimately a success. While the album does not come close to it’s predecessor in it’s songwriting or epic stature, it is nonetheless an appluaded effort; one that will keep myself and other As Cities Burn fans coming back for more if the band does decide to continue making music.
Related posts: (Hopefully! This is auto-generated)