After ten years of break-ups, reunions, and multiple personnel changes, As Cities Burn have reformed with both Cody and TJ Bonnette sharing vocal duties on record for the first time since 2005.
With a decade between releases, their last being 2009’s ‘Hell Or High Water’, fourth full-length ‘Scream Through The Walls’ presents itself as a re-invention of the quartet that juggles familiarity with treading new ground.
Taking cues from early post-hardcore, ‘Live Convinced’ opens the record in angular fashion. Switching between both vocalists, the song relies on shuffling dynamics and vocal melodies rather than the traditional structure. Unnerving and disjointed at times, whilst not necessarily a strong opener for the record, the scope of the group’s ability is displayed.
After a bit of a hurried start, ‘Broadway’ sinks its hooks immediately as Hunter Walls dials in the distortion against Cody Bonnette‘s soft delivery to satisfying results. As the melody ebbs and flows, Aaron Lunsford slowly builds the tempo towards a melting pot of overlapping vocals, thrashing guitars, and accent heavy drum patterns.
From here on in, the record finds its footing, with tracks such as ‘Hollowed Out’ jumping from violent guitars to bouncing bass lines seamlessly, whereas ‘Bright White Light’ delivers stomping riffs and intimate vocal performances at a moment’s notice.
As the record progresses, it becomes clear that the group’s strengths lay within the frenetic use of vocal melodies, as evidenced by the effective use of both vocalists, alongside the minimalist approach to lead lines. A strong example of this can be found in ‘Maybe’, a track that uses its re-occurring motif to ground the abundance of techniques displayed.
As the record nears its final act, ‘Blindspots’ takes the burgeoning energy down with a trip-hop inspired palette cleanse. Relying on Lunsford‘s erratic patterns and Stephen Keech‘s pedalling bass line, the track builds delicate tension without a strong leaning towards its duelling vocalists.
Ending with ‘Die Contrary’, the group evokes a strong dynamic hold on the techniques and hooks displayed through the album. As the track careens through what has already been heard, it becomes apparent that there’s a quality that prevents it from becoming stale.
Whilst ‘Scream Through The Walls’ is far from perfect, as the band touches on a handful of tropes that are expected with a lot of the current post-hardcore releases, As Cities Burn deliver an earnest take on it. With an abundance of hooks and a frantic approach to songwriting, this is an enjoyable return.