Review: As Cities Burn, “Hell Or High Water”

As Cities Burn, "Hell Or High Water"

As Cities Burn hasn’t been a huge force in the Christian music scene since they came around in 2002 with their hardcore debut Son, I Loved You At Your Darkest. However, the music that came out of this small band from Louisiana was strong, forceful, and convicting in ways music hadn’t seen in quite a while. Lyrically the band has never shied away from being blatant about their faith, and through genre-changes over two albums and a near break up in 2006, the band has continued to go above and beyond, at least until their rumored (yet now nearly confirmed) final album, Hell Or High Water.

The band started out with Son, I Loved You At Your Darkest, focusing on hardcore sounds and screaming vocals that showcased real talent from the gifted men of the band. Fans grew to love this sound, and some were surprised to see the band change their style drastically moving into their second album, Come Now Sleep. Come Now Sleep featured the band’s changes in vocals, as Cody Bonnette replaced his brother TJ at lead vocals. Screaming was drastically reduced, yet still a prominent feature throughout. Fans seemed to grow to love this change and encouraged the band to stay together, despite rumors and possibilities of a break up. Starting in August 2008, the band announced they would be working on a new album, and it was released in April of 2009.

Hell Or High Water is yet another significant change from both Son… and Come Now Sleep, as screaming is basically gone completely, and the band is more of an indie rock, progressive rock sounding entity now. Songs like “84’ Sheepdog” and “Errand Rum” still have a slightly hard feel, but overall the sound has changed again, showing just how diverse As Cities Burn can be. Lyrically, the album is less spiritually significant and blatant as their previous efforts, and seems to be a bit more cryptic than ACB is used to being. But that doesn’t mean all of it is gone. I’ve always had to listen for a while to get all the spiritual messages behind their songs, and Hell Or High Water is no different. Choruses and lyrics are continuously repeated which would normally get on my nerves, but As Cities Burn shows that they can keep things creative and fresh, and the repeated phrases work well with the music on the album. Other highlights on the album include the slow-building “Into The Sea”, the almost dance-like closer “Capo”, and the southern-styled “Petty”.

Sadly the album is short with only 9 songs, a somewhat clear indication that the band is about to end. The songs are longer, yes, but if this is indeed the band’s final bow, it would have been nice to see them go all out for their final album, not just do a bare minimum. However, on the iTunes version, you can get a bonus track that is definitely worth picking up. “Gates” acts as the album’s closer on that version, and the song is a studio version of a song the band has been ending their shows with for a few years now. Likely the most blatant and convicting song on the album, it is also the only track associated with the new album that has a bit of screaming, where original vocalist TJ sings “We will wear compassion, we will wear it / and the gates of hell, they won’t stand / they won’t stand against it.” In the end, for a band that has been through hardships and continual changes in genres, music, and members, this final album is definitely not one to pass up. It may not be the best overall, but it shows us what we have to remember As Cities Burn by.

Star Rating: 4 out of 5

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