For the Louisiana Post-Rock adepts of As Cities Burn, Scream Through the Walls has been a literal decade in the making.
V O C A L S
This is exactly where my hopes and expectations for a post-rock band would be. On tracks like “Hollowed Out” and “Live Convinced”, bursts of strong, consistent clean vocals bring a sound harkening to recent Cage the Elephant and Citizen’s classic album, Youth. A glimpse of the clean vocalist’s chops show a tone reminiscent to Coheed & Cambria’s vocalist! Occasionally the vocals linger too long or miss the balance of the track, but overall are quite solid.
“Hollowed Out” is from As Cities Burn new album, Scream Through the Walls, out now.
I N S T R U M E N T A T I O N
The basswork is consistently strong. It reaches floor-shaking lows, thumping out straight eighths in a no-frills way that gets the job done. The guitar speaks softly in between the occasional rousing solo, giving more focus on the foundation and rawness of the vocalist. The pulse and feel of Scream Through the Walls changes often, but percussion keeps confident and meticulous rhythm throughout the album. Some riffs last a couple beats too many, other vocal lines could build higher, but As Cities Burn keeps a strong hold on the material, often saving it at the right time. My first listen-through gave me the feeling that the band was playing reactively to each other.
L Y R I C S
One of the best things of Scream Through The Walls, by far, are the poignant punches of some really well-constructed lyrics. They combine jaw-dropping metaphor with crystal-clear self reflection to make some truly supercharged prose. “2020AD” is one of my favorites for this reason. My favorite metaphor of the album is without a doubt in “Chains”. “The American dream is a green grave plot/ only one thing left to do / I’ll do it for you” absolutely BLOWS MY MIND. The nuance of the American Dream’s hollow and unfilling end is a flirtation with death at the perfect distance. By tying it up into one of the bulwarks of emo lyricissism and keeping that matephoric distance, “Chains” brings a completely fresh and stimulating twist to a classic lyrical archetype.
“Chains” is from As Cities Burn new album, Scream Through the Walls, out now.
A N I T C H T O S C R A T C H
“Bright White Light” is a mastermind piece that accomplishes a HUGE swing in emotional momentum, one of my favorite uses of the abundant effects of Scream Through the Walls. Halfway through the song, a subtle and buzzy whisper start to itch at the ear. The moment I recognized this sensation, the song explodes into a crunchy, deep, and SPOOKY wall of sound that feels infinitely satisfying. It’s a great example of a proper setup for a one-two punch contrast. An amazing melody sweeps the listener from that pivotal moment to the pure allure of a dark and catchy outtro.
I hear plenty of influences in Scream Through the Walls. The closer track, Die Contrary, is an amazingly eventful song for a plethora of reasons. What starts as the band’s most aggregious series of sonic gunk and interruptions turns into a reprise reminiscent of Stolas’ heydays. The themes of illumination, heat, and sudden visceral exposure feel powerfully akin to Dance Gavin Dance’s titanic closer to ArSe, “Evaporate”. The beautiful chord structures and roomy ends transition into a completely unexpected end.
S H O R T C O M I N G S
Duality between clean and unclean vocalists in a post band is essential. In Scream Through the Walls, plentiful interruptions between the two can leave a listener jarred. It feels like Scream Through the Walls chooses to be unsettling often, which as a hit-or-miss effect. While the unclean vocalist has excellent chops, there are several times where the heart just isn’t in the message. The structure of the album overall feels like that of a newer band, free-floating and a little unorganized. A lot of the songs take upwards of forty seconds to really get started. There are some excellent opportunities for an explosive sound that I feel go missed, and the extensive number of mods and effects to the instruments feel more like party tricks than grounded musical decisions, making only shallow improvements to the sound. There are some amazing, noteworthy moments in this album, but too many times I feel as though the balance was missed and the flow was interrupted.
The one thing I just can’t get behind is the track “Blind Spots”. It’s production-heavy, but it doesn’t feel like ACB is playing towards a trend rather than genuinely expressing. I think they miss some great opportunities with it. But if it’s an honest first-crack at that medium of modern post-rock, it’s not too shabby. There’s definitely room for growth.
F I N A L T H O U G H T S
Overall, Scream Through the Walls has its highs and lows. Some incredible moments of synchronization smack the intent of the band as a collective into innovative, genuine moments a listener can’t miss. Some of the songs feel designed to be played to stadiums, and do a great job of making that larger-than-life effect. Other moments simply fall off balance and wash themselves away with a dizzying array of “icing” effects. Reading through the lens of Scream Through the Walls, I think As Cities Burn still has growing and coming together to do. I’m incredibly excited to see the band back, and I hope this reunion continues to grow.