The potential that has always been dangling in front of Carcer City’s faces has seemingly been just out of their reach. The Liverpool quintet’s 2012 album The Road Journals was rightfully praised as the impressive metal-hardcore hybrid that it was, and could have seen the band cross over into the big leagues, if it wasn’t for a road accident in Switzerland in early 2013, destroying the band’s bus and gear, and leaving the band’s members with both physical and psychological damage. Things have been fairly quiet since then, but the band have finally found a new lease on life by signing to Stay Sick Recordings, the label spearheaded by Attila frontman / professional meme Chris Fronzak. Okay, not exactly the best start, but surely new album Infinite // Unknown will be what puts Carcer City back on stable footing, right?
Well, yeah, sure, but they’re at nowhere near the same height as they once were. That’s partly thanks to the shift in sound that’s been undertaken on Infinite // Unknown, one that’s much closer to tech-metal and bears all the genre hallmarks particularly prominently. It’s clear that the Architects Playbook has been scoured for as much inspiration as can be mined (occasionally a bit too much) as Carcer City utilise them all liberally – there’s the expansive, clinical sound, production that embeds a razor’s edge into each instrument’s perimeter and the airy, omnipresent wisps of synth that give the whole thing that extra bleakness. Sound familiar? It should, but even beyond these rather obvious Architects-isms, there are other, even more specific ones that Carcer City have co-opted for this album. Two-part closer Truth is a good example, the first part being a sampled philosophical monologue (in this case, David Sosa’s discussion on free will) before erupting into the spacious, crushing metal in the second. The notion of a baby Architects is one that sticks in the brain throughout listening to Infinite // Unknown, and it isn’t one that’s completely unfair upon recollection.
Even with taking that into consideration though, Carcer City still stand out as more adventurous than other up-and-coming metal bands on this album; the fact that first track Infiltrator is just shy of six minutes long is a heavy hint. It’s not as linear and structure-focused as many metal albums, and though this can sometimes be to its detriment (some instrumental passages, particularly around the three-quarter mark, don’t really go anywhere and just sort of fall around over each other), Infine // Unknown has admirable intentions that often work well. The icy, sliced-up vocal fragments on Wolf Without A Pack ramp up the dark, barren feel of the track, and Sovereign‘s brooding spoken word intro is a crucial component in the formation of its dystopian atmosphere. As an album it’s incredibly dense and layered, tightly weaving together crushing guitars, ghostly synths and Patrick Pinion’s surprisingly versatile vocals in a succinct yet sprawling package in the likes of Black Mirror and Drifter.
If Carcer City were only to find a truly distinctive sound of their own, Infinite // Unknown would undoubtedly be in the top bracket of metal albums in 2016. As it is though, it’s the overfamiliarity that delivers the crushing blow to this album. It’s not bad at all, and Carcer City have truckloads of potential as a technical band, but as of now, they’ve only revealed a very small glimpse of what they have to offer. Tech-metal fans will absolutely lap this up, but in a genre in dire need of a reboot, it doesn’t look as though Carcer City will be the band to do it.
For fans of: Architects, Northlane, TesseracT
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Infinite // Unknown’ by Carcer City is released on 16th September on Stay Sick Recordings.