Having gone through the run-up to THECITYISOURS’ new album Low, there doesn’t seem to be much point in covering it. That might sound harsh, but when they’ve demonstrated a seeming inability to move past a Brit-metalcore template that would be outdated if it wasn’t so barebones, it doesn’t leave much hope for a full album. It’s not even a case where they’ve at least found a better string of their sound to tap into without changing all that much either; there’s just been so little to say about their approach and output that, with a handful of their tracks especially, it’s simply been difficult to care. On the bright side though, when that’s the case with early material, a full album rarely stays like that, and whether Low ends up being a surprising reinvigoration or the newest addition to the pile of metalcore flops, it should make for something to say at least.
What’s somewhat surprising is, while it’d be difficult to say Low leans heavily towards either end, it’s much closer to the former than what THECITYISOURS initially hinted towards. It’s actually a rather pleasant surprise that this is as solid as it is, mostly because there’s not a great deal to differentiate Low from a very cut-and-dry, down-the-middle brand of metalcore, but strong melodic instincts and a penchant for emphasising size and power does a fair bit in THECITYISYOURS’ favour. It’s far from an essential listen, even in a genre as glutted with disposable copycats as metalcore, but when considering what’s being brought to the table and how it’s being delivered, this isn’t bad.
Though with that being said, it needs to be stated just how derivative Low can come across as with regards to the prime materials used, because so much of this can be slotted into the dead zone of nebulous metalcore tropes with no hassle whatsoever. It’s especially true of the writing, which scrolls through the usual laundry list of tempestuous inner battles on Casket, kicking back against a conveniently anonymous adversarial force on Don’t Wait For Me, and the sort of big ballad on Now That You’re Gone that leans uncomfortably close to mawkishness, even if the references to a loved one suffering with cancer does welcomely reinforce more personal connections. But even then, that’s the most egregious feature that Low has; even from a standpoint where a lot of the instrumentation and production is very familiar within this genre (and honestly, could afford to feel a bit less polished in spots), THECITYISOURS have a knack for bracing anthemia that does do a fair bit for them. They get a surprising amount of mileage from the tried-and-true two-man vocal team for one, with Sam Stolliday’s screams being a little less impressive in just how tightly they fit into the Dani Winter-Bates mould, but Mikey Page delivering knockout choruses in relatively quick succession in a way that that noticeably elevates the likes of Incomplete and If You Know, You Know. It’s all a rather rudimentary metalcore formula that could be dismissed as being out of date, but it’d be wrong to deny the merit that THECITYISOURS have, whether it’s a melodic core that’s a lot more successful than what most have achieved, or the fact that they’ve crafted some genuine memorable moments seemingly against all odds.
Because, at the end of the day, this was an album that seemed like it would fall flat on its face right up until the eleventh hour. What could’ve been another gasping metalcore slog actually turns out to be a bit more, and it’s to THECITYISOURS’ credit that they’ve managed to pull this off. That’s not to say the potential for that has totally gone – they’re only a couple of missteps away from falling right back into that hole, after all – but Low is resolutely solid enough to at least take them a few steps further, even if it’s not to level of stardom that THECITYISOURS are clearly shooting for. Even so though, this is a nice surprise, especially considering how much and how often it felt like it would be anything but.
For fans of: Bury Tomorrow, In Hearts Wake, Our Hollow, Our Home
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Low’ by THECITYISOURS is released on 2nd August.