I first found out about City in the Sea in 2010, when the only material they had was their self-released EP The Long Lost. Considering most of the members were still in high school, this was quite an exceptional first step for the band. The production and musicianship was above average, and gave me plenty reason to keep an eye out for them. It was only a matter of time until a record label snatched them up.
Fast forward to 2013, and the band is now signed to Sumerian Records and about to release their debut full-length, Below the Noise. After such a long wait, fans of the band must have high expectations for this release. If I can say anything with certainty, it is this: if you have enjoyed CITS’s material thus far, there is no reason that you shouldn’t enjoy Below the Noise as well.
The album opens with its strongest track, “Convoluted.” This song perfectly demonstrates what this band is capable of musically. The guitarists prove right off the bat that they deserve to be where they’re at, while both the clean and unclean vocalists are no less impressive. The next track, “Dead Beliefs,” is also one of the better songs on the record. The intro features a bouncy combination of rhythm guitar and synth, which I’ve had stuck in my head for the better part of two days now. I do find this as more of a guilty pleasure than anything else, since I do not believe that catchy synth parts alone are worthy of making any one band superior over another. However, the fast guitar sweeps near the end of the song help put me at ease.
These first two tracks provide a very strong backbone for the album, ensuring that listeners don’t write the band off instantly. On the downside, nothing from here on out is quite as solid. Most of the choruses fail at being anything better than average, and some even sound nearly identical. The infamous “chug” begins to take over after a few songs, which is a bit disappointing considering how talented the guitarists are. In many ways, this record reminds me of The Word Alive’s latest release (Life Cycles) in that the choruses are dull, song structures are repetitive, and the guitarists to do not apply themselves to their full potential. Breakdowns aren’t particularly overused, but they tend to be overly simple and don’t serve the songs any real purpose. There are certainly shining moments here and there, such as the technical verses of “The Purge,” but nothing quite matches the first two tracks.
An interesting tactic was dropping an unexpected soft song about three-quarters of the way through the album. I was a little disconcerted to see that Ben Bruce of Asking Alexandria did guest vocals on “Discovering Oceans,” but he was no hindrance in this case. The song definitely works in the band’s favor, and it offers a refreshing break from the ceaseless distorted guitars and screams. The album closes with “Defy,” which is one powerhouse of a song. Not in a complex or technical way, but in a “blast your subs” kind of way. I suppose I would consider this a guilty pleasure as well.
After every listen, I continue to find more small gems hidden throughout this record. There is not a single song that I would label as “mediocre,” though some may fall into the “average” range. Aside from generic song structures, Below the Noise is a fairly solid metalcore album. I expect to see even better things from City in the Sea as they continue to progress and grow as musicians.