Citizen hasn’t been a group known to misconstrue their message, evident in title of their debut full-length Youth – a collection of tracks that unraveled into a winding road towards the end of adolescence. Now with their sophomore release Everybody Is Going to Heaven, the group makes strides into the darkness of adulthood while maintaining the smallest shred of that childish innocence. The abrasion has been cranked and proper amounts of sludge added into a concoction of sounds that is designed to take center stage in the emo-grunge genre.
The album’s lead single and opening track “Cement” continues the trend of cutting to the chase by throwing the chugging bass groove and haunting guitar strums from the get-go, with Mat Kerekes’ vocals melding their way through before fully stepping up to the plate for the chorus. The track comes off as fierce when it’s actually more in the record’s midrange of chaos, allowing for long-time producer Will Yip to come in with the added feedback and screeches to contribute to the atmosphere. He experiments with this throughout, which adds an uncomforting layer into the mix that ends up complementing the band very well.
At its most aggressive, Citizen pulls off a calmer Code Orange with the duo of “Stain” and “Ten”, the latter of which is as equally devastating as it is relatively simple. It’s in this balance that the band can lose people, but the feeling of dancing on a fine line to the tone of absolute chaos before hearing some sort of laser-gun sound effect is an oddly satisfying experience. “My Favorite Color” captures a heavier and more blast-centric form of the band’s slow-fast tempo transitions in what is an incredible listen, given the transition from those equally praised on Youth.
Where the band truly shines is when they match or exceed their aggression with melody. The incredible dynamics between lead and bass guitars amid a standout performance from Kerekes in “Dive Into My Sun” melds to create the catchiest track the record has to offer as he croons “Dive into my sun/I was once your mother/but I have come undone” with wondrous ease. “Weave Me (Into Yr Sin)” took a while to stick out among the other tracks, but its consistently calm instrumentals clear the room for Kerekes to lay everything he has out there in a way that no other track allows for.
The ending duo of “Yellow Love” and “Ring of Chain” reset the tempo following a string of heavier listens, reintegrating the more emo nature they had built up in their previous full-length. The former flows majestically, offering a delicate eye of the storm rather than a pause of filler, before fading into the latter with a brief piano-laden reprise of “Dive Into My Sun”. As the band closes out the record with its longest track, there’s actual beautiful chaos that steps into the spotlight. The last calls of “A ring of chain takes place of me/but where am I?” become lost among a chorus of strings before it too transitions to feedback.
With the utilization of Will Yip continuing to grow as a trend within their genre, Citizen trusted him to take their progression to the next level. Among their peers in Title Fight, Turnover, Superheaven, and Balance and Composure that have attempted the exact same with a variety of results, they manage to avoid meddling in these other aesthetics so they can develop their own. Their progression through the various stages of their lives has continued to be ripe with open-mindedness and a constant focus on the best way to express themselves, and it’s this that allows Everybody Is Going to Heaven to flourish to a greater degree than its contemporaries.