Reviewed by Eric Wilson
Hell or High Water by As Cities Burn
is one of those bands that sometimes seems too diverse, too talented,
for their audience."
When I came across As Cities Burn's debut a few years back, my ears were bled dry by the heart-wrenching lyrics, screaming vocals, and melodic dissonance. I moaned when I heard they were breaking up. Then, in response to clamoring fans, they put out a second CD, a haunting and artistic piece that seemed to lose some along the way. This is one of those bands that sometimes seems too diverse, too talented, for their audience.
With "Hell or High Water," ACB refuses to be pigeonholed, once again delivering an eclectic mix of songs that feels more cohesive than the last album, while pushing out more gut-twisting, spiritually challenging lyrics. There are parts that remind me of everything from Kings of Leon, Thrice, the Killers, and others, but never sound derivative. There are bluesy tidbits. Some hard driving moments. These are songs that deserve to be played more than once to be fully appreciated.
In "Pirate Blues" we get a glimpse at ACB's longing to communicate something passionate: "Oh, I wanna catch in a song, notes I don't hear yet. But I will when I'm gone."
On this album, they come awfully close to catching notes we don't often hear--notes of sorrow, desire, honesty, truth, and unrelenting love.
Eric Wilson is the author of twelve novels that explore Earth's tension between heaven and hell, the latest of which is One Step Away, a twist on the story of Job. He lives in Nashville with his wife and two daughters. Visit him online at his website.