Band: Under Cities
Title: 2012 EP
Release Date: 03/27/12
Reviewer: Fallon Braddy
- Here’s to Brotherhood
- Pressing Through
- Ground Up
- Behind Enemy Lines
When you’re a band working on making some type of impression or building a fanbase the EP or “Extended Play” is a good way to send out the concentrated taste of what to expect from the act’s musical sound. While the EP is not always the way to go with a first release, the short length album is a great method delivering the taste that drives the listener to crave for substance. The best EPs will go as far as to nourish and satisfy the appetite of a listener for months or even years depending on the density of content, as opposed to a full-length’s advantage of sheer volume or quantity the listener can choose from. Up and coming hardcore band Under Cities’ 2012 EP is built as a cohesive collection; a dense dose of what they represent in the ears and eyes and minds of men (referring to mankind, so girls too), and their “all-or-nothing”, “love us or hate us” approach has definitely worked out in their favor.
The opening sample in the intro track was well intended to set the mood for the entire EP, casting the mental imagery of darkness, empathetic pain, and oppression. Essentially, a man is imprisoned due to his beliefs and his oppressor essentially sentencing him to his fate of a lonely death. The epic contrast from this dismal feeling is the oppressor coldly addressing the imprisoned, “You’re going to die alone”; the imprisoned, his voice but a quivering and shaky, yet unfaltering whisper, responds with the declaration, “I’m not alone.” Immediately after, the band kicks in, the lead vocalist crying “I’m not alone!” as a boisterous representation of the desperate desire for relief in the hearts of those seeking hope against the aggression of loneliness. When such sincerity is introduced from the start, it puts the listener in a place of attentiveness, mostly due to the underlying magnetism we all have to whatever may cause us to truly feel, with all confidence, that we’re not alone. My subconscious longing for the feeling behind that statement is what I held on to for the remainder of the album.
Under Cities carries the weight of their message of freedom and hope through the might of melodic hardcore. The melody is seldom in the voice, but rather in the guitar work the music is built around. The drums drive the passion in the music to the forefront of the mind, while the guitar leads emanate the raw feeling and vocals convey the meaning and sincerity. The band has these things in mind for every song, from the triumph and euphoria of unity in “Here’s to Brotherhood” to desperation in “Behind Enemy Lines”, the emotions resonate from the speakers of the stereo and in the listener. However, that resonance is interrupted intermittently by some of the open-chord chug riffs and china-cymbal lead breakdowns; while these elements have their dignified places in hardcore, they pulled me out of the introspection, sympathy, and compassion the songs revolve around and put me in a crowd of skinny-jeans and flying fists. I’m certain those parts work well for a live show, but for the recorded songs in themselves I found such sections cliche and distracting. The album is a war cry, but in a way of bettering oneself rather than thrashing around in our broken pre-disposition.
The words are honest and heartfelt. “I’m not alone” is the most consistent theme found through the EP from beginning to end, but there are offshoots from it to keep variety extend hope beyond loneliness and oppression. “Pressing Through” describes the freedom found in Christ’s unconditional, everlasting love, but does so in a chronological process from feeling burdened and questioning freedom in God to the discovery and acceptance of it all into one’s life. Another plus to the message in the songs would be that the vocalist makes an effort to make his utterances discernible, so while I had no more than two songs to read lyrics for via Facebook, I could understand most of what was being said (although I still don’t know what FSC stands for). There isn’t a huge amount of imagery or poetic intricacies, but there isn’t really a need for it; the lyrics are straightforward and speak to their respective issues directly, without fear, timidity, or hesitation.
Overall: This album resonates its inspiration from its modern spirit-filled hardcore predecessors in a way that is genuine and felt on an emotional level. There’s a slight stench of cliche in certain areas, but it comes from the sweat of a passionate, eager, and willing group of hearts you’ll want to look out for in the future. A first release to be proud of, from the quality of work to the essence of the work itself; it leaves us all starving for the second course.
RIYL: Dependency, Call to Preserve, Take It Back (think Atrocities music, post-Atrocities vocals), Carrying the Fire