Wednesday, January 23, 2013

City Of The Lost - At The Edge (2013)

Our experience with bands from in and around Russia is limited, and probably slightly skewed due to the sample size. But rarely have we encountered a band from that corner of the Earth that didn't fall squarely into the Viking or melodic death realm. In typical metal fashion, we have been shown the light time and time again. This time, Moscow gave unto us a band that is as far from those brutal styles as one band can be without leaving the genre entirely. City Of the Lost have three albums to their credit, with only 16 months separating them. Impressive as that may be, not a single one of them has been anything less than stellar. Their third album, "At The Edge" seems the Russian three piece going to new highs in the quest for the melodic post metal that can make the world see the Russian metal scene differently. And in the eight tracks contained herein, they may have already done it.

While "A Coming Storm" may be exactly that, it doesn't take long before you reach the eye. With an instrumental presence that could only be described as smooth, the entire song revolves around a central melody. Bass driven but guitar fueled, things speed up and slow down several times throughout the track, but always keep the same lighthearted tone. It becomes easy to dismiss this from your metal radar after a song with very little in the way of distortion, but it begs you to keep listening. Your reward, in the early stages, is "The Nightingale." Boasting some of the most clean, crisp production that the post styles can offer. More than that, though, is how expressive the lead guitar can be. You get a lyrical quality to the way the notes dart in and around you. It is a wonder that they find a balance between the light, vocal mirroring notes and the distorted, chugging ones time and again, a harmony of sounds that makes the track as memorable as it is impressive. The first of two parts, "Omen, Pt.1 (Temple Keepers)" manages to stand out from the rest of the album in a number of ways. There is something explosive about the way the instruments are layered together, a spring loaded cannon of percussion and quickly strummed notes. Focused on the intricacies of the lead, the band creates a very deep soundscape, one that is dangerously so. But the emergence of a flurry of double kicks is enough to solidify the sound, strengthening the low end.

Not to be confused with the movie of the same name, "Back to the Future" does share something in common with the cult classic. A whimsical quality inhabits the track, mainly a credit to the songwriting process. Rather than cloud the mix with needless distortion and nonsensical changes in time signature, the band sticks to a formula, in the best way possible. Uptempo, high energy, and rooted in the lighter side of things, they manage to give you extra doses of detailed guitar work. Sadly short and flooded with added effects, "Rise as One" may be the most memorable track on the album, albeit the shortest one. It all starts with the drums, a constant beat that is anything but boring. Small touches of cymbals and kicks make it all feel so new every time the measure rolls around. This allows the guitars and bass to focus on the task at hand, crafting a workable riff that can carry the listener on its back. Unlike the tracks before it, "86 Days of Despair" sees that care free sort of feel leave temporarily. You can feel that extra weight in the melody, a downturn in the energy that brings with it an emotional change. It becomes a welcomed wrinkle on an otherwise shiny album. By no means is it brooding or depressive; it just lacks that smile that the other tracks possess. There is an electronic element present here that helps to shoulder some of the emotional weight as well.

Contrary to the previous track, "Basilisk" takes a decidedly heavier turn, yet another twist in what seemed to be a straightforward collection of songs. The added distortion on both sets of guitars does wonders for the overall sound of the song, turning it into a giant buzzing wave. The punch of the kick drum is like a hammer on a nail, hitting it squarely on the head with each resounding thud. Not to be forgotten, the bass is steadfast and on point, hitting every note along the way. But when the keyboard segment kicks in, your jaw may very well hit the floor. Not only does it resonate with a touch of beauty, but it sets the table for the most aggressive portion of the album, a blitz of high speed drums and riffs. The final track, also completing the pair, "Omen, Pt.2 (The Stargazer)" seems to be an introspective one at that. Hovering in the space between light and shadow, the band put an exclamation point at the end of this eight track sentence. You are left with a lost to think about, and even more to come back to. The last 45 seconds of darting guitars is enough to solidify this one as a repeat candidate.

What more can you say about an album that so perfectly describes itself? Through simple plucking and strumming of a guitar or two, City Of The Lost manage to show more emotional attachment and involvement in their music than many bands can with a singer and lyric sheet in tow. Even more than that, each track is an individual idea, sharing little to nothing in common with the ones surrounding it. That alone would be worth a metal, especially when it comes to a post rock/metal album of this caliber. Well written, well executed, well played, "At The Edge" is everything you could want from a melodic instrumental album, without all of the bells and the whistles that drives lesser bands off the tracks. Kick drum period.


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