MAY 6th 2013
CITY OF FIRE: TRIAL BY FIRE

Review by Barretticus

It sounds like a band who are going through the motions of phoning it in. I found this album to run flat. It is just very straight ahead without anything overtly interesting. Each song centres around a central riff that runs through almost the entirety of the track. There are variations of that riff to be elevated to a "lead" part but is essentially the same. There are some exceptions to this throughout and attempts to differentiate parts of the song, but even those aren't quite different enough to break the monotonous  drone of the album. Follow Mantis is a good example of this.

As the album trucks along, I could pick out things that were kinda cool, but they were just too short or too few and far between to maintain my interest. I found the vocals to run fairly flat as well, though in parts, I got heavy Fear Factory and Skrape vibes, but again suffer from too much of the same monotony. One of the strongest aspects of the band is the drummer, holding together some pretty tight beats, keeping things simple most of the time.

Deliver Me opens the album with a pretty cool acoustic riff, but Deliver Me is perhaps one of the worst victims to the problems with this album. The album ends with Enjoy the Silence and is my favourite song on the album, a rock ballad of sorts but I did recognized it as a cover of an 80's new wave song and took me only a moment to realize it was Depeche Mode. I have an unabashed love of New Wave music, it being a household staple growing up, and I do enjoy hearing good covers by metal bands. It always brings a smile to my face.

After doing some research however;

My disappointment grew a little stronger. City of Fire is essentially a super-group with three of the four members coming from, and I want to stress this point, bands that I love. Burton C. Bell was one of the most prominent performers when I was solidifying my musical identity in Metal when I was 17. I found his ability to scream and roar and sing wonderful melodies, and his ability to seamlessly move from one to the other, near-enchanting. I am guilty of wailing at full volume along with Burton, listening to FF, driving alone in my car. However, I don't feel he is even close to being at his best on this current album.

Econoline Crush was hugely popular here in Vancouver in the mid to late nineties; at least that's the way it seemed to a bunch of kids in Maple Ridge. Econoline Crush was a mainstay for my group of friends, always on the playlist, and was the only band to be the crossover between the constant radio hits my friends were listening to while I was delving deeper all the time into harder and heavier Metal. I grew an affinity with them over time, loving the unique sound they had and the heaviness and energy of their songwriting that slipped through the cracks into radio-land. It's kind of interesting to me that Bob Wagner is my favourite part of this album, and when I'm finished writing, I think I will go back to my youth and dig out some EC.

I came to find SYL late, I have no idea why. The first time I saw them live, I remember feeling in the moment like Devin was to Kuato as I was to Quaid, Devin beckoning me from the stage to open my mind to him, unlocking some part of my consciousness that was locked away. I would never have picked Byron Stroud out of this line up if I hadn't read it.

I should have picked out that the style City of Fire was going for was "groove metal," but the songs rely too heavily on a single riff. The groove can be maintained while still introducing other elements that make the for better songwriting. Through the first listening, I found it to fade into the din of the background. Though I'm sure there are those who think I'm wrong, I unfortunately found this album to be disappointing and dull, especially with the talent involved.