With the loss of previous singer Sam Stolliday, it can only be imagined that British metalcore outfit THECITYISOURS find themselves in harsh new territory, both emotionally and musically, as they attempt to navigate the murky waters of a sophomore record. It’s not an easy feat under so much strain, and the material of this second album, ‘COMA’, reflects this; a story of vulnerability and acceptance told through the lens of classic pop-metalcore. With new vocalist Oli Duncanson at the helm, an opportunity has been presented for the quintet to reassess and reinvigorate themselves, something they do with marvellous gusto as they step back up to the plate with something to prove. Sharp and unrelenting, but deeply introspective, the classic style of ‘COMA’ makes it a welcome addition to any collection.
We open with the suitably epic ‘Does It Keep You Up’ with a soaring chorus that contrasts the deathly raspy growls of its follow up, ‘COMA’, acting as something of a mission statement for the band; a violent realisation of something needing to be addressed and accepted within yourself (“Wake me up / And show me that I’m not as happy as it seemed I was”). ‘Death of Me’ and its almost vocaloid metalcore elements make for an solid introduction to the more electronic elements of TCIO, something ‘Regret About Me’, with its opening of chirping backing guitars reminiscent of 65daysofstatic and echoing ambiance also helps highlight.
The mixing and production, while bringing out the coarse vocals and ripping guitars nicely, feels a little cramped on the electronic side, and some of these wonderfully subtle additions can feel a little lost in the wall of noise at times. The rest of ‘Regret About Me’, however, leads into a crashing wave of a chorus and some absolutely fried vocals that really demonstrate newcomer Duncanson’s talents superbly. Likewise, we find a despicable hard mix of gritty unclean vocals, and almost Nu-metal rap-screams in ‘Dangerous’ that pair gorgeously with the softer clean vocals from Mikey Page. The duo get their metalcore duet in the aptly named ‘Violent’, with machine gun pulses of guitar and drums that make for one of the best displays of this new lineup’s teamwork and cohesion, and one of the best tracks on the album.
‘So Sad’ turns the clock back a little with tinges of classic 2000’s pop punk (complete with a glorious key change) and hints of Arcane Roots prog (though never letting up in terms of heaviness), but TCIO get right back to the crushing heaviness with the double barreled blast of ‘Body Count’ and ‘Only Human’, the latter of which proves to be the hardest hitting of the record even if it would be nice to have the production bring more of that bass to the forefront to match Duncanson’s deep growls (a trait a lot of the album shares).
There’s something of a rollercoaster pace to this second half of the record, with softer moments interspersed with tense build ups released in a sudden and rushing descent. ‘Madre’ displays this, as a slower, more melancholic reflection of failed promises to lost relatives (“Madre don’t you worry / One of these days I swear that I will be happy”), before leading into the thematically similar ‘Barely Alive’, a hammer-blow track of hanging onto life through world weariness. It’s a superb one-two punch that leads into the grand finish of ‘Save You With My Love’, which doesn’t pull any new surprises out of the bag but rather ends the album highlighting TCIO’s biggest strengths, with some killer vocals and a cohesive and violent instrumental that fades out on a truly grand chorus.
The sophomore slump is real and it’s a genuine fear for upcoming bands. Fortunately, THECITYISOURS have overcome their biggest hurdle to date with savage style and undeniable grace. Though it often plays it safe in terms of style, ‘COMA’ plays to its own strengths with some wonderful vocal lines and moments of heart-pounding intensity that keep it from ever feeling derivative or stale. Any metalcore fan wanting something classic to scream along to will find plenty to love here, and newcomers to TCIO will find a solid entry point into an up-and-coming mainstay of the scene.