Record #249: As Cities Burn – Come Now Sleep (2007)

The sophomore album is always a challenge. Especially when your debut was an instant classic like Son, I Loved You At Your Darkest. 

And especially when the lead singer leaves after the debut.

Most bands would look at all of this and call it quits. And that’s what As Cities Burn did. Until an outpouring of support from fans encouraged them to regroup.

Son, I Loved You At Your Darkest drew much of its strength from the vocal interplay of lead singer TJ Bonnette and his brother Cody. TJ’s screams were harrowing and emotive, while Cody’s clean vocals were a constant melodic foil.

Without TJ’s vocals, the group obviously needed to reevaluate their sound. But Son also featured serpentine guitar work that eschewed most of the chugs and palm mutes of their contemporaries. They may have been on the metal imprint Solid State, but their guitarwork was closer to Further Seems Forever than Norma Jean. Cody’s vocals and the guitar lines gave As Cities Burn a melodic sensibility that many hardcore bands were missing.

Exploring the melodic arenas of their sound was an obvious choice, but Come Now Sleep doesn’t phone it in. None of this sounds like a half-hearted rehash of “The Widow.” And, perhaps more surprisingly, it doesn’t sound like anything is missing. Come Now Sleep has none of the tell-tale signs of a group who lost their frontman. Cody spends no time at all in his brother’s shadow, even as he screams some himself.

The change of pace suits the group comfortably. The guitars swell with post rock ambience and tapping riffs that would make Minus the Bear proud. The instrumentation provides the perfect backdrop to Cody’s philosophical musings, which hit like a punch in the gut. “Hearts aren’t really our guides.” “If there’s a God, He must be asleep.” “I’m in the wrong body.” “She’s putting cuts on her legs to bleed out the devil. ‘Surely, you will not die.'”

Clumsier hands would treat these fists like honeyed hams. But Cody sounds more defeatist than whiny emo kid.

It’s also worth mentioning that this record is a full twenty minutes longer than its debut. And none of that time seems wasted. Even through the thirteen minute track time of “Timothy,” every swelled chord, every spoken-word sample, every lone guitar riff sits just as long as it should. And as a result, Come Now Sleep is a sophomore record that retains the power of their debut even without the same personnel.

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