We Are The City – Violent album review

With the debut of their sophomore album Violent (2013), the Canadian band We are the City prove that they no lover live in a quiet world. Released on June 4th by Hidden Pony Records, the experimental rock album battles with contradicting ideas of selfishness versus humility, individuality versus spirituality. The song’s lyrics seem to contain more questions than answers as listeners are transported into the inner turmoil that makes up the album.

Produced by Tom Dobrzanski, Violent is a rollercoaster experience of soaring highs and gritty lows. The band uses its standard rock line-up of guitar, keyboard, vocals and drums, but many eclectic elements are thrown into the mix to make the nature of their sound unpredictable. In the opening song, “Bottom of the Lake,” an unusual juxtaposition takes place with flowery marimba tinkles paired to a heavy drum beat. “King David” begins with a gritty guitar riff and unexpectedly changes to a plucking acoustic accompaniment and then swells to its climax with a full band. “Punch my face” brings the album to a close with an unsettling, forlorn melody that dissolves into heavy guitar distortion.

The creation of the album was a two-year odyssey plagued by uncertainties. The band was physically tossed around as they relocated from Kelowna to Victoria to Vancouver. The album was put on hold when guitarist David Menzel left the band in the summer of 2010 and then rejoined in 2011. On the band’s official website, drummer Andrew Huculiak described the process of making the album as a “purgatory” in which the path to completion seemed perpetually unclear.

The idea of a purgatory, or the liminal space between two extremes, is one explored at length in Violent. While the lyrics are brief and to the point, and the empty spaces in the middle of the phrases are almost as important as the words themselves. Over the course of ten tracks, We are The City evokes the plethora of angst in creating one’s internal and external spiritual identity. Vocalist/keyboardist Cayne Mckenzie serenades listeners with overt religious references as he depicts a person struggling to find his limits, and the battle between these contradictions prods listeners to evaluate their own inner violence.

Violent will be accompanied by a feature film written by We Are the City and produced by Amazing Factory Productions. The film will be shot in Norway and spoken entirely in Norwegian (a language that neither member of the band speaks), which has caused many heads to turn. But for an album that is all about unpredictability, the choice seems oddly befitting.

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