REVIEW: A City Serene – The Widows Walk

The City Serene

Artist: A City Serene
Album: The Widow’s Walk
Genre: Post-hardcore/dubstep/screamo (their own description)
Label: [Unsigned]

A City Serene can be applauded for one thing, and one thing only where this is concerned – brevity. They excel in the ruination of a good song with crap vocals too, but to their credit they only use five songs to make their [woeful] point and don’t outstay their welcome too much. I believe that in one of my very first assignments, several moons ago, for this website I referenced the so-called “beauty and the beast” vocals, where a band layers glasslike female singing over terse male grunting to create beauty in a mire. A City Serene clearly aim for this effect, but fall completely wide of the mark. The female vocals are a welcome distraction from how hideous everything else is but they’re too measured, and their appearances too formulaic, to rescue this EP from obscurity.

“Don’t Call It a Comeback” (and no one will) has some promise at first, with an atmospheric pounding giving way to a heavily distorted guitar line. It’s all quite sinister and encouraging until the horrendous grunting starts. While clearly aiming for gravel incarnate, it’s just too stilted and predictable, and completely destroys the intriguing note that had been moulded by the music. “Hello Nightmare” has the same lurid singing, before a female voice joins the fray. This has the obvious effect of making it sound a bit more delicate and heartfelt, and Carly Baker’s voice is quite pleasingly ethereal. The chorus has a likeable undercurrent of the irreverent with a kaleidoscopic sound effect and then a sweet piano. This latter instrument, coupled with the female vocals, almost gives the impression of two different songs – contrasting admirably with the turgid verses. The EP hits what few heights it manages in moments like this, when it strays from the dismalness of the grunting. “The Wishing Well” for instance allows some screaming to dually headline with the grunting, and it’s far better. There’s a brief sense of actual energy and life to the song whereas the grunts just seem lazy and derivative, rendering the band indistinguishable from the multitude of others on the scene. On the plus side, there are some gang vocals and the guitars raise some feisty notes here and there, but it eventually falls victim to the ineptitude of the singing.

“Memoria” is a slow starter and by now, the parity of the heavier segments is starting to infect the lighter ones too. That is to say, where the slower music and female vocals added a minor, but welcome, air of eloquence to the preceding tracks, they now start to blend too uniformly together as well. The token yell-growl-argh-melody-femalevox bit is overwrought, and has been murdered by far better bands than this. The song thus follows a fairly set pattern; sparking up a bit by letting the guitar take some liberties towards the end, then stopping abruptly. “We Are Dreamer” picks up exactly where that leaves off, sounding almost entirely the same. Baker’s voice becomes disappointing, as she never really challenges herself throughout the EP and seems content to sing the same frail discordant notes. The chorus fades to allow some glimpse of innovation – a slow, reflective, rhythmic part that then chucks its fledgling aspirations aside to plunge back into the morass. The string sample that creeps in beneath the heavier part is good however.

Happily, that is where they leave it. The Widow’s Walk dreams big but doesn’t execute. It’s sloppy and contrived, for all that it seems to have a firm notion of what it wants to sound like. The band could probably pull this off in the future if they jettison the wretched heavier vocals, or at least found better music to set them to, but on this evidence they’ve a mountain to climb.

SCORE: 4/10*
Review written by: Grace Duffy

* = We understand the low score for this record may surprise you, especially considering that we streamed the record, but this review, just like any other, is the reflection of one person’s opinion and not that of everyone associated with UTG. We support our writers and support their right to their voice their own opinions.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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