Any project with the names Byron Stroud and Burton C. Bell attached tends to get people thinking about crushing grooves, dense, repetitive staccato riffing and bleak, apocalyptic visions of society driven by tight, mechanical timekeeping.
So for those not familiar with their work outside of Fear Factory and Strapping Young Lad, City of Fire might come as a complete surprise; indeed, even those aware of the pair’s less intense musical outlets could find this album something of an eyebrow-raiser.
For City of Fire has at its core a far looser, more raw heavy rock feel that draws inspiration from a more simple time and a basic sound that, it could be argued, seems influenced by one of the early 90s greatest bands. The shadow of Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger album looms over City of Fire like a colossus, from the way the guitars in “Carve your Name” mimic the warbling screech of “Jesus Christ Pose” to the overall feel of the entire album. This is in no way a bad thing, and Bell’s idiosyncratic vocal style adds a different dimension to this collection of songs that would be lost in the hands of a more conventional singer. His alternating strangled croak and darker clean semi-croon aids in giving the band’s brooding songs of despair, heartbreak and misery their necessary atmosphere. Sho Murray and Ian White’s grubby guitar sound echoes the gloomy vibe of grunge rock but City of Fire adds a healthy injection of metal and groove to forge a strong and fairly diverse album. As much as it’s a very different kettle of fish to anything Fear Factory has ever done, structurally City of Fire nonetheless follows a similar path to that band’s classic albums by adding bleak introspection and atmospherics as the album draws toward the end, finishing off with a striking cover of “Rain” by The Cult.
City of Fire has delivered a strong and surprisingly consistent album of modern metal with their debut. One can only hope that the standard can continue in the wake of Bell and Stroud’s Fear Factory workload.
1. Carve Your Name
5. Spirit Guide
6. Coitus Interruptus
9. Hollow Land
10. Dark Tides