What do you get when you cross 5 talented musicians with 12 huge tracks and a beautiful accompanying visual theme? You get “Coma”, a stunning sophomore album from UK rockers THECITYISOURS. On the 22nd of October, this album is going be dropped into your lap, and you’ll be privy to a deeply personal album, swirling and blooming with a vast display of emotions that range from gorgeous serenades to incendiary breakdowns.
Since 2015, the band has been turning heads and piquing interests in the metal world. Their first two EP’s were fore-shocks, rumbling the ground before “Low”, 2019’s major seismic event, took place. “Low” was a powerful and poppy metalcore record that felt like an eclectic mix of Bring Me The Horizon, A Day to Remember, and While She Sleeps, among others. There’s no argument that something of real substance was contained within “Low”; superbly catchy melodies were littered throughout the record, as were some solid breakdowns. New listeners became instant fans, and were just as instantly singing along to choruses from standout tracks like “Bare Bones” and (my personal favorite) title track “Low”.
“Coma”, the brand new album from THECITYISOURS, is a monumental leap forward in every way. Most importantly, it’s incredibly intimate, an emotional exorcism; the band has opened themselves up with such vulnerability that it is incredibly easy for the listener to connect with the music, and even the members themselves. The relatable and well-pronounced lyrics, the emotive performances and the album’s pristine production shows that the group truly wanted to communicate with anyone who would take the time to listen, whether it be a long-time fan or a brand new listener.
THECITYISOURS has capitalized on their familiarity with pop-like melodies and electro-infused musical ideas in “Coma”. There are more of these elements throughout the tracks than on “Low”, yet they’re thrown in with a degree of subtlety, or at least executed with seamless integration into “Coma”’s musical palette.
Compared to “Low”, the mix and production on “Coma” is considerably thicker and more full. The presence of bass in the mix is felt plenty more, and this really helps to emphasise the emotional weight that’s embodied in the tracks. It goes without saying that the breakdowns are therefore more burly and destructive than on the debut album, but for me, the choruses were where I felt the most power come through. Despite the mix being dense, it’s also incredibly bright and clear. The cymbals stood out to me in terms of how dry they sounded, and that seems to contribute to the clarity and brightness of the mix.
While we’re on the notion of percussion, Louis Giannamore sits behind the kit, and has offered some great work on “Coma”. He doesn’t take the spotlight away from the guitar or vocal melodies, but competently carries the band along and throws some really entertaining fills in during this time. The kick drum and snare should file an assault claim, however, as during some breakdowns such as in “Only Human” and “Barely Alive” he ferociously attacks them.
The guitars are mixed in wonderfully, and can either appear as gentle ambient layers, or rage towards you with some clear yet fierce distortion. Mikey Page and Stuart Mercer provide the guitar work on this album, and it’s handled competently. Impressive solos are common, appearing in tracks like “COMA” and “Does It Keep You Up”, and an evil little sweeping melody appears in “Barely Alive”. There’s this creepy guitar layer in the first verse of “Body Count” which I really appreciated, but one of my absolute favorite performances is in the introduction and choruses of “Save You With My Love”, an incredibly powerful and heart-wrenching ending track that is sure to bring about a few tears.
Jamie Deeks takes care of bass guitar duties, and definitely provides weight to the mix. Even though his main responsibility in “Coma” seems to be to thicken the mix, you can thankfully hear and appreciate him in some sections, such as when he follows the kick drum patterns in the verses for “Regret About Me” or strums away with aggression in the first verse of “Violent”.
Now, I can’t stress this enough… whilst this album sounds fantastic on a set of speakers, I truly believe it’s better with headphones so that you’re as close to the music as possible. I felt like I took so much more away from the album when it was delivered to me and me only. As mentioned, this album is intimate, and I would even argue you’re rewarded for getting up close and personal with it. For example, the massive opening track “Does It Keep You Up” broods with beauty in the beginning, and just before the first chorus you’re dropped into a moment of silence. With headphones you’re more clearly able to hear someone breathing rapidly in the background, and it adds more feeling and heaviness to the colossal chorus that follows.
The softer side of “Coma” holds a great deal of wonderful musical moments, and the choruses truly feel like something that could only come from THECITYISOURS, not just any other band in this genre. “Death of Me” is a gem of a track, and it’s unique in a lot of ways. Backing vocal harmonies staccato in and out of the main hook. It’s a simple melody, yet undeniably pretty and easy to absorb. I’ve also never heard the worth ‘death’ said so adorably, so, kudos to the boys on that, I suppose!
The pre-chorus has this soft pop feel to it, and the vocal melody, sung gently by guitarist and clean vocalist Mikey Page, unexpectedly reminded me of the well-known chorus to “Ocean Drive” from Duke Dumont. The tracks aren’t too similar at all, of course, but I’m thinking it’s the rhythm in which the vocals are sung. However, I digress…
“Madre” is definitely the most heartfelt track on “Coma”. It’s soft and short in its delivery, yet hits harder emotionally than most of the other tracks. It also hit me with a big moment of nostalgia, taking me back to an old Red Jumpsuit Apparatus’ favorite of mine, “Cat and Mouse”.
If you’re moved by the emotional side of things in “Coma”, there’s no doubt you’ll be thrown by the breakdowns and heavy sequences throughout it as well. There is absolutely no shortage of them either, and they’re a well-suited contrast to the beauty that is exhibited by the band in some more melodic moments. Title track “COMA” is ferocious, with the introductory breakdown proving to the listener that they’re in for a good dose of heaviness. “Violent” is one of the heaviest tracks on the record as well, holding similarities to Wage War in their earlier albums. It’s hard to say which tracks are ‘heavier’, though. A great number of them aren’t heavy in general, but hold some absolutely crushing sequences, and that definitely keeps you wondering about what will come next.
“Dangerous” is a super fun track. The verses have this Rage Against the Machine-like rock shuffle which is contrasted to the rest of the album in a great way, but it holds a surprisingly nasty little ending; a surgically produced chromatic cacophony that comes out of nowhere, and the comic voice clip at the end sums up the listener’s thoughts quite succinctly. If you haven’t yet, go and enjoy the video clip that accompanies this song, especially if you’re a wrestling fan.
“So Sad” also has an equally unexpected slam in the middle of the track, as well as a delightful key change in the final chorus, so it’s fair to say that ‘predictability’ is not an accurate word to describe “Coma”.
THECITYISOURS do a fantastic job of bringing these two opposing elements of gentleness and aggression together. The vocals across the album hold this dichotomy also, but are undoubtedly an exceptional combination… like gin and tonic, if you will. It’s great to see that whilst spending most of his time behind a lens, building quite a spectacular photo and video portfolio, Oli Duncanson has opted to grab a microphone and stand at the front as the new rough vocalist. His growls are solid, and stand out in tracks like “Barely Alive” or the breakdown in “Only Human”. The high screams aren’t neglected either, and verge on the level of demonic. They’re used sparingly on their own throughout the album, such as in tracks like “Barely Alive” and “COMA”, but that makes their appearance even more notable. His pronunciation is also superb, further pushing the messages within “Coma” to the listener.
One of my favorite moments from Duncanson is towards the end of “Death of Me”. In the background he echoes Page singing “I’m just trying to move on” but screams (like, scream screams) in pitch to match the melody’s progression. With control like that, it’s something that definitely deserves praise.
There is no uncertainty in saying that the previous vocalist Sam Stolliday was a driving force in the amount of ferocity that the band delivered, though it’s exciting to hear that Duncanson is able to bring something of similar calibre to the table, but with his own unique sound. I initially thought that his vocals could have been given some extra weight in certain moments just to bring home the heaviness on display, but the more times I went through the album, the more I thought his appearance on the album was well placed and well mixed. For example, having Duncanson back up Page in the chorus for “Does It Keep You Up” infinitely thickens the delivery of the vocal melody, and this happens on multiple tracks. Huge praise should go to Oz Craggs for producing the album and giving it incredible clarity, even during some ambitious and chaotic moments.
Page’s performance on this album is the golden feature for me. Despite Duncanson being a formidable vocalist, I was constantly looking forward to the next moment Page would appear. There is so much heart in his voice, and that’s what makes him stand out in a sea of vocalists. He can project some powerful lines, but also be painfully vulnerable, and I love that he doesn’t hide the fact that these songs are highly emotional. It’s an exceedingly dramatic performance, and it feels like he was singing for himself. As a result, that realness translates really well to the listener, and strengthens the ability for the listener to connect with the songs on a personal level.
Special moments from Page are scattered throughout the album. His range is impressive, and he hits some truly high notes towards the end of “Death of Me”, as well as in “COMA”. In this track, he also pushes for rhythmic unity between himself and the band, and it’s executed perfectly in the bridge, in the form of a short burst of triplets. In “Dangerous”, Page isn’t afraid of singing in a soft and reserved manner, chanting little lines like “keep runnin’, keep runnin’”, whilst “So Sad” has a groovy melody in the introduction and verses that sounds like it was tonnes of fun to record. It’s a diverse performance in “Coma” from Page, but ultimately what we get is a constant stream of catchy, entertaining and captivating melodies that stay fresh after multiple listens.
At the end of the day, after listening to “Coma” from THECITYISOURS, that’s what you’re most certainly going to get; catchy, entertaining and captivating music. The tracks are so emotionally transparent and genuine that they will surely touch a lot of people on a deep level. The sophomore album from the group is evidence that they are stronger than ever, despite any setbacks. The unity and symbiosis between all of the musical elements in this album doesn’t just show that they’ve improved as musicians, it also shows that all of the members are on the same page, and have completely given all of themselves to this record. Duncanson is a winning pick for the band, as he has provided the band with not only a fantastic debut performance on the record, but also directed the wonderful visual representation and theme to accompany the album.
Do not take your eyes off of this group, as “Coma” is the platform on which they’ll stand to be seen as a prominent group in the metal scene… not just in the UK, but across the world.
Releasing On: October 22nd, 2021
Released By: Arising Empire
- Oli Duncanson / Vocals
- Mikey Page / Vocals, Guitar
- Jamie Deeks / Bass
- Stuart Mercer / Guitar
- Louis Giannamore / Drums
- Does It Keep You Up
- Death Of Me
- Regret About Me
- So Sad
- Body Count
- Only Human
- Barely Alive
- Save You With My Love
It’s overwhelmingly common to find songs that speak of love, loss, pain and anger, but THECITYISOURS deliver an emotional and powerful performance that is worth everybody’s attention. The heaviness that the band is capable of is only matched by their ability to offer us some intensely intimate and vulnerable moments. The addition of Oil Duncanson as the new rough vocalist is a great one, and he has shown on his debut performance that he will be able to contribute to, and spearhead, a band that is surely moving upwards in the metal world.