Essentially the only metal band to come out of Liverpool who’ve seen any kind of substantial success since Carcass, it’s a wonder that Carcer City are still only gradually building their fanbase. They have all the trappings that the more musically minded of the modern metal scene seems to lap up in 2011 –progressive, technical, adventurously structured songs with as many moments that are built for the pits as there are for chin-stroking muso’s, and their image isn’t exactly a hindrance as far as female appeal goes. However, too many bands get trapped or furthermore lost in a world that praises generic stagnancy and fears anything that’s even slightly challenging, and unfortunately Carcer City are but one of these bands. But with The Road Journals, they’ve made their boldest attempt to leap into the upper echelons of 21st century metal.
A haunting introduction gives way to the crushing ‘Lifeless, Awaken’, which is everything you’ve come to expect from Carcer City in their relatively short lifespan – gang vocals, bordering-on-djenty riffs, and time signature changes galore. It’s a strong opening, but the album’s best moments come much later on. The atmospheric ‘Ghosts’ from 2009’s Affliction mini-album is revisted, and extended into three parts (the first being the original from the aforementioned release). This is where the album starts to get truly interesting and deviates a little from the somewhat “norm” that Carcer City have come to inhabit. With less focus on technical expertise and more on turning the three-part epic into a massive soundscape, the album starts to feel much fuller and cared for here, like every note was so carefully placed to create the most complete experience possible, but the biggest surprise of this whole album comes in part III. Finally, Carcer City have utilised what they’ve always been missing: clean vocals. And the greatest thing about this new feature is that it doesn’t feel at all contrived, as if to say “Here’s the nice bit” like practically every other band in the world seems to. Instead, the melodies slot in perfectly with the music, acting more as an accompaniment than a mass sing-along, and the understated production treatment the clean vocals have received only demands more respect for how they’ve handled it. And trust me; Patrick Pinion’s got a cracking voice on him. Why he’s never used it before I just don’t understand. Elsewhere, the incredible title track is by a country mile the strongest song the band have ever put their name to. The frankly beautiful piano intro is a work of genius, and is just as if not more intense than when the band finally explodes into a savage chord progression, built on jarring rhythms and the most emotive vocal performance Patrick has given to date. This would’ve been the perfect choice to open the album with, but alas, it works just as well here. And finally, the album culminates in another slab of ballsy, progressive metal, with another appearance from those much welcomed clean vocals in ‘If We Make It Home’.Love them or hate them, you have to admire Carcer City’s ambition. For anyone into metal from this city, they are a true inspiration that it is still possible for your dreams of one day being part of an active touring and recording band to come true. This album is their most defiant statement yet, and it’s unapologetic in its sheer relentlessness and pummelling aggression. However, if they intend on progressing as far as they presumably wish to, then there needs to be a lot more experimentation in future. A band with this much ability does not need to rely on bass booms and breakdowns to sound heavy, and a band with this much imagination does not even need to be consistently heavy to sound intense, emotional and, most importantly, honest. Carcer City have a lot of tendencies that could very easily separate them from the pack – if they stop holding themselves back and become truly “progressive” with their music, they could very well become one of the biggest success stories this country has ever produced.