As Cities Burn

Son, I Loved You at Your Darkest

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Christian rock, like rock en espaƱol, is a term that has to do with lyrics rather than musical style; if a band is identified as Christian rock, that tells you something about their lyrics but nothing about their musical style. Over the years, Christian rock has included everything from power metal to new wave to post-grunge -- and in the 21st century, plenty of Christian bands have embraced screamo (also known as melodic hardcore or post-hardcore). While Hopesfall, From Autumn to Ashes and Nora are examples of secular screamo bands, UnderOath, Emery and Showbread have exemplified screamo's Christian side. Another Christian screamo outfit is As Cities Burn, whose first full-length album, Son, I Loved You at Your Darkest, favors the sort of heaven/hell and soft/abrasive contrasts that screamo is known for. Lead singer T.J. Bonnette brings plenty of harsh, death-all-over-your-face screaming to this 2005 release, but the 35-minute disc has its share of clean vocals as well. Like countless other screamo discs, Son, I Loved You at Your Darkest is an album that can offer sledgehammer brutality one minute and melodic reflection the next -- and that light/darkness juxtaposition separates screamo from the unforgiving outlook of metalcore. Typically, a metalcore outfit won't offer nearly as much breathing room as a screamo band like As Cities Burn -- which, like others who have recorded for Solid State/Tooth & Nail, is promoting Christianity in a subliminal fashion. Their introspective lyrics, although Christian-oriented, don't beat listeners over the head with a religious message. Son, I Loved You at Your Darkest is uneven and inconsistent; some of the tunes are more memorable than others. Although not remarkable, the disc does have its moments -- and As Cities Burn is worth keeping an eye on if one is a fan of Christian screamo units like UnderOath, Emery, and Showbread.

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