Reviews

March 17, 2016

Citizens Unite Liberate Like Grown Up Heavy Metal

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Citizens Unite Liberate cd review
written by Chris van Staalduinen

I have found my new favourite CD and the ONLY issue I have with it, is that it’s only six songs long. Four songs try to get my blood rushing with empathetic rage, while the other two break my heart a little as I sing along.

All are musically fantastic and lyrically strong and mature – kind of like grown up heavy metal, but with more musical skill. I will review all six songs individually in the following paragraphs, but the overall EP, from the mix to the art, is very well done. It truly appears to be a labour of love for these four gents and I will no longer think of them as ex-members of any other bands  – they are Citizen’s Unite and this is “Liberate.”

1- Black Sheep – An imposing way to begin an album, this is clearly their flagship song. It describes the life and struggles of almost anyone who has ever gone their own way, so it’s incredibly relatable. The power and versatility of the Kai’s guitar, Dave’s thumping bass and Cam’s psychotic drumming ultimately compliment Paul’s growling anthem of discord – “Always been this way, ain’t changing now.” It’s like a giant middle finger to the establishment and all the related pressures of life and I can certainly empathise – I work for the machine and it’s really a tough go as a black sheep. I really love all the off beat drumming (not off time, just differences in the fills) and tempo changes in the song, too. They add a tonne of musical depth – it’s not 3 chord metal, in case there were any doubts. Excellent song: 5/5 stars

2 – Push – Another angry fight song, perhaps a little closer to the centre of the alternative rock road. It’s a little simpler than most of the others in my opinion, but still has some serious ass-kicking to offer, from the opening drum beats to the downward scales of the bridge, there is serious musical skill going on here. One of my favourite parts of this song is Dave’s bass line – it’s driving the whole song and giving it attitude. The song calls out arrogance as fear and challenges the world to “Push“, but suggests it should expect a heavy push back. We all need a little “Push” now and again and we should always push back against injustice. Another good one: 3.5/5 stars

3 – Bullets – Maybe it’s where I’m at in my personal life, but this song speaks to me and I feel very connected to it right now. It’s a poignant song about lost love and regret, performed with an incredible amount of heart and melody. “There’s a hole in my heart where love used to be” is the prevailing theme (and the bridge’s lyrics) and I think most of us have felt that at least once, if not consistently. I love the build up of the bass and drum leading to and through each chorus. Most “hard” rock acts seem to struggle with ballads without sounding cheesy or like shadows of themselves. CU manages to avoid both of these pitfalls, as I empathize with (ostensibly) Paul’s romantic skeletons and connect with my own sense of loss and regret. They also manage to rock a ballad, which is not easy. Amazing: 4.5/5 stars

I will no longer think of them as ex-members of any other bands  – they are Citizen’s Unite

4 – Famous – Of all the cautionary tale songs about the pitfalls of fame I’ve heard, this is definitely my favourite. They make no bones about the highs, but point out the inevitable lows and the inherent relationship between the two. It’s a catchy rock song first and foremost, but with some excellent twists of lyric – “You want the fortune and fame? You want the pleasure and pain? You know they’re one and the same, like love and cocaine, but you can never get enough.” You cannot and will not have one without the other, so take your chances, kids. The music keeps pounding throughout, too – I straight up love Kai’s STP-ish riff in this one and Cam finds the magical balance between playing hard and fast, but with skill. Another winner: 4/5 stars

5 – Matter of Time – Another contrarian anthem, with some excellent melody and catchy driving guitar/bass riffs. Right off the top, the riff grabs you by the balls and gets you ready for Paul’s dystopian take on modern society. Once again, he manages to blend the angry growling verses with a harmonic, soaring chorus, without losing focus or energy in the meantime. The bridge is fantastic in this one, too, showing off their musician’s hearts. If you pay attention to the news, you can’t help but agree with “the undeniable truth is that the world is f*cking screwed” and from there it may just be a matter of time. Scary, but true. Great song: 3.5/5 stars

6 – This Life – Much like “Bullets”, only more so, I am as attached to this song at this moment in my life as possibly any song/moment combination before it. The piano is tough to pull off in a “hard”/”heavy”/”alternative” band, but it is truly home in this song – kudos to Cam. It’s amazing that a man can play drums with so much force and piano with so much delicacy in the same song. It’s a truly introspective piece with heavy lyrics, if not heavy metal, yet it still reminds me of the best “hair metal” ballads (in the best way).  Several lyrics stand out for me, including the amazing chorus “What is life without tragedy? And all the meant to be’s?” Truer words have never been sung with more passion. Regret and doubt are the flavours or humanity, we all experience them. Paul also sings in each chorus about his fears and how he fights them and won’t give up that fight “‘til the bittersweet end” and isn’t that all we can really do? We all have our fears, both rational and irrational, and all we do is try to fight them, with no guarantee of victory. Fantastic ballad/new favourite song: 5/5 stars

For more on CU, see my review of their video for “Black Sheep” HERE  and of their CD release party concert at  HERE . Also, be sure to pick up their CD “Liberate” – you won’t be disappointed, except to wish for tracks 7, 8, 9 etc.

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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written by Chris van Staalduinen






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