American Anymen – Cities Changing Names Review

We’re no stranger to bands who claim more sub-genres than they have members (or fans). You’ll routinely see tags for things like “symphonic doom” and “blackened death” and “hardcore Viking sludge.” It’s also not surprising when musicians change course from one album to the next. We’ve all perused reviews about a band with an established sound veering off into wildly new directions. Really, adding new sub-genres seems to come with the territory. But what happens when a non-metal band takes a running leap into the dark side? Such is the case with New York-based act American Anymen, a group that, up until very recently, played a vitriolic form of anti-folk on a slew of singles, EPs, splits and one full-length. Now, it appears they’ve leapt headlong into the metal game with Cities Changing Names, a punky, industrial sojourn that has a tendency to yank you ear-first into a caterwauling cavern and refuses to release you to your family. Let’s go spelunkin’!

There are some understandable go-to comparisons, so let’s get those out of the way: Cities Changing Names is more Ministry than Nine Inch Nails. The driving riffs and frenetic (sometimes poppy) grooves are infectious, and the layered, altered vocals are traditional while still being effective, especially when they include deathened growls, blackened shrieks, and hardcore shouts (sometimes within the same song). The album also exudes a sneering, pissed-off, punk-fueled attitude, which adds to the controlled chaos that makes Cities Changing Names as memorable as it is. I’m no expert on the genre in question, but it would appear that angry, political anti-folk translates rather well to angry, political industrial metal. American Anymen have also seen fit to work in a dastardly amount of hooks and a few less intuitive influences alongside raucously repetitive, achingly acerbic punkdustrial.

And yet this dumped-out-purse approach, while appearing off-kilter on paper, is a solid one, especially for the kind of album American Anymen (and more specifically, the project’s architect Brett Sullivan) have sought to craft. It’s loud, nasty and sometimes grungy, inorganic in places but at the same time evocative and pulsing with raw humanity. Cities Changing Names really gets going on second track “Fentanyl Death Kiss,” a pleasant, almost surrealist cacophony, dealing with heavy subject matter in a way that is perhaps uncommon but no less impactful. The riffs are simple and driving, with tender touches of Voivod and plenty of shrieking for good measure. “Cities Changing Names” and “Expert of Nothing” are probably the strongest, one-two punch on the record, coming to play with always welcome Acid Bath vibes, thick, heavy riffage, and indignant, shouted vocals, all viewed through an industrialized funhouse mirror. While American Anymen crank up the industrial on the back half, they still make room for some interesting style variations; the catchy “Escalator” opens with a Foo Fighters riff and features vocals borrowed and sharpened from Red Album-era Rivers Cuomo of all people. “KTKWTKS” roars back with both heaviness and vitriol, but features more nu-metal than I’d like and too much repetition to fully engage with the song’s heft. To top it all off, closer “Counter Cultures of the World” opens with a Blink-182 out of nowhere and segues into heavily augmented vocals reminiscent of Rob Zombie. Taken together, American Anymen prove their ability to pull from disparate influences while still creating a cohesive and enjoyable album. Many have tried, and even more have failed.

What ultimately lowers the score is the unfortunate bloat that’s present across the record’s runtime. “KTKWTKS” is a solid tune that bellows about the gun violence scourge, but the repetition stretched out over five minutes does a disservice to both the message and the listener. Likewise, “Die, I Live” sports a tremendous riff, but due to the repetitious demands of industrial metal, the track runs out of steam before it hits the five-minute mark. And “Escalator” clocks in at a whopping seven minutes, watering down its impact and leaving the listener waiting for the next song to start.

I really like this album. For an anti-folk band’s first full-length foray into the industrial metal/punk realm, there’s plenty I plan to revisit. At the same time, song length and the monotony that fills those spaces are a wicked combo, hurting the messages American Anymen are clearly eager to convey. Considering their proven ability to successfully bounce between genres and influences, I have no doubt that they can and will improve on these missteps, returning lean, mean, and (humanely) mechanized.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320kbps mp3
Label: Eclipse Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: June 10th, 2022

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