Level Plane Records have had some intergral releases in the world of hardcore and screamo, between Saetia's discography, You And I's discography, and all of Hot Cross's releases. They've all played a decent size role in shaping or redefining the sounds of hardcore and screamo, and City Of Caterpillar are absolutely no different.
In 2002, the now defunct City Of Caterpillar have dropped on us one of the most promising releases I've heard in years. Equal parts Rites Of Spring, Cave In, and Pg99, City Of Caterpillar have created a meshing of sounds with their self-titled effort that's as techincal as it is passionate, and as beautiful as it is brutal. A lot of bands are billed as genre-defining, and whereas it's usually completely untrue, City Of Caterpillar is a band incapable of being pigeonholed. Is it punk? Yes. Is it hardcore? Yes. Are there lots of atmospheric and instrumental moments? Yes. Does it actually work cohesively? Absolutely.
There is a certain air to this album. One of intrigue, intrigue that builds and breaks through each and every song. There's so much packed into each song, that to truly grasp them you'll have to listen to this album a few times. Condensing and confining Cave In-type atmopsherics, and an old-school punk feel in some of the vocals, and the passionate and intense screaming that reminisces some of the members' former bands, Pg99 and Majority Rule. The album's first track, "And You're Wondering How A Top Floor Could Replace Heaven," starts off quite eerily, with an ominous humming, then followed up with an almost Twilight Zone-sounding guitar. Immediately it kicks into some of that old-school punk sound I was talking about, which is followed up by the intense screaming I also talked about. The dual guitar attack works amazingly well for this four-piece, sometimes mellow and brooding yet absolutely shredding the next minute. The song mellows out at about the 2-and-a-half-minute mark, and then proceeds to build into a crushing crescendo that leaves you almost out of breath by the time this almost nine-minute song finishes up. Three of the album's seven tracks are upwards of eight minutes long, giving it a real epic feel.
Following up this song is the shortest on the album, the frenzied "A Heart Filled Reaction To Dissatisfaction." While not even three minutes in length, this song takes you on a ride, and finishes off with the urgent, screaming vocal assualt at the end while the guitars and drums are pounding equally intensely. The album's third track, "Minute-Hour-Day-Week-Month-Year-(The Faiths In My Chest)" really showcases those moody atmospheric moments that are scattered thoughout the album. The vocals don't kick in until almost the six-minute mark, but quickly cease and give way to an eeriily spoken sound sample, completely surrounded by waves of reverb. The reverb almost completely engulfs the spoken part, coasting into the end of the song far after the spoken word is gone. Track five, "When Was The Last Time We Painted Over The Blood On The Walls" best showcases the excellent guitar work. Kicking in immediately with heavy distortion and not relenting in keeping the mood throughout the song's duration. There is a patch of clean, slowed down guitar in the middle, but it so well accents everything that it only lulls you in until the vocals and pounding guitar comes back in. The vocals and lyrics however, are no less important than the music that drives them.
The vocals have two different but equally good sounding approaches on this album. At times, you get an old-school punk or early emo sound from vocalist Brandon Evans. He sometimes comes off sounding like he could easily replace Guy Picciottio of Rites Of Spring. Other instances, and probably the more prevalent sound, is the screamo vocals you'd get from Pg99. Not too shrill, but just as passionate as anybody else whose sang for this type of band. Either way, the vocals never stray from the very raw, very authentic feel that they keep throughout. That gives them something that would serve a lot of bands around today well: honesty. You don't feel like these vocals or lyrics are contrived at any point, they're always intense, and always seething with emotion and urgency. That adds more to any song than could ever be done in the recording studio through some production wizardry. The lyrics here follow the vocals well, being equally as solid and effective. In my opinion, this is best shown on "And You're Wondering How A Top Floor Could Replace Heaven:" "And not a finger lifts till it all turns to shit / And you all act like you're impressed / You slouch now even further down as you're wondering how a top floor could replace the heaven you once saw so well / We've built it all we've made our gods now we're locked in ourselves." It's not Robert Frost, but it works so well for the music it's enraptured in. Most of the lyrics you'll find are similar to that, though I seem to remember some suspect lyric about a penguin in one of their songs. At any rate, with the emotion of the vocals, every word seems so profound, though it doesn't even necessarily have to be.
City Of Caterpillar have constructed something so beautiful with this album, taking all the best parts from three varying styles and throwing it in a blender. Luckily for them and us, it couldn't have worked better. I can't even just reccomend this to fans of one type of music, as it appeals to such a broad range. The moods created by bands like Cave In with their later material, the raw sound of Rites Of Spring, and the absolute frenzied passion and intensity of Pg99. All of it together has created something so strong, and so soothing at the same time. I love every minute of this record, and given the chance, I'd have to guess many of you will too.