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Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013

City Of Ghosts Get Atmospheric on 'Calm in the Current'

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Since releasing its debut EP Daylight in July 2012, Milwaukee rock band City Of Ghosts hasn’t made much noise. Amid a near moratorium on playing out—save for an acoustic set at Milwaukee’s Warped Tour and a set for Bay View Gallery Night—the quintet was holed up in the studio working meticulously on a follow up and record label debut. That album—fittingly called The Calm In The Current—breaks City Of Ghosts’ silence and brings about a watershed moment for a band poised to make a name for itself, both in Milwaukee and beyond.

Aptly likened to post-hardcore mainstays like Thrice and The Receiving End Of Sirens, City of Ghosts is comprised of members from beloved Milwaukee act Hail Archer, short-lived rock band In Like A Lion and still-intact heavy metal outfit Maidens. The band’s mix of at-times melodic, occasionally brutal instrumentation caught the attention of new St. Louis-based label Easy Killer Records—whose co-founder Mike Judy toured with City Of Ghost singer Brian Tombari during the front man’s time in Hail Archer.

“The main thing they’ve done for us is exposure and letting us do our thing and just being supportive of that,” said guitarist Sam Laun. “They’re not telling us what to do or how to write songs.”

Free of any artistic constraints, City Of Ghosts decided to record its seven-song release at 608 Studios on Milwaukee’s East Side, which has worked with many comparable bands in the past. The band cites 608 owner/operator Derek Moffat as an invaluable part of honing the band’s already melodic and expansive brand of modern rock.

“It’s weird because we didn’t set out to make a themed record, and it’s not a themed record, but we noticed all these strange kind of overlaps and language we would use and themes that would crop up,” bassist Michael Nelson said. “It was a lot of ambient and watery stuff, and it just so happened that we had discussed calling it The Calm In The Current, which is also water themed. Those themes ended up coming through on a lot of the songs.”

Carried by Tombari’s strong vocals and padded by a thoroughly textured sonic landscape, The Calm In The Current builds on Daylight by placing more focus on song structure and atmospheric instrumental elements than patented post-hardcore breakdowns and screams.

“I think it’s more mature musically,” Laun said. “It’s better, we think. It’s catchier. I wanted to write stuff that I’m not going to get bored playing live.”

The added exposure brought by the Warped Tour set and by Easy Killer Records (which coordinated exclusive song streams at popular music websites such as absolutepunk.net) has found the release subject to a lot more expectation than the young band’s self-released debut. Not to mention the added pressure of making good on the label’s confidence in City Of Ghosts.

“We’re on the hook for another record, but it’s contingent on if they want us,” Nelson said. “And the circle has grown significantly as far as who’s hearing it. It’s not just your mom, your friends and whoever comes to shows hearing it now, so it’s definitely open to a lot more scrutiny.”

With the long-awaited release of The Calm In The Current, the tides will change for City Of Ghosts as the waves of anticipation and external exposure build.

“It could blow up. Nothing could happen or it could be a dud. We don’t know,” Laun said. “We’re proud of the songs. We put as much time as we could into it. We think it turned out well, but we’ll see.”

City Of Ghosts will headline its album release show at Cactus Club on Saturday, Oct. 19. Hot Coffin, Avenues and Red And The Wolf will play in support. The Calm In The Current is streaming at absolutepunk.net.

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