Goddamn, even typing the title to this review has my heart racing. I genuinely don’t know what is in the water this year that has made these veteran screamo bands step back onto center stage; we have the first Alexisonfire album in twelve years (debatably screamo, but follow my lead here), we got both a new Gospel album and the EP-that-never-was in MVDM, which was originally slated to be the band’s follow-up to The Moon is a Dead World way back in 2006, and now comes the first new City of Caterpillar full-length in twenty years. Mystic Sisters is a triumphant return-to-form from one of screamo’s pioneering artists and a testament to the enduring power of the genre as a whole.
It truly is impossible to overstate just how much of an impact City of Caterpillar, the album, made when it was released back in 2002. Arriving on the scene with both the impact and lasting effects of a nuclear bomb, it became an instant classic, and stayed that way for very good reason. City of Caterpillar’s eclectic fusion of screamo and post-rock laid the blueprint for countless bands to follow, not only in their hometown (and epicenter of American screamo) Richmond, VA, but stretching out over the world, helping shape the direction of American bands like Funeral Diner and Circle Takes the Square to Japan’s envy. Their music is angular, noisy, constantly surprising, and still to this day unlike anything else in the world of screamo. So unlike anything else in the genre, in fact, that the follow-up to their debut album released two decades later still manages to sound just as fresh and unique as before.
Mystic Sisters is the sound of a band that has not missed a single beat throughout the years. There is a palpable energy that carries you through these eight songs, like lightning running through your veins, from the hypnotic drone of “Thought Drunk” through to the iridescent outro of “Acension Theft.” Everything that made the self-titled album good is still present here: the wild abandon with which the band submit to the chaos they create, the juxtaposition of jagged riffing with cinematic beauty, the total commitment to the unconventional. Driving Spain up the Wall, released five years ago as a standalone single, was a good indication that the band hadn’t lost the spark that made them special, but here, written out over forty-five minutes of brand new music, you truly get the opportunity to see just how ahead of the curve City of Caterpillar have always been.
It’s always hard to know what to expect when a band that made such an impression in their short tenure returns to the stage (literally and figuratively, in this case) but City of Caterpillar make it seem like no time has passed at all. If this were released as an immediate follow up to 2002’s self-titled album it would still be a continuation of one of the greatest musical legacies in the world of screamo, but the fact that two decades have passed and the band’s sound is still so exciting only makes all the praise I have laid out here that much more meaningful.