Sound: Genre-hopping Four Year Strong sounds like they're frantically finding ways to keep their songs fresh on its third full-length album Enemy of the World, and that harried approach actually works to their advantage. While the Massachusetts band has been lumped into the usual pop-punk corner in the past, it's stylistically all over the place, thanks in large part to the capable riff work from Alan Day and Dan O'Connor. But for every moment of metal mayhem, there's still the strong undercurrent of pop that exists within the every track not to mention the tongue-in-cheek song titles that have nothing to do with the actual lyrical content. While Four Year Strong may be a bit much for some listeners out there, this is one band that obviously put some thought into its latest record.
Four Year Strong immediately makes an impression with its first track It Must Really Suck To Be Four, which almost sounds as if the band has taken up thrash as its first musical love. The distortion-heavy introduction (enhanced by pinch harmonics) shows off Day and O'Connor's skills, but that vibe is short-lived with the appearance of vocals that are more pop-punk in nature. There's still an incredible energy to It Must Really Suck To Be Four that draws you in to hear the rest of the album. The next track On A Saturday veers toward the more melodic side of the band, although the group-yelled choruses do sustain the energy.
Wasting Time (Eternal Summer) is one of album's most memorable offerings, due largely in part to the anthemic approach it takes. In a way the track does have a similar feel to some material from Against Me! (think Thrash Unreal) but Four Year Strong pulls off the sound as efficiently as its peers. On that particular track and a few others on the album, the group vocals are, again, a huge driving force. There is already a massive wall of sound on the album thanks to creative instrumental layering, but when you add in the meaty yells it grows even mightier.
As it was mentioned earlier, the pop undertones are apparent. A track like One Step At A Time skims the emo world a little too closely and This Body Pays The Bills is a bit predictable in the core songwriting (although the latter does feature some interesting backing tracks). As far as the pop-driven side is concerned, the most satisfying track is the more groove-oriented Flannel Is The Color Of My Energy, which features the most stripped-down intro (drums get a chance to shine) on the record. // 8
Lyrics: It's always a curiosity when a band like Four Year Strong takes great care in developing quirky, pop-culture-laced song titles, but fails to deliver the goods in the actual lyrical content. The band deserves a pat on the back for such intriguing names like Nineteen With Neck Tatz and What The Hell Is A Gigawatt, but the meat of the songs stray far from any inked-up themes or Back To The Future references. The lyrics are fairly run of the mill, and while most bands follow this same line of thinking, it's still a slight disappointment after skimming the tracklist. // 6
Overall Impression: Produced by Machine, a man whose credits include the likes of White Zombie and Lamb of God, Enemy of the World doesn't disappoint in terms of having a sleek, polished sound. The audio is impeccable on the album, and you certainly will have to listen to the record several times over to pick up on all of the nuances happening in the mix. In terms of the core songwriting, it's apparent that Four Year Strong has a multitude of ideas and they aren't afraid to stick them all in within the duration of one track. Most of the time the gutsy approach pays off, and it's in the moments when things get mired in the pop genre that the album lacks energy. That being said, Four Year Strong has enough musical twists and turns on Enemy of the World that boredom probably won't be an issue for listeners. // 8