Sound: If you ask someone in the metal scene who Texas In July was, they would probably refer to them as August Burns Red's younger brother. Granted, they did come out of the same music scene of eastern PA, but their similarities in sound on their first two albums were definitely there. On their new self-titled 2012 venture, the boys in TIJ attempt to separate themselves from that comparison.
From the start of the album, I would have to compare the quality of the sound to that of their last album, "One Reality" - the guitars and drums are well mixed, and typical of metal albums these days, the bass is mostly mixed out, which is a shame, considering Ben Witkowski writes almost all of their songs. In any case, the sound is tight, and well produced.
For the actual songs, a few stand out in my mind. "Cry Wolf" is a decent song, some good TIJ riffing courtesy of Christian and Chris, and "Bed Of Nails", which is probably the most catchy song off the album and will definitely have a place on their touring setlist in the future. Apart from those, Texas In July made a first with their third album, and invited several guest vocalists into the mix. From my point of view, this was very well done. I like Texas' sound, but they suffer from a disease common in their genre, that of repetition of sound. Throwing Chadwick Johnson of Hundredth, Dave Stephens of We Came As Romans, and Matt Greiner of ABR fame into three of their tracks ("Without A Head", "C4", and "Cloudy Minds" respectfully) brings new life to the album that might otherwise suffer from the aforementioned problem. I think the band realized that the main complaint from their sophomore album regarded the singularity of their sound, particularly with regard to vocals, so this was an effort to change that, and I believe it was mostly successful.
Sadly, the song "Shallow Point" still feels a bit like a filler, but the rest of the album is distinct and is great progress in the band. Alex Good does a nice job of varying up his vocals, even attempting some almost death vocals in "Black Magic". Pretty darn nice. // 9
Lyrics: Alex Good has borne the brunt of a lot of abuse by critics on websites from what I've seen on the similarity of all of his singing, particularly on "One Reality". Combining guest vocalists with changes of his own, Alex and the band clearly wanted to change that in this album.
Although a Christian band, it is not immediately clear that their beliefs dictate their lyrics. Ben Witkowski, the bassist, writes all or most of their songs, an interesting dynamic for a metal band. A lot of their songs reflect the growth in the band and the songwriter as an individual - all the guys in the band are still very young, and their lyrics reflect a developing view on the world around them as they grow up in the music scene, often dealing with relationships, learning to stand by what you believe in even when others do not, and so on. An interesting look at a band who have been together since they were only about 16. // 7
Overall Impression: As far as other bands in their genre, the musicians in TIJ stand out on their skill, Adam Gray especially garnering attention for his performance on the kit. Compared to their last effort, Adam clearly has had a little more range in terms of showing what he has to offer, returning to more of the bestial sound of their I am album. Christian and Chris write catchy riffs similar to those of their previous album, but include a lot more catchy, intricate riffs like on their song "Magnolia", a trait which was missing overall in "One Reality". I discussed Alex's improvements earlier, so I'm sticking with that - He clearly put a lot into his performance on this album.
Overall, I enjoyed this album, appreciated the changes the band made following the feedback from "One Reality", and have spun it a number of times already and liked it more and more each time. I would definitely buy it again if stolen, and be glad they are getting more exposure. As no band is perfect, I believe Texas In July still has plenty of room to grow, but they are all very young guys, so I'm definitely interested to see where they go. I recommend a listen. // 8