Sound — 4
If there's a reason why Adelitas Way exists and why frontman Rick DeJesus created it in the first place (aside from the obvious goal of rock stardom), it's to preserve the art of unsullied hard rock - of course, the more unflattering way to articulate the band is to categorize them in the "Nickelback echo chamber," alongside other bands like Theory Of A Deadman, Seether, and Buckcherry. Adelitas Way formed in 2006 and it didn't take long for their gears to start turning, with their debut self-titled album bringing forth tracks like "Invincible," which has been featured in a number of TV shows and commercials, as well as "Scream," which made it onto the soundtrack for "Saw 3D." Their follow-up album, "Home School Valedictorian," wouldn't pimp out as many singles for usage in other media, but it yielded better Billboard chart success, most notably peaking at #4 in Hard Rock Albums. Not wasting too much time to record again, fans were stoked to hear that the next album would be produced by Nick Raskulinecz, whose resumé boasts bands from Alice In Chains and Foo Fighters to Mastodon and Shadows Fall, and even has a few Grammys under his belt. With such an accomplished producer involved, Adelitas Way's third album, "Stuck," had set a high bar for itself before it was even finished, but now, everyone gets to see what it'll bring to the table.
Though "Stuck" jumps straight into the meat-and-potatoes rock that you'd expect from Adelitas Way with "Dog on a Leash" and "Save the World," there's a difference that can be heard right from the get-go: it doesn't rock as hard as the previous album, "Home School Valedictorian," which bordered the line on alternative metal, synonymous with Three Days Grace. This difference in intensity isn't destined for inferiority, but with Adelitas Way still composing their rock with a straightforward and uncomplicated method, this newfound restraint on the guitars mainly manages to tamper with the band's potency of rock. However, "Stuck" isn't completely devoid of ground-shaking energy, and guitarist Robert Zakaryan grabs the listener's attention with some satisfying guitar solos in "Keep Me Waiting," and "We Came."
The upside to a band that generally follows a very simple mold is that small variations thrown in end up going a long way in getting certain tracks to stick out on the album, like the bass-line variations in "Not Thinking About Me" and "We Came," the gentle addition of violins in the bridge of "Dog on a Leash," or even just the panning of the backup vocals in "Blur." But the tracks that break furthest away from the norm are the ones that flop the hardest: the piano-driven, synth-equipped ballad "Undivided" may furrow some brows in dissatisfaction, but the second ballad on the album, "Something More," proves to be even worse in its sappy production, which brings back the piano/acoustic guitar combo, but nearly smothers it to death with saccharine string sections. Adelitas Way have pulled off proper ballad tracks before, like "I Can Tell" and "Somebody Wishes They Were You" off of "Home School Valedictorian," but that was because those songs still had a foot in rock ("Drive" manages to be the rock-ballad on "Stuck" that's feasible); the aforementioned ballads on "Stuck" reek of contemporary pop, and for a band that pride themselves on being conduits of strong-souled hard rock, it's a stinging hypocrisy.
Lyrics — 7
It's not a concept album, but there's a proper cohesion in the lyrical content of "Stuck." With the context clue of the album art alone, DeJesus shows a fascination for centering some songs on dog analogies, like in "Dog on a Leash," and "Different Kind of Animal," but that barely scratches the surface. DeJesus has talked about how the album deals with being locked in situations that you just can't seem to get out of, making "Stuck" a basic but well-fitting title. This mainly places on the negative side of the spectrum: "Dog on a Leash," "Save the World," "Stuck" and "Keep Me Waiting" deal with poisonous, dead-end relationships - "Blur" takes that topic even further, detailing the fatal attraction of an on-again-off-again relationship with a "hot mess" girlfriend - and "Not Thinking About Me" deals with the unshakeable lovesickness of not being able to get over the girl the narrator recently broke up with. DeJesus, however, doesn't only linger in the negative, and shows that the concept of being stuck can be seen as a good thing, most notably in the ballad about unbreakable bonds in "Undivided," and while "Different Kind of Animal" deals with the general idea of not being satisfied with where you are in life, it arcs into working up the ambition to change it.
Overall Impression — 5
"Stuck" ends up conjuring a lot of ambivalence for itself. While it still primarily represents the hard rock Adelitas Way have been reppin' since day one, some fans may be unsatisfied with the generally less vigorous rock energy it contains in comparison to the band's earlier records. Then there's the case of the pop-laden tracks that really shake the boat in contrast to what Adelitas Way have been reppin' since day one, and it's safe to assume that many will proceed to get out their lighters not to wave in rhythm, but rather, to set those tracks on fire. The strong theme of the album ends up being a saving grace for "Stuck," and it duly proves that upon analysis, DeJesus' lyrics aren't simply filler, which is more than plenty of other frontmen can say for themselves. In the end, though, Adelitas Way is most concerned with rocking out - with regards to that, despite the cover of the album, "Stuck" is the Adelitas Way album with the least amount of bark and bite.