Sound — 7
"This Means War" comes across more as a straight forward metalcore album than the previous self-titled album, which had won the band a #1 spot on the indie charts. This is the third full length release by Attack Attack! and clocks in at just over 36 minutes with ten tracks. This is the first Attack Attack! album produced by Caleb Shomo, as all of their previous releases were produced by Joey Sturgis. All of the song titles have a very similar format such as "The Confrontation", "The Eradication", "The Family", and "The Reality". I feel like the band skimped a little on creativity with the track titles, but that is okay because we don't buy albums to listen to the names of the tracks.
The vast majority of the album was recorded with the guitars tuned down to drop G. At times the guitars seem a tad muddy but for the most part the tone stays pretty tight and punchy. The guitar riffs and keyboard parts are catchy without sounding like pop music hooks which is something very hard to do, but done very well by Attack Attack! on "This Means War". While the amount of electronic and programming work done on "This Means War" is less than on previous releases, it is still present in the music and used to good effect on several songs on the album. I was not a fan of the percussion on "This Means War" because it seemed that the cymbals (crash and splash?) were too prominent to the point where it began to feel like ice picks being jabbed into my ears after a while. I know my last sentence makes it sound horrible, but when I messed with the EQ on my mp3 player it was much better. Since this is the first album produced by Caleb Shomo I'm willing to forgive the cymbals being slightly grating.
Lyrics — 8
During the recording of "This Means War", Caleb Shomo performed all of the clean and screaming vocals for the first time. The screamed vocals on "This Means War" are higher pitched than on their previous self-titled release, and according to interviews this is because Caleb finds it easier to transition from these higher pitched screams to his clean vocals. Since 2010 Attack Attack! has used Sean Mackowski on tour to provide the clean vocals, but I haven't heard any indication if he is staying with the band while on tour since Caleb Shomo recorded both clean and screaming vocals on this album for the first time.
Caleb Shomo really shows what he can do vocally on this album, with his clean vocals not just competent but crisp and his screams raw without becoming unintelligible. There is still the occasional instance of really low growling screamed vocals on the album, but spread out and used for emphasis and to serve a purpose musically instead of a matter of course. This is great for me, as I don't like low growling screams in songs too much, and Caleb's new higher pitched vocal delivery style adds a whole new level of dynamics to the music which has been very appealing to me. I did find myself a few times really fixated on the melody of Caleb's clean vocals and wanting to play those melodies on guitar. The lyrics pretty much stay in the realm of your standard metalcore lyrics of discontent and rage. I was thoroughly impressed with the vocal delivery.
Overall Impression — 7
There will be people who disagree with me, but while I like "This Means War" I much prefer their previous self-titled release. I am, however, glad to see a band releasing an album where they allow themselves change as a band instead of trying to stay in their comfort zone. I do find myself mysteriously wanting to own a baritone guitar after a few listens to "This Means War", and in my mind that is a big kudos to a band if listening to their music makes me want to play music myself.
My favorite song on the album is probably "The Motivation". Other stand out tracks on the album are "The Revolution", "The Hopeless", "The Confrontation" and "The Eradication". There weren't really any songs on the album that turned me off, but the least impressive for me was "The Betrayal". I enjoyed the album and feel like it is worth the purchase, but I think that once Caleb Shomo gets a little more experience producing that their next releases will be even better and I'm eager to hear them.