Sound — 8
Sure, we all know Attack Attack! for their goofy "crabcore" phase (marked by those ridiculous guitar poses, unhealthy amounts of electronics, and breakdowns, breakdowns, and MORE BREAKDOWNS). But what most of us didn't expect is that a truly good band was beneath that gimick-y exterior, just waiting for the right moment to emerge. Their self titled album was a step further, dropping tunings, bringing lower screams, and ditching (most of) their auto tune from "Someday Came Suddenly". It looked like Attack Attack! might not just be a gimmick, but an actually enjoyable metalcore band. "This Means War" is AA!'s most radical, and enjoyable, step in a heavier direction. The riffs have more zip, the drums are more lively, and the electronics (when used) help elevate the urgency of the heavy hitting songs within. Album opener "The Revolution" opens in pure AA! fashion, with heavy hitting riffs and breakdowns. But the true surprise to myself is how much more time is actually spent riffing rather than relying on breakdowns. "The Betrayal" and "The Reality" bludgeon with sick guitar tune and spaz drums, while "The Abduction" and "The Motivation" showcase more punky and poppy influences, respectively. Given the wide range of influences the band draws from on this CD, without drowning out their core sound, it's safe to say AA! are at the top of their musical game.
Lyrics — 7
Since the departure of Johnny (their usually auto-tuned clean singer), Caleb Shomo has been forced into the slots of both clean AND dirty vocalist. While it may seem forced to make a screamer sing, Caleb's clean voice is a lovely midrange that I'm personally surprised the band didn't utilize earlier. The screams fall into a more punk-y mid to high range this time, rather than his almost death growls on their self titled album. This change makes for a more passionate, almost pained delivery that's insanely pleasing. His cleans are best compared to Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco, and, unlike Johnny, AREN'T AUTO TUNED THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE ALBUM. Lyrically, the album is relatively strong, but occasionally falls into Metalcore/Scene cliches. Caleb's voice most certainly helps any lyrical weaknesses almost passable. "I put my life on the line for you, so why did you say goodbye?", Caleb blurts and growls in The Wretched with enough anger and passion to really tug the heart strings. The said line makes a prime example of his emotion carrying the lyrical weight throughout the album. In another surprisingly mature move, the album actually adds up to a theme. The album centers around loss, war, revolution, despair, and regret, and all the lyrics tie together in a pleasing, dramatic way.
Overall Impression — 7
RECAP. "This Means War" is possibly AA!'s chance to branch out to previous haters. The band shows a much more mature writing style that features less electronics, more passionate vocals, a relatively well written central theme, and more than a few riffs well worth learning for the "cool factor". Attack Attack! have made a leap in the right direction. With a few more tweaks to their sound, AA! could possibly find themselves in the company of Metalcore greats. For fans of: The Devil Wears Prada, My Ticket Home, Born Of Osiris.