Sound — 7
Starting out in the burgeoning days of the post-hardcore genre, BoySetsFire may not have been as much of a brand name as the genre-defining likes of Fugazi, At The Drive-In or Deftones, but their debut album, "The Day the Sun Went Out," still made for a great template of the extra dimensions the genre grew from the frenetic likes of hardcore. However, BoySetsFire's direction from then on attempted to toe a line between this root post-hardcore style and a more radio-friendly alt-rock/punk/metal style, and with each progressing album showing further investment in the latter without making a full transition, it left the band in a strange limbo of watered-down hardcore albums. Identity crisis would only worsen when they'd also attempt emulate bigger acts - from the Tool-inspired moments heard in "Tomorrow Come Today," to the amalgam of odd genre shoehorns in their fourth album "The Misery Index: The Plague Years" trying to be the band's own kind of "The Shape of Punk To Come," this mimicry didn't pay off.
After disbanding shortly after releasing "The Misery Index" in 2006 and fracturing off into new music projects for a few years, BoySetsFire would reunite in 2010, though it'd take three years for them to release their fifth album, "While a Nation Sleeps...," which only rehashed their genre-juggling sound rather than tried to reinvent it. Reinvention still isn't the goal on their new album, "BoySetsFire," but as the self-titled album name would implicate, the band bring things back to the root of their hardcore influences. Over half of the album brashly brushes off that fierce and unkempt side of BoySetsFire - going from stark hardcore in "Don't Panic," "Coward," "Dig Your Grave," and "The Filth Is Rising" (which is easily the heaviest song the band have made in over a decade), to an intertwining of heavy and melodic in "Savage Blood" and "Breathe In, Bleed Out."
This reinvestment in BoySetsFire's wild side also brings forth better instrumental performances in "BoySetsFire." This is mainly seen in the frenetic riffing of the closing hardcore cut "Bled Dry," but that upgraded element boosts the intrigue of the other half of the album - the half that's still juggling other genres and wanting to sound more clean and accessible than their rough hardcore side. Though it doesn't save everything (like the staid punk cut of "Heaven Knows," and the boring rocker "Fall From Grace,") a stellar rhythm section of distinct bass riffs and drumbeats spruces up the alt-metal likes of "Ordinary Lives" and the odd dose of midtempo power metal in "Cutting Room Floor," and the melodic guitar riffs in the pop punk likes of "One Match" and "Torches to Paradise" are relatively punched up from the similar efforts the band have made in previous albums.
Lyrics — 7
Nathan Gray's dependable lyrical style of teeming political dissent has always been a quality factor for BoySetsFire (even if "The Misery Index" was knocking off the trailblazing style of "The Shape of Punk to Come," Gray's concept lyrics in the album were a saving grace). He still dishes out that societal angst in full in "BoySetsFire" - covering deceptive, politically-backed victimization in "Coward," the massively-coordinated manipulation of organized religion in "Heaven Knows," the epidemic of wealth inequality in "Bled Dry," and of course, fantasies of brutally upheaving the elite in "Don't Panic," "The Filth Is Rising," "Dig Your Grave," and the regicidal "Breathe In, Bleed Out." And though there isn't a hard-lined concept like in "The Misery Index," Gray wields a few recurring themes to tie things together and progress his sentiments, like the "static air" lines that represent political apathy popping up in "Savage Blood," "One Match" and "Fall From Grace," the rallying call to demand more than just struggling survival in "Ordinary Lives" and "Torches to Paradise," and the phoenixian symbolism of burning away the broken world to build anew in "One Match," "Torches to Paradise" and "Breathe In, Bleed Out." But though lyrical freshness can't be claimed here (plenty of themes and symbolisms here have appeared in previous BoySetsFire albums), Gray's passion from pen to voice certainly prevents these lyrics from feeling tired.
Overall Impression — 8
The prospect of venturing into unknown sonic territory and reshaping their sound may be one that BoySetsFire feel no desire to attempt, but the reprioritization of what they're familiar with in "BoySetsFire" makes for a strong alternative to instigated evolution. Substantially dusting off their hardcore side and making it the prime focus of the album, the band prove that they're still capable of the aural fury that they doled out in their early days, and for a band over twenty years old, "BoySetsFire" shows them sounding nearly as raw and energetic as they did decades ago.