Sound — 4
You can relate the everchanging and expanding metalcore scene to cellular mitosis: an original band is formed, and then some members split off from that band to create another metalcore band that, more often than not, ends up sounding a lot like the previous band - case in point, Cursed Sails. Formed by brothers Cory and Ben Ferris, the bassist and keyboardist/screamer had originally been in the metalcore band Woe, Is Me. With Woe, Is Me being notorious for its revolving door nature with band members, the Ferris brothers would leave the band before Woe, Is Me recorded their critically reviled sophomore album, "Genesi[s]," and form the metalcore band Issues, with former Woe, Is Me vocalist Tyler Carter. Though the Ferris brothers were the founding members of Issues, they would end up leaving the band before any recording had been done in order to form Cursed Sails. Quickly getting the ball rolling, the band signed with Rise Records earlier this year, and have now released their debut album, "Rotten Society."
While the scientific process of mitosis can be used to describe Cursed Sails, unfortunately, the scientific process of evolution cannot. With a by-the-book method of crafting a metalcore sound and heavy usage of post-production effects like stuttering and filters, the sound aspect of "Rotten Society" is somewhat comparable to the debut Woe, Is Me album, "Number[s]" (the album that the Ferris brothers had recorded with that band, as well as being the less-dissatisfying Woe, Is Me album). However, the elements that made that first Woe, Is Me album alright - a good utilization of synths, dynamic lead guitar lines, and clean vocals - are almost completely absent in "Rotten Society." You'll hear bits of synth presence in songs like "Like a Chemical," "The Great Gold Rush," "Chernobyl" and "With Malice Pt. 2," but ultimately, they play a recessive role. People probably had hoped Ben Ferris would bring some solid keyboard elements to the table, but he focuses primarily on being the screamer, and the only clean vocals you'll find on the album are in the chorus of "The Great Gold Rush," which, along with having some clean guitar parts and electronic percussion, ends up being somewhat of a refreshing track on an album that's stuck in the same bludgeoning metalcore gear. "Chernobyl" also offers a bit of a change-up with a more melodic-metalcore-oriented chorus being contrasted by a frenetic verse of chuggy guitars and a post-hardcore-influenced drumline, but otherwise, the run-of-the-mill metalcore sound is what the album brings forth.
Lyrics — 5
Just like the majority of the album's sound being populated by chuggy metalcore riffs, the majority of the lyrics on the album are angsty and full of chest-puffing metalcore bravado. Anyone with a trace of intuition can figure out that in songs like "Dead Daze," "Gasoline" and "Like a Chemical," Ben Ferris' hate is targeted at the former bands he was in (whether this is for Woe, Is Me or Issues is up for debate), and, as expected, is filled with liberal amounts of profanity and threats, and comes off as overcompensating. Ferris also directs some hate towards society in songs like "Amazing Grace" and "The Great Gold Rush," and while "Amazing Grace" comes off pretty nominal, there's some substance in "The Great Gold Rush." In "With Malice Pt. 2," Ferris shouts his rage about homophobes, and while it isn't the first time it's ever been done in music, it's perhaps the most admirable message on the album. The lowest, most vapid lyrics on the album will be found in "Smart A-s," where the message of hating the world and getting wasted is articulated with a hefty amount of vulgarity - though the idea that the lyrics in this song is very antithetical to the straight-edge hardcore bands is an amusing irony.
Overall Impression — 4
"Rotten Society" comes off as an album built on a "shoot for the middle" mentality. It's a basic metalcore album that uses basic songwriting tricks and techniques, and in 2014, that's not going to get an album (or the band producing it) much regard. Perhaps Cursed Sails put this out as a jumping off point for their band, or perhaps they put it out just to be a middle finger to the bands they used to be in, but this debut album will not be a memorable one. It may work as an alright starter album for new metalcore enthusiasts and it may satisfy for someone who just wants to listen to something loud and heavy, but "Rotten Society" doesn't offer anything that hasn't been heard before.