Back To Oblivion Review

artist: Finch date: 10/03/2014 category: compact discs
Finch: Back To Oblivion
Released: Sep 30, 2014
Genre: Post-Hardcore, Alternative Rock
Label: Razor & Tie
Number Of Tracks: 12
After several years of false starts and breakups, Finch releases their long-awaited third album, "Back to Oblivion."
 Sound: 8
 Lyrics: 8
 Overall Impression: 8
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overall: 8
Back To Oblivion Featured review by: UG Team, on october 03, 2014
3 of 3 people found this review helpful

Sound: The situation that Finch had when they first entered the further-budding post-hardcore/emo scene was enviable: with frontman Nate Barcalow being bred as the protégé of Glassjaw's frontman Daryl Palumbo, there was already a lot of hype surrounding the band before they released their debut album, "What It Is to Burn," in 2002. Though it wasn't necessarily a revolutionary moment in music, it did live up to its hype that Finch was a band worth paying attention to. However, that attention took a turn for the worse when their follow-up album, 2005's "Say Hello to Sunshine," was strongly panned by their fanbase for it straying too far from the musical style they first set with their debut album. Whether for that reason or for others, Finch went on hiatus afterwards, and the band's status would roll downhill from there - including an EP that would fail to rekindle the band's hype from before, and their third album (at the time) falling to pieces as the band broke up during the recording process. 

Finch's name resurfaced a year ago, when they reunited for a tour celebrating the 10th anniversary of their debut album, and even despite a believably cruel rumor that Finch broke up yet again in the midst of their tour, Finch claimed a new lease on life when they said they were going to release a third album soon - for real this time. The promise was initially taken with a grain of salt by the fans whose Finch t-shirts were torn and faded, and rightly so, but as 2014 showed Finch signing with Razor & Tie and performing in Warped Tour earlier this year, the promise would be followed through, and after a prompt string of previews, their third album, "Back to Oblivion," finally arrived.

Though it was obvious that the new album would be post-hardcore, Finch fans are more or less ready to compare "Back to Oblivion" to "What It Is to Burn" or "Say Hello to Sunshine." This approach to "Back to Oblivion" is nearly as detrimental as when the comparing of "SHTS" to "WIITB" conjured such a sour reaction, but with the first two songs, Finch end up calling back to both albums sonically: the opening "Back to Oblivion" at long last picks up the "WIITB" baton again, but the following "Anywhere But Here" sounds distinctly like a descendent of "SHTS." One could keep trying to sort the rest of the album in that dualistic way, but with Finch putting those two representative songs at the beginning of the album, they signal that they want to get the expected comparison game out of the way early on in order to finally move into the band's new phase.

And that's exactly what they do. Whereas "SHTS" had Finch moving towards a more contemporary-rock-leaning version of post-hardcore (or "watered-down," for the pessimistic folks), "Back to Oblivion" shows Finch further moving away from the rough post-hardcore sound. This is heard in "The Great Divide," which is the most alt-rocky track Finch have ever made and the song where you realize that Barcalow's clean vocals sound a lot like Ian D'sa of Billy Talent, and "Us vs. Them" has Finch dabbling in grunge, with a nice thick bass leading the verses and an extended, pedal-filled guitar solo to close out the track. "Tarot" is the other track with a more commercial-friendly side to Finch, but as the third-longest track on the album offering a vanilla trip throughout, it's the biggest drag of the album. But Finch haven't wholly abandoned their roots, and tracks like "Further From the Few," "Picasso Trigger" and "Two Guns to the Temple" channel the strong and energetic post-hardcore Finch from last decade.

However, the biggest change seen in "Back to Oblivion" is a juxtaposition of that strong and energetic side of Finch, and they show a newfound penchant for the low gear. This is first heard when the fourth track, "Murder Me," starts as the most subdued song by Finch ever heard, though it soon blooms into a strong post-hardcore/emo chorus as expected; Finch end up toying with the listener at the second slow-jam, "Play Dead," where they dangle the expected drops into heavier sections like a string in front of an antsy cat, further amplifying the dynamic range. But it's at the end of the album where they show their most mature composing: the penultimate "Inferium" sublimely intertwines gentle guitars, jazzy bass, and a rich string section together, which righteously crests at the end; and the final track, "New Wave," closes out the album as a serene ballad, primarily powered by acoustic guitars and enhanced with elegant backup vocal harmonies, synth swells and smooth bass. // 8

Lyrics: From the recurring themes of colors forming and reforming, to the "play one more song/until we are/disconnected" line in "Us vs. Them" and the dichotomizing response line "no more songs/just wrote them off/so one more time around it's all your fault" line in the following track "Tarot," the lyrical content in "Back to Oblivion" heavily alludes to Finch's perspective as a band examining their past, present, and future, nearly writing itself. "Back to Oblivion" symbolizes the band's choice to get back into the music scene and toasting to a future with high hopes (it's no wonder this was the first new song Finch ever performed when they reformed), but the most articulate take on the band's current outlook is in "Play Dead," where the verse "I shed my skin/this ghost within haunting all of my mind/but at the core/I've become something greater than more/as I transform" expresses their disconcerted view towards their past fall from grace as a band, but coming to terms with the fact that they'll move on from that for the better. However, Barcalow doesn't spend every moment on this subject, and for the non-conceptual lyrics, Barcalow shows a more positive side, which is a significant shift from the menacingly negative themes found in the predecessor, "SHTS." Barcalow shows more romantic narratives in "Murder Me" and "New Wave," as well as evident Christian undertones in "Further From the Few" and "The Great Divide." // 8

Overall Impression: History could very much repeat itself here, because "Back to Oblivion" is substantially different than "WIITB" and "SHTS" - even more of a contrasting case than the first time - and once again, that difference can yield an unsatisfied outcry, but just like that first time around retroactively being seen as a mistake on the outcrier's behalf, writing off "Back to Oblivion" for not being "What It Is to Burn, Pt. II" would be ill-conceived. Finch showing a desire to move forward with "Back to Oblivion" instead of making it a hollow rehashing of their beginning sound is a display of creative freedom that offers a valuable change. "Back to Oblivion" advances Finch's discography, being both a fresh new page and the most dynamic album of theirs, and whether it's seen that way, or seen as a flop due to it not digging up the energy back from the old Finch's grave, is up to how much the listener is willing to move forward with Finch. // 8

- Sam Mendez (c) 2014

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