Sound — 7
We heard it first from bands such as Zao, soon to carry the torch to Underoath then soon to be carried to Demon Hunter, Norma Jean, and As I Lay Dying (unfortunately, they used the Christian tag to make money), and soon after Solid State and Facedown Records seemed to have gathered a plethora of bands on their rosters. Every 2-3 years more and more bands kept emerging within the scene, but nowadays, if anything, it seems as if this tag has been dying out. I mean, who are the biggest Christian metalcore bands nowadays now that As I Lay Dying, (I think) Underoath, and now For Today have left us? The Devil Wears Prada, blessthefall and August Burns Red are huge bands for sure, but other than that, most bands are on a lesser known scale, like the way For Today, Haste The Day or Demon Hunter are.
Anyways, I only bring this up because what does this mean for some of the newcomers like this album I'm about to review? I bring forth to you one of the fairly new bands who have emerged from the scene a little while back. Four albums in now, it's kind of pointless to say that they're that new to the scene anymore. While their sound hasn't changed THAT much since their debut album, "Descendants," they've also grown a ton vocally. The band picked up new clean vocalist/bassist, Ryan Tuck O'Leary back in 2014 and released "Slave to Nothing." Ever since I heard that album and followed Bobby (their guitarist) on Facebook I couldn't help but have high expectations for their future releases.
So instead of expanding their sound from what "STN" had to offer they instead listened to the majority of their fan base and went back to playing a billion breakdowns to sound "heavy" again. I'm not saying their early material is bad, but nothing quite stood out to me. Also, they got a pretty solid clean vocalist too so I thought they'd end up using him more on future releases. Not so much the case on this album though. It seems like this time around they decided to use him in bits and segments and have Bobby doing the back up screams. At least this is the case for "We Are All Lost," which really came out well to me. The instrumentation, regarding the riffs, and chugs definitely do resemble Parkway Drive and The Amity Affliction. Towards the end of the song is when it really resembles those bands though. Speaking of which, the track after ("Unclaimed, Unloved") also resembles this.
The other song where Bobby does back up screams well are in "Disease," which also feature some of the best vocals on the entire album. Leave it up to Ryan Kirby to earn the award for best all around vocalist in metalcore. The sad part is I basically just named off the only highlights regarding the instrumentals on this entire album. "Cold Room" has some neat riffage though. Every other song (aside from the title track, which I will talk about) seem to follow the same format of having chugged riffs and breakdowns during the verses, and power chords during the choruses. "The End's Beginning," which is an intro that leads into lead single titled "Pissed Off" does sort of do well, but again, it's pretty generic, if you ask me.
At the same time, I'm a bit torn on "Pissed Off," and I might as well mention "Stacked Bodies" here while we're at it. When both of these songs play the same riff over and over again, how in any way is this unique? I know, I've basically beaten a dead horse here with the amount of times I've mentioned how annoyed I am with the instrumentals, but to do this based off of having an easier and funner time within a live setting is honestly a bit sad. I have seen a number of bands, and there's quite a few technically proficient ones who have a great amount of energy still. But let's not get too off topic here. In general, "Pissed Off" is memorable because of the epic breakdown, whereas "Stacked Bodies" is more memorable because Levi Benton (vocalist of Miss May I) has a feature on it. Speaking of which, "Dead Memory" has a Jake Luhrs (vocalist of August Burns Red) feature as well, and he honestly made the song a bit more interesting, but the breakdown just sounds so rehashed. The beginning of the song Ryan has this black metal-esque driven vocal that really moves the song to get to where it wants to.
As for Tuck on the other songs, I noticed how he sounds much better on this album, as I think he had a vocal coach to help him out. Sad part is he really wasn't used as often as I had liked. "Shadows & Echoes," "Unclaimed, Unloved" and the title track seem to be the highlights from him. It's the title track that really stands out though. The tuning they play in on it is in Drop F, which I honestly think works better for them. Not that the song is technical at all, but it's got a cool ambient vibe that resembles a bit of Northlane, and Invent, Animate. Other than that, the only other interesting instrumentals come from the effects in "Disease" and "More Than Nameless."
Lyrics — 8
It may seem a bit clichéd, but the band decided to ask their fans on social media what topics they should cover on this album. So the main topics range from substance abuse to loss. I just think the beauty behind music is being able to interpret what the artists themselves came up with from scratch and have us think about what the song is about. In "Pissed Off," the lyrics get political so maybe that's why the song is more heavy breakdown oriented to go along with the lyrics:
"Everyday is another war
We live and die in a hopeless world
Laying waste to the innocent
With no regret, I'm sick of it
We create, we destroy
The descendants blade
Will pierce the flesh
We attack and deploy
We are slaves to nothing
But the wars that we fight
It's never ending
The carnage that we see on our TV screens
It's never ending
The hate that tears this world apart
It's never ending
This is just the beginning"
I'm not 100% sure what "Disease" is about, but I like these lyrics a lot:
"The demons rip into my chest
Extracting a disease, we spent years trying to suppress
Constricting veins, bloodshot eyes
Hell has come to claim its prize"
In "More Than Nameless," Ryan takes on a King 810/The Plot In You vocal style, which really goes along with the lyrics well:
"I've been spit on, I've been cast away
I am more than decay
You'll never hold me down
Rise up. I'm not nameless"
Overall Impression — 6
Overall, I have quite a bit of mixed thoughts on this album. While it may not win any awards, especially instrumentally, they also have some of the best vocals in all -core related music in general. I just think that there's still a ton of room for improvement as it seems they have taken a step back a bit, instrumentally on this album. I'm not saying everything has to sound technical, but when a number of other bands are doing the same thing then you're not doing yourself any good. Bands such as The Devil Wears Prada and Norma Jean have changed up their sound, not even necessarily making themselves more technical, but more refined. Let's hope FFAK can do the same one day.