Sound — 8
Back in 2012 I had discovered the band, For Today months before their first Warped Tour. I got a chance to watch their show, and meet them afterwards. I noticed how powerful their message was, and how they stood by their beliefs. Most of my respect towards some of the members of the band were thrown into the ground after hearing their ex-lead guitarist was against gay marriage, and quite frankly, Mattie Montgomery, their lead vocalist didn't do much, and was still basically siding with him. Back then, I was still sort of on the fence of whether or not I should support these guys, but recently, I came out as bisexual, around the time they had basically kicked out their rhythm guitarist because "he doesn't believe in the same God." See full statement from Sam here.
And apparently the only member who stuck by his side was Ryan, their lead guitarist/clean vocalist. So yeah, it's quite known that these guys are washed up, but with that bias aside, I am going to review this album. Already on their 6th full-length album in just 8 years, For Today return with what seems to be only a year and a half album cycle with almost each release, with the exception of "Immortal," and if "Fight the Silence" counts, but they also released an EP in between that time. From what I've noticed their first two albums, "Ekklesia" and "Portraits" showcased more of the face melting guitar riffs and scales, whereas, once "Breaker" was released they started to incorporate bass drops, but it wasn't until "Immortal" was released where they really pushed that. I still enjoy all of those albums, despite not really listening to these guys anymore. And yeah, they got rid of most of that technicality on those albums, but they still stuck to some cool riffs, and whatnot. The breakdowns were more present on "Immortal," especially, but it wasn't until last year's release; "Fight the Silence" where it seemed to have just been a breakdown fest, and even the songs in general seemed to have a little less meaning to them. Now currently signed with Nuclear Blast Records, on this new release, "Wake," from the studio updates I think they used nine string guitars for some of these songs. Not sure why that is needed though since they're not writing technical songs.
Starting with the first single on the album, "Broken Lens" is a clear indication that this band still enjoys incorporating breakdowns, and bass drops in their music, which is not a bad thing at all. The song itself has actually grown on me. There are a few nice riffs here and there, as well as the second single: "Forced Into Fire," but it's the opening track that's one of my favorites. After the first breakdown, I am reminded of riffage similar to The Ghost Inside. "Deserter," track number 4 starts off a bit slow, despite the tremolo picking going on. The effects are kind of reminiscent to "Silent Planet" (one of the bands who's actually opening for For Today on their current tour). Ryan's cleans vocals are some of the strongest in this song, but he has other moments where he shines even more. The last 4 songs on the album showcase it, but of course not nearly as much as the clean vocal driven "Bitter Roots." This is what some will say their version of Thrice's "Broken Lungs." It is easily the best song on the album, but it isn't even just because of Ryan. The way the guitars are played on a clean channel help enhance his vocals and keep the listener interested. But did you seriously think you would be able to listen to a full For Today song with zero screaming? It is just a little over a minute left when the drums start rolling through after Ryan sings with all of his power on the last note when the distorted guitar riffs, along with Mattie screaming. They have Mattie scream one line, go back into the clean channel with Ryan whispering softly then back to Mattie to scream another line, then repeat. They basically keep trading off after they do two lines, but the song ends with Mattie. The music video does an incredible job showcasing the art behind it.
Track #6, "Wasteland," starts off with what For Today fans would expect from older For Today songs. The scale licks roll in, and it doesn't stop really until the big breakdown later on in the song. Even then Ryan is holding down some cool notes before the breakdown begins with some sort of effect, even while the breakdown is being played by the rhythm guitarist. "Hopeless Ambition" is yet another song that has Ryan noodling at certain times, mainly during the chorus, but even then, there are some really tasty riffs throughout the song that make this one one of my favorites. "Determination" is easily a song that can be seen as one that got some inspiration from another band they're currently touring with; Gideon. The song structure, with the cool harmonics going on is mainly what reminds me of them. The next song, "Flooded Earth" is another song that really reminds me of Silent Planet. But it's mainly during the piano intro that lead into some of the riffs. It isn't until the 3:28 mark where I am more reminded of the intro riffs to "You Won't Be Missed" by Like Moths To Flames. "Time and Tide" is another huge gem on this album, while it is not one where Ryan shreds, he instead is put to the microphone with what seems like the perfect moment for a song to be played in church, or just any Christian setting. The bonus tracks are also very strong. "Two Brothers" once again sounds like something very reminiscent to Silent Planet, from the interesting tremolo picking in the background to some of the guitar riffs. The last song on the album, "Without You" has an atmospheric intro that also plays off as something Silent Planet would do. As for Mattie's vocals on this album, I can't really highlight anything because they are literally always golden, and it shows during their live shows. It may not be for everyone, but he has never had a misstep. If anything, the "hanging by a thread" part in "Broken Lens" is absolutely insane, but that's what most of the vocals sounded like on the first two albums.
Lyrics — 8
"No Truth, No Sacrifice" is a huge highlight on this album, especially lyrically:
"The weak, justify the actions of the weak.
There is no answer, in cancer you speak.
Sickness in the selfishness
A wolf in disguise hiding a bitter fire
Too afraid to look into his lifeless eyes
Lost inside a world built upon deception
The coward in the mirror is his own reflection."
"Broken Lens" is another clear cut example of some solid songwriting:
"On the verge of collapse,
Look through the cracks at world in decay.
Disoriented state where black and white turn to grey
Hanging by a thread.
Blurring the lines we define
Between the wrong and the right,
We're on the other side of the divide,
And it makes me sick to watch us die inside."
Just like on "Immortal," there are still some lyrics on this one that seem a little misinterpreted, at least when I read these ones from "Hopeless Ambition," they come off as negative to me: "Our idols are why we're broken," "All our heroes will fail us
Everyone will fall."
Overall, most of the messages on this album are basic, but still get the point across well.
Overall Impression — 9
After doing my end of the year list, For Today have made it to #16, at least so far, but I don't see anyone else being able to knock them out. There are a few more releases I am sort of looking forward to, but there isn't really any others I am expecting a lot from. With For Today, they exceeded my expectations tremendously after disappointing me with last year's release, "Fight the Silence." These guys may not be changing the game, but they still write some fresh material, and thankfully Mattie didn't rant that much at their show I just went to last week.