Sound — 7
"At Heart" certainly doesn't disappoint, but it also doesn't necessarily gather up any groundbreaking material. What most people probably expected from this new album of theirs is that they filled in the blanks from where "Monument" was left off of. What I'm trying to say is that "Monument" displayed some key major qualities of what great sounding metalcore is like, and I was really expecting "At Heart" to sort of continue off from there, but add a new sort of twist to it. Honestly, there was nothing quite new or special on this album with guitar work, in my opinion. I'm not saying it wasn't done well, but I was really expecting a lot more. I was expecting some in your face type material like they did with their first two albums. Not to mention I felt like the breakdowns were a little weak, and there really wasn't much involved with breakdowns on "At Heart." They kind of did it in their own way, which was a bit interesting. The clean vocals, and even the unclean vocals seemed, at times, just a little bit overdone. All vocals, overall just seemed a bit weak for me. I'll admit, they did mature a lot, and step a bit away from their previous material, and head towards maybe a new direction, but it's hard to say what they really want and try to do. They also didn't have Joey Sturgis work with them on producing the album this time. He has worked with many big time artists from the scene, like The Devil Wears Prada, We Came As Romans, Asking Alexandria, Of Mice & Men, and The Word Alive, since 2006, around when most of these bands started to evolve. In their first two albums, they had that sort of As I Lay Dying sound and feeling to it. "At Heart" sounds like a heavier Atreyu at times. The cleans definitely portray this.
Lyrics — 8
Aside from the basic artwork that reminds me of The Used's "Vulnerable," the lyrics were actually pretty well done on this album, in my opinion. They're much better than in their first two albums. I can hear the message that they're trying to make with some of these songs. Their lead single "Hey Mister," is telling a story of Levi (lead vocals), and how his father left him at a young age, or was just never there for him. I know I have never really had that sort of experience, but I can definitely see where he's coming from. Then in the last few lines of the song, Levi goes, "This is what I got, I don't need you anymore. This is what I got, I don't need you." I can't really narrow down any other songs that really impressed me with lyrics, but there was some cool moments in most of the songs. "Opening Wounds" had a cool sort of vibe to it. "Ballad of a Broken Man" also seemed to have that sort of feeling about Levi talking about his father. Levi throws out his words saying, "I regret the time spent together. I can't digest all the life that I've wasted. But holding on made me never want to hold another." Then about halfway through the song he puts forth, "I spit these words down your throat. You will hear what I have to say. A mouthful of hope I hope you choke. You will hear what I have to say. There's nothing left in me. You have sucked it out as you sucked me in. An empty, worthless man is all you left in your wake. You are just a part of my past. You are just a part of my past. This is an overdue goodbye. I fell where I must stay. This is an overdue goodbye. This is the end. This is the ballad of a broken man. This is goodbye." The message that song shows, just goes to show how much angst Levi has towards whoever he's sending this message to (probably his father).
Overall Impression — 7
When I first listened to this album, I really didn't know what to think of it at first. All of the songs kind of blended in towards each other, and that's where the problem was. None of the material is really worth it enough to listen to multiple times down the road. And with that being said, "Apologies Are for the Weak," and "Monument," displayed more of what kind of material that I'd be listening to more in the future. It's the type of pumping iron music that made those albums stand out a bit more to their fans. However, when I look at these 3 albums together from a lyrical standpoint, "At Heart" wins by ahead by miles. Their first two albums really did not stick out to me at all in that field, nor were there any memorable lines I could recall, besides their hit singles. This album matured all over, lyrically. And some of these songs, such as "Day by Day," "Hey Mister," and "Ballad of a Broken Man" are actually incredible anthems to see live. And yes, now that I've edited this section a bit more, I have now seen them live for the 2nd time recently, with Killswitch Engage headlining. An incredible show, I must say. Levi definitely has taken himself to a whole new high with his vocals and stage presence. Every other member had incredible stage presence as well, unlike what I saw 2011 Warped Tour. This album has a few anthems, while not as huge as songs like "Forgive and Forget," "Relentless Chaos", or "Masses of a Dying Breed", this album as a whole stands the test of time a bit more than their first two albums. And the reason is all because of one word: maturity. These guys will surely bring forth some amazing material in the future, because I think these guys are the next big band in the metalcore scene. Bring on the horns!