Sound — 9
Churning out punk anthems with this level of regularity is no mean feat. On "In Desolation" Off With Their Heads epitomise the sound of modern punk at it's peak. Truth be told, it would be false to claim that each of the 12 tracks on this album have their own individual charm; at least half of them can be mistaken for another, but this in itself is the album's charm. Sticking firmly to one sound, and one desolate story Off With Their Heads have created a proper rock album here, not merely a collection of songs. There's nothing remotely innovative about the music, it's power chords, power vocals, power lyrics... Punk, basically. But maybe that's why it is so very good, because few other bands do punk this way any more; it's heartfelt and raw and ultimately anthemic. I have never seen this band live but I would bet good money they are awesome, the choruses to "Trying To Breathe" and "Clear The Air" in particular are begging for massive audiences. Whilst power chords form the basis of the music here, guitar solos and more interesting riffs are also included, which at times is essential to ensure the songs aren't all ultimately the same. On top of this, some impressive bass variations are present, to the point where it is almost reminiscent of Anti-Flag. "My Episodes" is the one quieter break on the album, a lovely, honest admittance of personal issues, with a romantic twist. This makes the perfect premise for "Clear The Air", the best end to a punk album I can remember.
Lyrics — 9
"ZZYZX" is the fourth song on "In Desolation" and lyrically covers the whole album's theme, summarised wonderfully in the line "I'll find myself or you'll find me dead." There is not much to say about the album lyrically other than the lyrics deal with the theme of being, aptly, in desolation. The way the lyrics are delivered though is crucial, Ryan Young's throaty, rasping vocal style perfectly compliments the lyrics and indeed the music. Backing vocals also have a key part to play, most evident in "Clear The Air" where the "God dammit I'm falling apart" refrain is accented perfectly by the backing "woah"'s. The excellent use of vocal layering whilst remaining raw and honest ensures that the powerful lyrics are conveyed with real meaning and intensity.
Overall Impression — 9
This is actually only Off With Their Heads' second album, but it speaks with such maturity that you would think that maybe they've been around for decades. One concern for me would be as to where the band will go from here. I have not heard the whole of their first album, but the bits I have heard have been much the same as this. If a third album of this type of material were to come out in a few years, Off With Their Heads may well stagnate. Nevertheless, "In Desolation" is everything you want from a punk album. It has power, it has meaning, it has big choruses and it thoroughly engages you; you want to know if the persona escapes their cycle of desolation following the album's ambiguous but fantastic ending. I not only highly recommend you buy this album, but you buy into this band. This is a punk band to believe in.