Sound — 9
For those who have been with St. Louis quintet Story of the Year since their humble beginnings, it is clear that the band have progressed quite a bit since debut album Page Avenue. Whereas Page Avenue was comprised mostly of punk rock guitars, and pop influenced lyrics, second album In the Wake of Determination saw SOTY distance themselves from the scene they created with harder riffs, harder vocals, and a harder sound. At a time when the music industry was plagued with finding the next Fall Out Boy sensation, it may have been down to the big aforementioned musical leap in such a small time period which denied SOTY the recognition they deserved. Now with their third release The Black Swan, Story of the Year have perfected their sound and have hit equilibrium. This is to say, they have created a balance in their sound in which fans of the poppier debut Page Avenue and fans of the rockier sophomore release In the Wake of Determination can both enjoy. The album kicks off with 'Choose Your Fate', a track which starts with 20 odd seconds of random political rants, after of which a huge, and I mean huge, metal-esque riff blasts it's way through the stratosphere and into your eardrums. Complete with grainy half shouted vocals, the track is a great start to the album, and a great track to mark the band's return with. Another song 'Angel in the Swamp' will quicken and slow the pace of your heart so erratically you'll be headbanging to a heart attack. Whilst there are heavy tracks on The Black Swan like opener 'Choose Your Fate' and 'Tell Me', there are also songs on the record which are somewhat reminiscent of the bands Page Avenue era ('Message To The World', 'The Antidote' and single 'Wake Up'). The Black Swan shows that Story of the Year have perfected their sound of being able to squeeze melodic, fist pumping, anthemic choruses out of the hard edged, tight guitar lines the band are known for.
Lyrics — 8
On the lyrical side of things, Dan Marsala has, if you like, grown up. Rather than singing about the typical topics of love, hate, and losses, he has focused on the politics and social issues of today. For example, on the roughed and rocked up song 'Cannonball', he sings We've never seen this kind of world; it's a warning to us all; we've never seen this kind of world; and I hope that we can stop this cannonball; stop this cannonball about the way we have shaped the worldly problems for humankind. Another somewhat political song is 'We're Not Gonna Make It which addresses the topic of racism: And with a whisper she mumbles through; I guess they just won't accept me and you; they see a difference in skin; but I thought that love was always true; who would have known. It is this variation in topics which makes The Black Swan such a thrilling listen. The clichd lines about lost love are replaced with lines that actually relate to the here and now of today. In this respect, Dan Marsala possesses a virtue that not many other lyricists out there have: the quality of being able to address modern situations without making the record sound too political.
Overall Impression — 9
From start to finish, The Black Swan is an overwhelming album. The riffs are overwhelming, the choruses are overwhelming, and in general the album is as close as you will ever get to top class post-hardcore music. With the perfect blend of heaviness and anthemic sing-along choruses, it's about time the world should WAKE UP; to the sound of this time bomb that is Story of the Year and realize that the St. Louis post-hardcore mob are a force to be reckoned with.