Sound — 9
As far as overall sound goes, the band has remained somewhat true to the tones of their last two records, which makes this album great for both new and old SOTY fans. 01. Choose Your Fate - after a short sample of various political speeches etc. this song explodes into a heavy-as-f--k almost not SOTY-ish intro, it then carries into a well put together, musically diverse song that sets the tone for the whole album. Bringing the changes in the band right up to your face. 02. Wake Up - the bands first single off The Black Swan, it has a very Until The Day I Die tone, that said it still sticks with the bands new sound. Classic SOTY. 03. The Antidote - with an electronica-esk intro, this track once again reminds us that this is not the same old Story Of The Year, whilst still keeping all of their trademark energy and melody. Of Special note is the solo at 2:27, a little irate, but none-the-less fitting for the song. 04. Tell Me - another powerful track on the disc. Tell Me begins with the sounds of marching soldiers and drums, with an almost medieval riff layered on top. This song is the perfect example of Dan Marsala's impeccable ability to write a catchy-as-hell chorus. A very infectious song. 05. Angel In The Swamp - again with a flat 5 driven intro riff, this song holds a more sombre tone, but don't be fooled, the chorus is driving and fast as well as the ever faster punk influenced outro which creates a diversity and excitement almost unheard of from this band. 06. The Black Swan - the title track, it's everything you'd expect, detuned riffs, layers of delays, a very familiar fast/slow distortion/clean arrangement. Another great track, showing these guys know what works for them. 07. Message To The World - begins with a very 'Eye Of The Tiger' feel, this is definitely one of the more anthemic songs on the album, note the solo at 2:40. There's Not much more to say, it comes across a bit like a filler track, though still serves it's purpose getting their message across (pun intended). 08. Apathy Is A Death Wish - this track has a bit more of a proggy feel, the main riff sounds reminiscent of a simpler BTBAM. This theme runs on again in the final stages of the song. Apart from that it's more or less your stock standard melodic and powerful SOTY track. 09. We Are Not Gonna Make It - has a great uplifting feeling to it, contrary to the title, the intro solo is definitely fitting for the track. Another infectious chorus lies within this song coupled with some very creative use of delays in the verses makes for a great anthem/sing-a-long track. 10. Cannonball - another step out to the box for the boys, showing how they've grown as musicians, the riffs have a very modern metal feel, whilst still not taking away from their trademark sounds and feeling. Another blistering solo hides deep within this track which once again see Ryan jumping right out of the pop-powerchord stereotype forced upon him. 11. Terrified - far more mellow than the rest of the album, this was the one everyone was expecting, feeling very similar to 'Sidewalks' Terrified is a great example of these guy's ability to write a damn good song. Catchy, full of feeling this'll definitely get the lighters out in a live arena. 12. Pale Blue Dot - a powerful sampled interlude marking the beginning of the end of The Black Swan, without going into to much detail it outlines the basic insignificance war and triumph hold in the grand scheme of things. 13. Welcome To Our New War - feeding straight from the interlude, the intro has a very Mark Tremonti (in his Creed days) feel to it. That gets discarded quite quickly, replaced with some fast-as-hell riffing from Phil and Ryan, strong vocals on this track make it all the more powerful. The chorus sounds a little like I've heard it somewhere before, but non-the-less the song remains strong. The bridge/interlude of this song is almost indescribable, it has an epic feel to it letting you know this is really the end. Laced with crazy technical guitar layers, it almost feels like the guys are showing off for the sake of it, and that does not, at all, take away from the feeling of the song. An excellent ending to an excellent album. The only real issue I've had with the sound of this record, is some of the choruses begin to sound the same as you listen through the songs. That's not to say they sound bad, just a little overused. All in all a very strong showing for Story Of The Year.
Lyrics — 10
The vocals on this album were, at first, not recognizable, I found myself saying "Is this really Story Of The Year?" for the first minute or so of 'Choose Your Fate'. Dan has made some real dynamic changes to his vocal style for this record, mostly in his screaming range. It is far more powerful and angry sounding as opposed to his old angst ridden, very common, style. His clean vocals have remains very much the same, perhaps a little less in the high register, working a lot more on the melody and fullness of his lines rather than the raw power. The lyrics over the record stay very much inline with the 'politically' aligned record they set out to make. Focusing on everything from family politics to war and international issues. Dan really has shown his diversity through this, proving that not all of his songs are about girls. A worthy side note is the part Phil Sneed played vocally. His backing is far more pronounced than previous records, really giving him a chance to show off his pipes. Overall the vocal style and lyrics on the album have taken a step in the right direction as far as I'm concerned. Now to take it to the stage.
Overall Impression — 10
This album was far more than I expected from Story Of The Year. I hit play expecting some very 'In The Wake Of Determination' type stuff to come pounding out. I was blown away by the diversity and power they've shown through the new record. Most notably Ryan's solos, as a guitarist I've been waiting far to long to witness him really opening up as a player. Anyone who's already into the band will love this record and I highly recommend buying it. Anyone who's looking to get into a powerful, catchy, melodic and all round kick-ass band should certainly have a look at this new release for your fix.