Sound — 7
For its fourth studio album The Constant, Story of the Year has dabbled in more unique styles, sounds and most distinctly guitar effects along the way, and those fresh musical choices do represent the most engaging moments on the 11-track CD. The St. Louis natives don't take their creative urges far enough, however. There is no shortage of big, catchy choruses, of course, and for many listeners out there that is all that is needed. But if you're looking for Story of the Year to venture into new territory, you'll likely find The Constant is lacking in groundbreaking material. The first track The Children Sing is reminiscent of the latest 30 Seconds To Mars record, primarily because a choir as this particular title suggests, one composed of children is added to enhance various sections. While the children aren't overused to the extent where it gets annoying, it does become apparent throughout the CD that the band is fond of choir and/or chanted choruses. The Children Sing, like most of the tracks, also revolves around the consistently satisfying guitar work of Ryan Phillips and Philip Sneed. The duo's licks might not be technically awe-inspiring, but the groove-driven style is often the highlight of many tracks. Effects and whammy bars are essential elements to many moments on The Constant, with the tracks Won Threw Ate, Eye For An Eye, and To The Burial being standouts. While Story of the Year is often associated with the post-hardcore genre, in many ways To The Burial draws from more of an 80's metal vibe. From the effects to the larger-than-life guitar solo, it hearkens back to the days when guitar gods ruled the airwaves (or at least MTV). When Phillips and Sneed do experiment with wacky intros or whammy-heavy solos, it's still surprisingly satisfying. The most aggressive instances arrive in the songs Won Threw Ate and Eye For An Eye, which deliver a gruffer vocal style, meaty chords, and powerhouse percussion. Those songs provide a much-needed contrast to the mellower offerings like the introspective Remember A Time and the piano ballad Holding On To You. While Story of the Year has a good grasp on creating a pleasing chorus, at times that also means things get a bit too predictable and stale.
Lyrics — 7
The 11 tracks on The Constant tend to revolve around fairly standard themes, but the band does try to include intriguing descriptions. I'm Alive features lines such as, In this graveyard I'm calling home; Carved into the stone; A diary of broken bones. The song To The Burial also paints a vivid picture with the lyrics, That stone bleeds admiration; Black hands and eulogy; In the face of devastation. You might draw the conclusion that Story of the Year gets tied up in darker themes, but most of the tracks do tackle familiar concepts like love and the state of the political world.
Overall Impression — 7
The Constant is all in all an enjoyable album between Dan Marsala's impressive harmonies and Phillips/Sneed's impressive riff work. There is nothing too out of the ordinary musically, except for perhaps a tiny bit of effects experimentation within the tracks Eye For An Eye and Won Threw Ate. For the majority of the album the band does take the safe road musically, and while it's not a very interesting career step, it won't alienate any of the established fan base.