Sound — 9
Call it maturity. Deem it a new creative venture. Perhaps personal struggles. You can come up with plenty of explanations behind Sum 41's latest musical transition, but one thing is certain: They have gone the way of Green Day and My Chemical Romance. Listening to the latest record Screaming Bloody Murder, it's hard to even connect the music to the same band that wrote the catchy, feel-good Fat Lip back in 2001. The pop punk label is quickly being eradicated by a much more suave, musically diverse production than ever before a wise move on the band's part if their peers' success is any indication. There are really no tracks on the 14-song Screaming Bloody Murder that could even be considered fun, which might be a troublesome thing if there weren't so many well-written offerings on the record.
You can certainly make assumptions that the new songs are in some way inspired by frontman Deryck Whibley's divorce from Avril Lavigne in 2009 (particularly because her new album is also more mellow/emotionally charged than ever), but the changes to Sum 41's sound are much more than lyrically thematic. The arrangements could be deemed epic in many aspects, with quite a few featuring an eclectic assortment of musical sections and tempo changes all in the course of one song. Piano is utilized often, with a song like Crash basically showcasing that instrument and the vocals only. Even Skumfuk which could have easily been an in-your-face, brash song because of the title ends up being a piano-heavy, emotionally heavy song that goes up and down in intensity.
Sum 41 does briefly delve into more punk territory with Time For You To Go, but don't expect to find any sort of happy-go-lucky themes. That track and the other few songs that prominently feature heavy riffage are filled with venom rather than playfulness. At another end of the spectrum you have Baby You Don't Wanna Know, which relays a vibe similar to Oasis or The Vines. The bulk of the tracks do feel like they are cut from the same cloth as My Chemical Romance's The Black Parade, which is not a terrible thing, particularly given the accolades that MCR received.
Lyrics — 8
While Green Day or MCR delivered a bevy of thought-provoking, often politically charged lyrical content, Sum 41 does tend to stick with topics of the heart. There are an assortment of love-gone-wrong tracks, whether Whibley begs for answers in What Am I To Say (How could you be the better part of me; When we're only half of what we used to be today; Could you see this isn't what we need; And I'm leaving all the pieces how they fell) or finding peace in Exit Song. The musical diversity and creativity on Screaming Bloody Murder in the end act as needed distractions from the multiple songs that deal with heartache.
Overall Impression — 9
If you ever wanted to know if Deryck Whibley has a solid singing voice behind the rapping/talking style he has become synonymous with over the years, your answer awaits on Screaming Bloody Murder. Whibley is actually a quite engaging vocalist who has proven himself to be capable at both an abrasive and gentile delivery. The softer side of Whibley absolutely dominates the new record, so don't expect an album full of tracks like Underclass Hero because you will be sadly disappointed. The good news is that Sum 41's latest musical direction is handled seamlessly, and Whibley deserves extra credit for producing such a multifaceted album. Yes, you can't help but think that in some way they are following a bit too closely behind MCR or Green Day, but Sum 41 has proven it isn't too shabby at tackling an epic composition or two.