Sound — 7
Underoath drummer/vocalist Aaron Gillespie branched out almost five years ago in an effort to create The Almost, a side project that was a significant step away from the metalcore sound of his original band. The Almost follows more of a traditional pop rock sound, which certainly allows Gillespie's clean vocal skills to have more of a focus and deservedly so. The Almost has released two EPs since the initial full-length release (an impressive feat after only a few years' time), and some of the songs on those releases will now get a bit more attention by appearing on the band's second full-length album Monster Monster. It's not necessarily a groundbreaking album by any means, but the highlights do put Gillespie's songwriting skills in a positive light. The first few tracks of Monster Monster aren't the most effective in terms of grabbing listeners' attention, and in many ways they seem like every other stale pop-rock tune out there. The title track has somewhat of a punk sensibility, but the chorus although memorable doesn't pack the necessary punch. Lonely Wheel again follows a familiar pop format with the usual power chords, but there are some promising moments when guitarists Jay Vilardi and Dusty Redmon lay down lead lines to enhance the lackluster groundwork. Things pick up about halfway through when Gillespie and crew opt to experiment a bit more. Hand Grenade features more of an alternative country vibe, with the wise addition of steel guitar (played by Chris Scruggs and John Davis) that takes the arrangement to a new level of musicality. Want To is of the few songs on the album that focuses on more of a rock sound rather than pop, and it doesn't hurt to have a huge, memorable chorus. Summer Summer is a pensive, but effective offering, with one of the highlights being a beautiful piano outro played by Josiah Holland. Oddly enough, the most stripped-down track of the bunch, Monster (not to be confused with the other track Monster Monster), is also the best on the new CD. Every other track relies on a big power chord transition, but the players in The Almost restrain themselves until the very last moments. Several verses go by with only vocals and an acoustic, which is enhanced by some incredible blues licks. The whole band does enter into the picture in the last minutes, there has been a big enough build-up to the crescendo.
Lyrics — 7
Although the band is labeled as a Christian band, the themes within Monster Monster are primarily about human relationships that anyone can relate to regardless of your faith. Most of the tracks discuss the importance that a particular individual has had on the songwriter's life, which means that you're going to be hearing more emo-driven lyrics. Whether in No I Don't (I've got another song in me; Because of you, I'm changing; I'm learning how to wait; Ugly as I could have been) or Souls On Ten (You've changed my mind; About who I've been; You've kept this heart; From wondering am I alive or dead), there is plenty of content devoted to people evolving emotionally. Some of the songs do tend to blend together in terms of their lyrical construction, but the message on the whole is positive one.
Overall Impression — 8
Monster Monster won't blow you away from start to finish with its musical innovation, but there are high points along the way. Gillespie, who had to take on drumming duties on this record as well, has a keen sense of melody and that is the band's driving point. While some of the tracks do broach on being too familiar or mundane, The Almost make up for it when they venture into unfamiliar territory in Hand Grenade. After hearing the final track Monster (which is a 180-degree switch from the opener Monster Monster), The Almost would probably benefit from releasing a full-length album filled with only acoustic material.