Released: Aug 12, 2016
Genre: Post-Hardcore, Metalcore
Number Of Tracks: 11
Though there are some good melodies and decent playing, "This Could Be Heartbreak" all feels a little too safe for a metalcore album.
This Could Be HeartbreakFeatured review by: UG Team, on august 27, 2016 3 of 4 people found this review helpful
Sound: In the sea of mediocre post-hardcore/metalcore bands flooding YouTube, Warped Tour, Ultimate-Guitar, and the like, it's becoming harder and harder for bands in the genre to stand out among their peers, and some bands seem to make no attempt at all. The Amity Affliction, on what is now their fifth album, certainly seems to be the kind of band that follows that trope to a T. Mixing pop-punk melodicism with metalcore chugging, pseudo-atmospheric electronic moments, and post-hardcore lyricism, the band checks off nearly every cliche in the metalcore handbook these days. Every note of this album is going to sound familiar, in an almost intangible sort of "where have I heard this before?" way.
This is the band's first album without long-time guitarist Troy Brady, leaving only relative-newcomer Dan Brown on guitar (joined by touring member Kyle Yocum on stage), and he actually does a fairly admirable job of playing on this record. Ahren Stringer (bass, clean vocals), Joel Birch (unclean vocals) and Ryan Burt (drums) complete the lineup, who have been on every album so far. The playing on this record is nothing to really gawk at, neither is it really something to complain about. The musicians seem fairly capable, though the lack of any real stand out moments for any of them does make that hard to judge.
The first song on the album, "I Bring the Weather With Me," gave me a bit of hope that the album wouldn't be completely terrible, with a lot of good (though woefully derivative) melodies, a captivating structure with a cool sort of symphonic/atmospheric bridge section, and a pretty decent solo. This momentum was not quite carried into the album's title track, which take a lot of those elements but turns them into a formula which you'll hear pretty much non-stop for the rest of the album. Blasts of down-tuned open-string chugging, major-key piano and clean guitars, pop-punk vocal melodies galore. The vocals seem to be a 50/50 mix of clean sort of pop-punk melodies and shouted harsh vocals throughout the record. The drumming is fairly decent throughout the record, though it's really hard to point out anything particularly special about this drummer. The bass... well, the frequencies are definitely there, but it's not the best mixing job I've ever heard for a bass player, so it's hard to judge the bass playing, though it feels for the most part it's just doubling the guitar parts.
As mentioned, the production is a bit muddy throughout the album, with too many of the bass frequencies coming through with almost no clarity. The layered guitar and synth and "string" parts use enough reverb that it sometimes overpowers the mix, and to be frank, sometimes the album just sounds like something an amateur recorded in their bedroom. This is something I find quite sad since producer Will Putney's portfolio also includes one of the best-produced progressive/metalcore albums I've heard in recent memory: Northlane's "Node," which sounded beautifully clean and simplistic while maintaining a huge amount of atmospheric sounds. // 6
Lyrics: The band promised an album that would be "deeply personal and emotional," and "This Could Be Heartbreak" does deliver a bit of that, though served up with a heavy helping of cliche and a sort of maudlin melodrama. A lot of the lyrics on the album sound like they have a lot of potential to be deep and heartfelt, but there's just something that's kind of intangible about them, a sort of "oh poor me" effect that usually ruins a lot of bands' lyrics (it's definitely not limited to The Amity Affliction, and even troubles a few bands I like). Case in point is the opening track, "I Bring the Weather With Me," which features this opening verse:
"It's time to lay my head down/I can hear the weeping song/There are sirens in the distance/As the church bells sound along/Mourning ushers in the rain/Clouds are heavy like their hearts/I sing to them their weeping song/Until their world is dark."
It's not bad, but this sort of depressive lyric remains pretty much the norm throughout the record. A lot of it is based around themes of crumbling relationships, suicidal thoughts, substance abuse. Even though the band does seem to attempt to make these topics sound deep, and there are ways of doing it, it just doesn't feel as if they hit the mark on that one for me.
The vocal tag-team of Joel and Ahren also feels a little off-kilter for me. Joel's harsh vocals are a bit too harsh for the music at times, and Ahren's are too clean and uplifting for the subject matter at hand. They're both fairly decent vocalists, but I just don't care much for the mix of them at all. // 6
Overall Impression: While there's a few shining moments on the record, such as the actually really good opening track, honestly, what kills this album for me is the writing. The performances are not bad at all, and there are some good moments peppered throughout the record, but the songs just feel like a distilled version of what modern sort of "mainstream" metalcore is supposed to be. They couldn't have played it any safer on this record if they'd tried. Many of the songs sound almost completely indistinguishable from one another (and you're going to hear that "major second - major third - root note" vocal melody in almost every. single. goddamn. song), and after about the third or fourth listen of the album, I stopped really checking on what song it was that was playing.
Now, it might be easy to criticize me as not being a fan of metalcore, and while the genre is not my preferred listening, I can definitely respect a lot of bands that also appear on the producer's and label's roster, like Northlane, whose "Node" album is one of the albums I ranked surprisingly highly last year, Glass Cloud, due to the genius guitar playing of Josh Travis, and Architects (RIP Tom Searle), whose discography I've started going through in earnest. While The Amity Affliction can definitely claim to having a lot of similar traits to these great bands, the songwriting and lyrics just seem to fall short.
That said, definitely check out the opening track, "I Bring the Weather With Me," because it's actually a really good song, and there's something about it that's a bit different from the rest of the album (and not just the fact that it has a pretty nice guitar solo), and if nothing else on this album is worth a listen, at least that song is a good piece of music. // 6