Sound — 6
Yet another band that came to popularity during the metalcore boom of the late noughties, The Ghost Inside are more apt to don the "melodic hardcore" tag rather than the more polarizing "metalcore" tag. While they've drawn criticism from more bona fide hardcore rockers like Scott Vogel of Terror, it's more or less a "tomato-tomahto" situation at this point, with the band combining blistering double-time verses with, yes, done-to-death breakdowns. Nevertheless, The Ghost Inside have steadily climbed up in the ranks since their 2008 debut album, "Fury and the Fallen Ones," but recent years have shown the band take a sizable boost in prominence - not only recruiting Andrew Tkaczyk, former drummer and co-mastermind of For The Fallen Dreams, in 2011, they would also sign to the ever-popular Epitaph Records to release their third album, "Get What You Give," which was also produced by A Day To Remember's frontman Jeremy McKinnon. All those elements proved a winning recipe, and "Get What You Give" became the best-selling album of The Ghost Inside's catalog thus far.
With that success, it comes as no surprise that The Ghost Inside wasted little time to make their next album, "Dear Youth," in order to ride the momentum, but it also comes as no surprise that with keeping all the same elements, the album feels very similar to their previous ones. There are the more enjoyable melodic hardcore/metalcore hybrid tracks that The Ghost Inside have nailed down to a tee ("Avalanche," "Move Me," "Dear Youth (Day 52)"), where the fleeting tempos have Tkaczyk show off his drumming skills. They also get letlive's frontman Jason Butler to contribute a verse on the more-hardcore-than-metal track "Wide Eyed," though the track's sincere melodic hardcore demeanor gets sullied with an unnecessary breakdown at the very end of the song. The full-stop metalcore stretch of "Out of Control," "With The Wolves," and "Mercy" is expectedly bland, though the relatively active melody that carries the first verse and breakdown of "The Other Half" makes for a better metalcore cut.
The few cases where The Ghost Inside step out of the comfort zone, even if it may not be that far out, end up having the band go in the opposite direction of their penchant for speed and appreciating the slower side of the spectrum, which provides some much-needed dynamics for "Dear Youth." The melody-rich metalcore ballad "Phoenix Flame" manages to be the proper palate cleanser after the chugfest stretch of the three tracks prior, and "My Endnote" has The Ghost Inside wielding a sound thicker and sludgier than ever before, which also contains the heaviest and most satisfying breakdown on the album. These steps that differ from the band's norm are necessary and help the album from being irredeemably stale, but for the most part, the lot of material on "Dear Youth" is stuff already heard from The Ghost Inside before.
Lyrics — 5
"Dear Youth" is frontman Jonathan Vigil's first attempt at crafting a conceptual set of lyrics that span throughout the album, and, as indicated by the album title, is based on the idea of Vigil writing messages to his past self. In the grand scheme of things, there's meant to be a duality with this correspondence: present-Vigil wants to give past-Vigil words of premonition and support to help past-Vigil live his life better (like in "Out of Control," "With the Wolves," "Wide Eyed" and "The Other Half"), but also wants past-Vigil's more ambitious and optimistic spirit to help himself through struggles he's currently going through (like in "Mercy," "Phoenix Flame" and "Dear Youth (Day 52)"), which ultimately leads to the final intertwining of mentalities in "Blank Pages."
But perhaps because this is his first attempt at a whole-hog concept or perhaps because multi-linear timelines are not an easy concept to wield with perfection, it doesn't run all that smooth. In some cases, present-Vigil writes to past-Vigil with the intent to immediately get his message heard in whatever moment past-Vigil is in, whether to give him advice or to ask him for advice; and in other cases, present-Vigil writes to past-Vigil in notes that he intends past-Vigil to eventually stumble upon when he reaches that point in time naturally (like in "Move Me" and "My Endnote"). The more you try running a fine-tooth comb through the concept, the more confusing it gets, and at face value, the lyrics aren't as cumbersome. But even at face value, Vigil ends up tripping up in messages: in "Move Me," he tells past-Vigil "not to be burdened by the things I've done," essentially a message about caring about the future, but then reverts his stance later on in "The Other Half," with the polar opposite message, "Measure my worth by what I've done, not what I've become."
Overall Impression — 5
There's a chicken-and-egg paradox with "Dear Youth" in what it tries to bring forth as a new album - perhaps the safe route in its sound was to balance out the ambitious-but-flailing attempt at a concept album, or perhaps the concept in the album was meant to enhance the more-of-the-same batch of songs here. Either way, the album only manages to achieve an adequate stagnancy; not being better than or worse than what The Ghost Inside have done before. This stay-the-course mentality of "Dear Youth" may likely be enough to satiate the band's fans this time around, but if The Ghost Inside continue to dwell in their compositional echo chamber for every new album, things can, and will, only get staler.