Sound — 8
At face value, it seemed a bit odd for Landon Tewers to start a metalcore side-project, The Plot In You (originally named Vessels), when his main music gig with Before Their Eyes was also a metalcore band. But this side-project was always more about being an outlet for Tewers' dark lyrical concepts rather than trying out different music styles. After the success of the project's debut EP, "Wife Beater," Tewers left Before Their Eyes and made it his main project, signing with Rise Records to release The Plot In You's debut album, "First Born." Not only being solely composed and produced by Tewers, the album's concept about a boy growing up in an abusive home may or may not have been a roman à clef to some degree. The Plot In You's follow-up album, "Could You Watch Your Children Burn," showed seldom changes - though it took a step away from the borderline deathcore area treaded upon in "First Born," it was still the expected output of breakdown-dependent metalcore, and though the lyrical matter was equally harrowing, its lack of concept made the portrayed anger feel baseless by comparison.
Those aforementioned elements are elaborated upon substantially in The Plot In You's new album, "Happiness in Self Destruction," where Tewers strives to intertwine the two. Appealing back towards a concept-based album, Tewers as a songwriter grows further from simply throwing down another single-course meal of metalcore, and instead, widens his palette of sounds to articulate an arc of oscillating emotions throughout the album. Songs of stark rage that are built of extra-crunchy guitars (like "Living Your Dream"), noisy glitch riffs (like "Mind Controlled"), unnerving string-bends (like "Hole in the Wall") and unrelenting breakdowns (like "Die Like Your Brothers") are often followed up by songs portraying tired and desperate self-loathing, heard in the morose synths that decorate "Dear Old Friend" and "Pillhead," as well as the spatial, reverb-heavy guitars in "A Song About Myself" and "Forgive Me," which are then followed up by pensive uplifters like the melodic metalcore cuts of "Take Me Away," "Better Vibes" and "Time Changes Everything."
However, the biggest sonic element that drives the emotional journey of "Happiness in Self Destruction" is Tewers' voice. Going beyond his regular performance of guttural growls of anger and melancholic topline singing, Tewers uses a brooding style of semi-harsh singspeak to paint his simmering negativity, which comes off akin to Daryl Palumbo in songs like "Pillhead," "A Song About Myself" and "Washed Up," as well as coming off more unhinged like Corey Taylor's type of growling singspeak in "Die Like Your Brothers." Tewers also uses a gentler, fragile vocal style to accentuate the depressed moments (heard in "Dear Old Friend" and the closing acoustic ballad "Happiness in Self Destruction"), as well as to act as a low point to later make a phoenixian ascent of pensive healing (heard in the melodic uplifters "Better Vibes," "Time Changes Everything" and "Forgive Me").
Lyrics — 8
Whereas the fictional concept of an abusive childhood in "First Born" may or may not be directly inspired by Tewers' own childhood, the concept of drug addiction that spans throughout "Happiness in Self Destruction" is as open and undoubtedly personal as can be, acting as Tewers' own kind of "Heroin Diaries." Tewers' confessionals span from anecdotes of reckless indulgence (heard in the eulogizing "Happiness in Self Destruction" and the shame-laden "Pillhead") to the tandem low points of addiction deteriorating his life (heard in the symbolic solitary confinement of "Hole in the Wall" and the lust for atonement in "Dear Old Friend").
With his own experiences, Tewers also addresses the social circles he used to be a part of with disgust and rage; from his former junkie friends who continue in their degeneracy in "Die Like Your Brothers" ("It's not my fault that you have no self-control and you're blind") and "A Song About Myself" ("It's technically my fault / For letting things go and giving you second chances"), as well as sneering at a certain someone who wished Tewers to fail as an aspiring musician during his drug-fueled days in "Living Your Dream" ("You called me a dead man / You said I'll never fucking make it to this point"). Tewers' resentment towards this old company goes hand in hand with his desire to rid entirely of his self-destructive lifestyle of before, but he ultimately admits his struggle to stay clean for good is internal, heard in "My Old Ways" ("I'm trapped in my old ways / Can't seem to break free from anything / 'Cause this is all I've ever known") and the owning up to regression in "Forgive Me" ("Believe me / I won't stay / Away from everything that's killing me").
Overall Impression — 8
Not just being a rousing return to concept-based songwriting for The Plot In You, "Happiness in Self Destruction" shows overall advancement for Tewers and the band. With its richer and more personal concept, the way The Plot In You bring it to life on the album is much more elaborate compared to the likes of "First Born," from covering a wider array of sonic vibes, to Tewers directly taking the reins of the emotional narratives with his own nuanced vocal performance. Its near-hour runtime can be daunting, but the new tricks shown throughout "Happiness in Self Destruction" easily make it the most captivating album by The Plot In You thus far.