Sound — 7
Volumes have had relatively short but somewhat controversial career. Starting off by riding the coat tails of the "djent" movement popularized by bands such as Periphery and Animals As Leaders, the band took a bit more of an Architects-esque metalcore direction with it, and admittedly, their first album, "Via", is an album I consider to be a sort of benchmark for metalcore. "No Sleep" would follow, and I honestly found it a bit boring in comparison to "Via", though critically, it was still a fairly well-received album. But the controversy would follow in the form of some rather offensive Tweets from vocalists Michael Barr and Gus Farias, Michael Barr being ejected from a venue for assaulting crowd members, and eventually leaving the band, while Farias would gain a reputation for failing to deliver on paid guest vocal spots. Despite all of this, the band would replace Barr with Bury Your Dead vocalist Myke Terry, and begin working on their third album, "Different Animals". "Feels Good" would be the first single, and it presented a bit more of a straightforward sound from the band, a kind of repetitive sound with Volumes' trademark bouncy guitar riffs, courtesy of guitarist Diego Farias, and new vocalist Myke Terry's clean vocals juxtaposed against Gus'. Rapper Pouya would make an appearance on second single "On Her Mind".
A bit of change has seemed to do the band some good, as the album's opening track, "Waves Control", is a really great track with a great riff that will make fans of Northlane take notice. When Myke Terry's clean vocals make their appearance, the track really takes a turn for the better, and it's because of this that the track is possibly one of the strongest on the album. After opening the record on a very high note, the album starts to reveal itself to be a bit more of a mixed deal. But while "No Sleep's" failing to me was that it just kind of seemed like more of the same with nothing exciting added, the fact that the band is spending more time experimenting has lead to some successes, like the groovy "Finite", which is reminiscent of the kind of sonic changes undertaken by Bring Me The Horizon on "That's The Spirit", but without losing any of Volumes' identity in the process. The modern pop influence actually works incredibly well on this track, and the theme continues on the aforementioned "Feels Good". "Disaster Vehicle" retains its aggression most of the way through the track, only opening up to something a bit more positive-sounding and major-key at the end where Diego takes a sort of "mini solo", which is actually a really interesting guitar part. "Pieces" is another sort of "pop-djent" tune, with another very strong chorus hook from Terry.
"Interlude" is a short electronic piece utilizing piano and Terry's auto-tuned vocals, but it's less than a minute long leading into "Hope", a track showing the band's profound hip-hop influence, with prominent rap verses and electronic beats juxtaposed with heavier choruses, and it's definitely one of the most melodic and interesting tracks on the album, even if it's a far cry from the same sound that brought us tracks like "Intake" and "Wormholes". "Tide's Change" is another brief interlude track, and a bit of an interesting change of pace for the band with acoustic guitars (in 7/4 time, no less) and keyboard and string sounds, kind of coming off as the album's "prog moment", leading into second single "On Her Mind", a definite throwback to the nu-metal days if I've ever heard one. The riff is instantly reminiscent of Limp Bizkit's "Break Stuff", with Pouya's rapping only serving to reinforce the comparison.
As always on the album, Myke Terry's performance is worthy of applause. And this is really the only point on the album where bassist Raad Soudani gets a decent amount of focus in the mix. Despite its incredibly short length, "Heavy Silence" packs a lot into its two-minute length, with a Karnivool-esque verse, followed by a much heavier chorus, and a pretty neat little breakdown riff. "Pullin' Shades" is another very strong tune, and probably the one that will remind listeners most of their material on "Via", with dense chords and strong melodies. Diego also takes a really nice harmonized solo, though it's a bit economical and short, it's still a great little guitar moment. "Left For Dead" closes the album in a similar fashion to "Waves Control", with full-on aggression and another Northlane-esque guitar riff (one has to wonder if the band has taken a fair amount of influence from them on their recent tour together).
While the album has a lot more variety than "No Sleep", and thus is not as boring as I saw that album to be, some of the songwriting feels a bit disjointed on the record, and it does seem that the band is stumbling through some of the stylistic changes. And by now, the whole rap-metal thing seems a bit "retro", leading some tracks to sound a little dated, not that the "djent" style really helps. But some of the experiments really work for the band, and I can't complain about the more Northlane-esque moments on the record. The production is also exemplary, with the album mixed well.
Lyrics — 7
It's clear from reading the lyrics of "Different Animals" that drug abuse is a persistent theme in the album's lyrics. Lyrics on this album can generally be split into the categories of "about heroin abuse" and "other". Opening track "Waves Control" wastes no time in getting the theme into gear right out of the gate: "Fuck it, why don't you just let me overdose?/I did it again, and woke up again/Tired of running from all these withdrawals, keep losing my friends/This might be my end/All of these drugs while I'm counting my ends/Fuck it I'm dead/Fuck it I'm dead inside/And now you know why". These lyrics generally set the theme for the rest of the album's lyrics, with one of the only deviations from the theme being the track "Disaster Vehicle", which generally has the theme of "fuck everything": "Fuck the system and its politics/All politicians are corrupt then quit/They all switch and they snitch/Just to benefit and get more rich/Its all bullshit and it ain’t no lie/Fuck the politics I'll burn that bridge/Yeah there’s a war on drugs/Yeah a war on love/Can’t tell me no cuz there’s a war on us/They kill these kids in the streets/Lock us all down and say we’re free/Open your eyes can't you see?". But the drug abuse themes are persistent throughout the album, particularly on first single "Feels Good": "I lit my last one then I fell asleep in slime/Work at my habits but the feel is so sublime/Ready to deploy, ready to exploit/Can't express my joy, my life I didn't destroy/I will not recoil, dope inside the foil/Problems I can't avoid, I can not employ/How's it look now/Standing with your eyes to the fire/I won't look down/Standing with my eyes to the light".
Gus Farias and Myke Terry are very opposite vocalists on much of the album, with Gus taking the role of the metalcore screamer, and he's got one of the better metalcore shouts I've heard, while Myke takes the melodic clean vocals, though he also does get a fair share of harsh vocals throughout the album as well. There are a few tracks where it seems the duality of these two vocalists is somewhat too extreme, particularly when the music behind matches the mood shift, as on the hip-hop inspired "Hope", but on tracks like "Pieces" and "Pullin' Shades", it works almost as well as it does on another dual-vocalist band I've recently reviewed (SikTh's "The Future In Whose Eyes?"). Although former vocalist Michael Barr did some rather admirable clean vocals on the band's first two records (particularly the track "Vahle" from "No Sleep"), Myke Terry really pulls the clean vocal weight much more than Barr did, and I generally prefer his cleans to Barr's, since they seem more versatile, working every bit as well in a more pop context as they do over the band's trademark riffs. I'd dare say his vocals are comparable to those of The Contortionist's Michael Lessard (who actually toured with Volumes briefly after Barr's departure), one of my favourite current metal vocalists.
Overall Impression — 7
With the change in vocalist and the ever-changing face of what's popular in metal these days, Volumes saw fit to experiment with their sound on "Different Animals". But more often than not, it's when the band does something in the vein of their core style that they seem to succeed. That said, the heavier emphasis on clean vocals and the simpler riffs and rhythms have led to a rather interesting album that's almost incomparable to their first two records. Certainly, the increased pop and hip-hop influence in some tracks will not be to every listener's tastes, and I expect a fair amount of varied reaction in the comments section below, but for me, this album is a far more interesting and engaging listen than "No Sleep", which often just seemed like "more of the same" to me, while this album is often surprising, and usually, the experiments the band tries actually work.
I think this is a case where even if you don't like the album at all, you have to admit that they definitely tried to do something different. And for my money, they pulled it off well enough.