Review Summary: Cold's swan song album is rife with bland lyrical themes and incredibly awful instrumentation, clearly showcasing how much ex-members Balsamo and Hayes meant to the band's make-up.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
A Different Kind of Pain
is Jacksonville quintet Cold's swan song, an unfortunate showcase of the band's nose dive from its widely-acclaimed style of dark, brooding hard rock to an album that's completely stripped of any musical ingenuity. Gone are the eerie, haunting guitar lines, thunderous bass, and vibrant percussion that represented Cold at their best on 13 Ways to Bleed On Stage
and, to a lesser extent, Year of the Spider
. Instead, the instrumentation is mediocre at best. Instead of interesting licks and dynamic lead parts that played over a solid rhythm section, there are hardly any noticeable differentiating characteristics between the lead and rhythm guitar. The bass and percussion - two fundamental elements of Cold's rhythm section - have gone from staunchly stalwart to unfathomably weak. Instead, A Different Kind of Pain
is comprised of strictly power chords and root notes and the differences between the rhythm and lead guitars are minimal.
How can a band that once prided itself on brilliant guitar and rhythm sections become so generic? The answer lies in who's executing the music: both Terry Balsamo (Evanescence) and Kelly Hayes (Allele) - the guitarist duo responsible for the poignant passages found on the band's two previous albums - are noticeably absent. As a result, the entire band - not just the guitarists - suffers greatly. The new guitarists are frontman Scooter Ward, who played guitar on Cold's self-titled album before Balsamo joined the band, and Matt Loughran, who used to play with Scooter, bassist Jeremy Marshall, and drummer Sam McCandless in post-grunge outfit Grundig. Neither have been exceptional guitarists, and it becomes mordantly obvious that they cannot write a song without relying on anything but power chords. As a result, Marshall is damned to playing root notes in frail support, and McCandless' creativity has seemingly expired as well. Ultimately, A Different Kind of Pain
's instrumentation is dreadfully homogeneous.
Scooter Ward does deserve an immense amount of credit for improving his vocals considerably and implementing the piano more often on the album. In between albums, Scooter checked himself into rehab and cleaned himself up; afterwards, his voice was no longer gravelly or gruff, and he decided to use the piano more on A Different Kind of Pain
after tinkering around with it after his stint in rehab. The title track best highlights the piano's beauty on the album. These two changes definitely bolster the album's listenability, but they're not enough to make the album remotely memorable.
But Scooter isn't exactly this album's savior - his clean vocals have drastically improved, but his lyrics are uninspiring, as if to match the tapered-off instrumentation. This is surprising and ultimately disappointing because he has manifold themes he could sing about - his sister, who was diagnosed with cancer, is one of many examples - but instead the frontman opts for the tired theme of love and his new-found faith. There are a couple exceptions - the soldier anthem When Angels Fly Away
and the beautiful hurricane metaphor found in Anatomy of a Tidal Wave
are two such examples - that are very well-written. However, tracks such as Feel It In Your Heart
, which features already-done-before lyrics that include "Can you feel this in your heart, can you take it to your soul? I don't want you to pretend, I don't want to be alone," and God's Song
, which revolves around a contrived offering of "When the world won't take you back, you know everyone's the same - we're all a part in God's song" being wholly representative of how bland Scooter's lyrics are on this album. This is unfortunate, because Scooter has always been a masterful storyteller, but seemingly lost his creative spark along with the rest of his bandmates.
A Different Kind of Pain
isn't completely abysmal, just frustrating. Album opener Back Home
begins with a rapid crescendo that builds to an explosive guitar and percussion introduction, but the heavier portions, save for the chorus, are quickly assuaged. Ocean
also follows that same maddening pattern: opening with an excellent vocal solo from Scooter and segues into a terrific guitar-heavy section, the song is instrumentally outstanding but slightly falters lyrically, with a confusing chorus of "I'll never get you back, it's like falling down a wave." Conversely, When Heaven's Not Far Away
features Scooter's best lyrical and vocal offering on the entire album, in which Scooter asks, "Does an angel hold a sign with directions for everyone?" and "If the stars refuse to shine, do you change?" but he and Loughran's dependency on power-chords throughout the entire song is inadequate and disappointing, especially because there is no discernible difference between the lead and rhythm guitars.
It's not often when Cold excel on this album, but Anatomy of a Tidal Wave
, Happens All the Time
, and Another Pill
are three worthwhile listens. Instrumentally and vocally, Anatomy of a Tidal Wave
features Scooter's knack for metaphors - "It's like a tidal wave that rose to take the stars, a hurricane that wrapped around my heart - if I could find a way, I'd make a brand new start - I can't believe it was the calm that killed the storm," he sings over a great rhythm section and soaring guitars. Happens All the Time
is a standard made-for-radio track and the lone single from this album, but provides enough crunch and structure to keep listeners interested. Lastly, Another Pill
begins on a somber, ominous note but builds to a spectacular second verse and chorus, with an excellent rhythm part from Marshall and McCandless, to Scooter's vocals, which resonate over thick guitars: "You're all alone with broken wings; your life hinges on your direction - look to the stars to medicate, listen to hear the whole world sing: take another pill for love, let it open up your mind to be free again." These three tracks highlight the band firing on all cylinders; unfortunately, it's essentially the best of the worst.
To summarize, A Different Kind of Pain
as an extremely poor album rife with homogeneous, lackluster instrumentation due to Scooter and Loughran being unwilling to write riffs that don't revolve around power chords. Further, it is rare to distinguish the lead guitar from the rhythm guitar, thus showcasing how much ex-members Terry Balsamo, who left for Evanescence, and Kelly Hayes, who left for Allele, are missed for their intricate guitar lines. Even bassist Marshall and drummer McCandless stick to elementary, uninteresting passages to complement the shoddy, generic guitars. While the album does sport a couple highlights, from Scooter's improved vocals and willingness to incorporate the piano more often on the album, as well as the band cohesiveness exemplified on Anatomy of a Tidal Wave
, Another Pill
, and, to a lesser extent, When Heaven's Not Far Away
, the album is hardly salvageable due to its predictable ABABCB method of songwriting, unadventurous lyrical themes, and, above all else, the awful, tedious nature of the instrumentation.
Anatomy of a Tidal Wave
When Heaven's Not Far Away
... that you go back and listen to 13 Ways to Bleed On Stage