Review Summary: An experimental sophomore release shows a completely new side to Chasing Victory. They shake off their previous 'hardcore' labels and reveal a new, generally softer and more polished sound which often lacks consistency, power and originality.
Change; just by mentioning the word in the same sentence as a band known for a specific sound warrants mixed reactions. It can bring out the best in bands as some show a new side that everyone can grow to love. When I say this Thrice’s Vheissu, Avenged Sevenfold’s City of Evil and My Chemical Romance’s Black Parade all come to mind. The reason being is despite the change, you still know that it is the respective band playing. They are just playing a style different from what their previous audience was hearing. On the flip side, change can be a real bitch. Sometimes bands go in a direction favoring the media or line up changes result in a new sound. Other times the group just produces a record which feels forced and totally fake. But then again plenty of us have heard the likes of Atreyu’s The Curse, Hawthorne Heights’ If Only You Were Lonely and various others. After giving it a fair share of listens, Chasing Victory’s Fiends
unfortunately falls victim to those aspects in the sense that it is a change for the worst. Taking a different route the group is often left struggling for originality, power, and consistency.
I’ll confess right away, I had extreme doubts about this after hearing the tracks they released early off of this. I remember immediately thinking they got a new singer (UnderstandingInACarCrash will vouch for me here), as this couldn’t possibly be his tone. Gone were his powerful screams and in their place were more forced, and almost restricted sounding ones. Absent were his soaring emotional lines and in their place were often times a blatant Muse falsetto riff off. Take the opening track “Chemicals”
for example. It opens up in a new fashion with a much more polished sound. The raw edgy guitars are no where to be found. What is in their place is a far too crisp and watered down sounding of half the riffs you will find on Every Time I Die’s Gutter Phenomenon. Not the best start but things are still listenable. That state becomes jeopardized as soon as the vocalist opens his mouth and let’s out a very weak sounding scream. He eventually drips into his carbon copy falsettos which lack any sort of power or enjoyable effect. Not until 1:20 in the song when the first chorus hits did I actually think I was listening to Chasing Victory. But hey, this is only the first song. Quality can change and maybe their new sound will grow right?
Wrong. I tried, I really did. After the first full listen I thought I hated it because it wasn’t I Call This Abandonment part II. The second time through I knew what to expect and my opinion barely changed. On the subsequent listens thoughts failed to shift once again. Shucks. “Wolves”
continues to bring change, this time introducing a horn section during the introduction. Musically the song is very safe and conventional, as nothing is really out of place. Actually I lied; once more the falsettos sound very awkward in placement. If nothing else the track comes complete with a catchy chorus. However, the lackluster music work does little to pull the song up and make it a worthwhile listen. Things continue to disappoint as the title track sounds like a My Chemical Romance B-side. Don’t get my wrong I like both MCR and Chasing Victory (at least to some degree) but the bands ‘covering’ each other, not so much. A dark sounding vocal and guitar intro opens “Fiends”
before the tempo picks up with an instrumental section. The miniature chain vocal section during the chorus is fairly interesting but once more the track is filled to the brim with bland and monotonous music work with very few exceptions.
Not until the fourth track in “Queens”
does their new vocal style hit a strong point for me. Here the change is still very noticeable but their identity is still shown. When this occurs their newer sound is shown in an enjoyable form. The softer verse works very well as Adam really digs into the notes during the chorus. Their new sound is present but is delivered in a powerful manner marking a huge step up. Even the brief piano outro is enjoyable capping off a highlight track. Surprises continue to come as “Carnies”
opens with a light burst of dissonance before going into a moderate tempo screamed passage. Very soon the track transitions into a softer piece but once more comes complete with an excellent chorus. If nothing else Chasing Victory has not lost their edge to write some memorable choruses. It is a shame that the quality of the rest of the song is miles behind as this one as it slowly but surely turns into a bore throughout its tediously long four and a half minute duration.
Unfortunately, the album’s ending is not as strong as desired, but it does contain a step up from plenty of the album. “Brides”
comes stocked with plenty of interesting progressions, some surprise rhythms, and even an interesting lead full of melody. On top of it all it features a fairly powerful heavy bridge. For the most part vocals are very enjoyable but there are still the odd hits into an unnecessarily high range. That is about the only complaint that “Brides”
warrants as it has enjoyable instrumental sections, an undeniably fluent flow, and even some surprises along the way including one of the only real leads on the record. It certainly set up for an interesting ending but unfortunately “Barbarians”
does not fully deliver. There are a large amount of tempo and mood changes here which are all a mixed bag. Some work much smoother then others as others sound forced into the mix. Once more Adam’s Muse-esque falsetto is very off putting. His control is respectable but at this point it just does not sound right at all. He does manage to effectively stretch his range around the 2:30 mark very successfully. That is successful until he brings out that falsetto again. The last minute is a mainly clean instrumental section which becomes quite boring. It is a shame to see another attempted epic ending fail.
So it must be obvious by now that overall musically, instrumentally and vocally this record failed to match the consistency and power their previous one had. Then again comparisons are a little odd considering the drastic change that was revealed here. With change in mind, musically, instrumentally, and vocally Chasing Victory is no where near consistent enough to make their new sound successful and steadily enjoyable. However, one area where Fiends
is extremely consistent is in its lyrics. As the title suggests the record focuses on the sins and demons that fest themselves inside everyone. The album’s concept is ways to overcome, eliminate, and survive in a sin free world. While I’m sure that will sound cheesy, it is a very respectable way to approach writing. “Queens”
focuses on these Fiends coming in “ I've got the keys to your heart andI'm coming inside./You're never gonna stop me.”
The title track deals with the double lives some spotlight fanatics live and focuses on selling out and the fakeness involved with it. Lyrically things rarely come off as preachy and the message can often times be related to other subjects then sin and the devil. In Barbarians”
the lyrics universally cover topics of addiction which could be related to drugs, relationships, etc “ When the wolves licked their lips, I could've swor they were falling in love./I've got the remedy for you./Throw out those medicines you normally consume.”
I’ll be the first to admit I am far from musically liking every track on this record. There are times when vocals themselves warrant cringes but regardless the subjects the vocals discuss are enjoyable and real. If the music was as enjoyable as the lyrics here things would be on the other end of the spectrum.
Maybe I was a little hard on this record. I mean let’s take the factors against Chasing Victory into consideration; they were labeled as a screamo band after their debut, they changed and experimented, and it’s their sophomore release after an impressive debut. If that is not a recipe for disaster I don’t know what is. I will extend respect for their attempt to break their mold of the previous style they were playing. However, this album is a step back from their previous position, at least in the sense that they now must take steps in order to accomplish the sound they are aiming for. If they continue down this path, Chasing Victory has a way to go before they are original and let alone consistently successful at it. However, I do see the potential for good things to come and this could very well just be an error needed in order to accomplish greatness. While Fiends
is not an impressive display of their new style, it is a certainly a step towards it and without question marks a new chapter for Chasing Victory. Only time will tell where they go from here.
Final Rating: 2.5/5