Review Summary: Spoken chooses to seek a heavier sound, with positive and negative results.
I honestly could not tell you why I am reviewing this CD. Before this release, there was nothing all that interesting or memorable to me about this band. They were poppy, emotional rock band, with a pretty enjoyable Cyndi Lauper cover if you relish the idea of a male vocalist singing it in her place. The honest truth is, I knew who they were by name, but nothing was in any way memorable or even worth recommending.
Enter Myspace. A friend of mine was raving to me about the new Spoken song, how it was "super freakin heavy dude, it's got a %^$#ing breakdown! m/" Politeness kicked in, and as he was standing over my shoulder telling me to hit up their Myspace, I decided checking the song out would be more enjoyable then spending the next ten minutes being badgered. The song I listened to was "History Erased", the first song off of their new self titled CD. It was a sharp departure from their previous LP, "Last Chance to Breathe", with heavy stop and go guitars punctuating a furiously angry yet amazingly catchy chorus. As promised, there was indeed a breakdown at the end, though it avoided the cliché palm muted open notes of many of modern music's "breakdowns".
To put it simply, I enjoyed this song enough to give the entire CD a listen through. For much of the CD, the increased screaming continues, with the appropriate heavy guitars and rhythms present throughout the majority of the tracks. However, Spoken is at its best when it is combining Matt Baird’s unique clean vocals in even measure with the screams, as it does on “Close Your Eyes”, as opposed to the more scream heavy songs on the CD. Old Spoken fans will be happy to know that they haven’t abandoned their inherent catchiness that permeated the last CD, though now it is often found in between screamed verses and heavy, very emotional riffs.
The guitar work on this CD is decent. While there is nothing original or inspired on this CD, the guitar parts are heavy when need be and melodic when the vocals call for it. There are some very good leads to be found, though they are often buried behind the heavier rhythm sections. It is also worth noting that several of the heavier riffs are extremely repetitive, to the point of being annoying. The softer songs are also void of anything interesting, often leaving the song on the shoulder’s of Matt. You may notice that the bass and drums have yet to be mentioned; this is simply because I found nothing worth mentioning. It is obvious they are merely the rhythm for the slightly above average guitars and excellent vocals.
Spoken’s biggest problem on this CD is repetition. “History Erased”, “Not Soon Forgotten”, and “Brought to Life” all follow extremely similar musical patterns, with screamed verses and catchy, sung choruses, with no variation from this formula. This is especially disappointing as the songs that break from this mold are much more interesting.
“Close Your Eyes” displays Matt’s amazing vocal range. I honestly can say I would never listen to this CD if it weren’t for his vocals. He displays an amazing ability to add melody and beauty to even some of his heaviest screams, which is what carries this song above some of the more average tunes on the CD. Another excellent song is “Trading in this Troubled Heart”, a softer song that incorporates screaming at the moments it is needed, elevating the song to an emotional high not found anywhere else on the album.
That is not to say the heavier songs are without merit. “History Erased” has one of the catchiest choruses I have ever heard in a song, making it worth a listen even if the verses are mildly repetitive and boring. “Not Soon Forgotten” incorporates some chanting and interesting guitar parts, making it memorable, even as it is similar to “History Erased”.
It is honestly the up and down nature of the CD that really harms it as a whole. After the first four song’s upbeat nature, it comes to a crashing halt at “You’re the One”, a cliché love song that is nothing special or memorable. “Long Live the Dream” another excellent and upbeat song, is followed by “Start the Revolution”, over 6 minutes of uninteresting guitars and minimal vocals. The CD ends on an uneven note. Though “When Hope is All You Have” is easily the best of the softer songs on the CD, it is followed by “The Answer”, a song that tries to build momentum and emotion but mostly fails at both.
Overall, I must say the heavier nature of this CD has really helped Spoken find its niche, as it is Matt’s amazing voice and his ability to inject melody into his heavier vocals that keeps this CD from mediocrity. Though older fans may not like the heavier style, I honestly find much more to enjoy about “Spoken” than any of their previous material. If you enjoyed their last CD, give this a listen. If you didn’t like their last CD, give this a listen. Even if you hate “core” or “post core” genres, still give this a try. It is much more mainstream than your average scream-heavy CD, and as such there are enough catchy choruses to keep anyone interested. In closing, I guess the reason I am reviewing this CD is this: Despite its flaws, despite the repetitiveness that infects parts of the CD, there is still enough here for me to encourage everyone to take a listen.
+Matt’s vocals are catchy and melodic, even when heavy
+Guitars add atmosphere and can be very beautiful
+For the most part mix their heavier parts with the more melodic parts creatively
-Bass and Drums = ?
-Some songs’ structures are too similar
-Guitars get too repetitive at times
“Close Your Eyes”
“Trading in this Troubled Heart”
“When Hope is All You Have”