Story of the Year
The Black Swan


2.0
poor

Review

by Michael Roberts USER (99 Reviews)
July 21st, 2008 | 38 replies


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: With the exception of vocals, The Black Swan has Story of the Year moving backwards in every sense.

Call me crazy but I honestly think Story of the Year inadvertently set themselves up for a potentially progressive record. While their explosive debut Page Avenue featured a collection of safely shaped, catchy and heavy edged pop punk tunes, their sophomore effort showed some natural maturity with the step up from the six stringers. In The Wake of Determination introduced a handful of guitar solos revealing some surprising talent. After ditching their major label and the pressures of writing the next From Under The Cork Tree gold selling record, Story of the Year honestly had themselves in the perfect setting to branch out and further explore their sound. Unfortunately, they did not capitalize on the opportunity and attempted to craft a record based on their strengths of their first two releases. The Black Swan features minimal amounts of instrumental progression and recurrently takes itself too seriously lyrically speaking. These factors along with constant repetition put the record at the bottom rank in the group’s discography.

The whole marketing tagline behind the record was the catchiness Page Avenue with the heaviness of In The Wake of Determination. Catchiness is certainly something the group has become known and loved for. Their product of hard edged pop punk certainly is captured in their first single “Wake Up.” There is a definite ‘don’t bore us get to the chorus’ feel to it but its spacey main riff gives the song a reasonable amount of depth. The follow up in “The Antidote” continues to show a solid blend of the group’s previous records. Some powerful chord progressions rip through the verses while backing vocals shine throughout the choruses. It’s catchy, well performed, and has a definite edge to it. When a solo comes ripping through after a quite interlude, the group’s dynamics reach a new height and one beings to wonder if this powerhouse train will slow down anytime soon.

Sadly the album’s momentum doesn’t slow down as much as it comes to a screeching halt. The title track, “The Black Swan,” shows repetition despite the record not even being at the halfway point. The palm muted verse pattern, the riffing styles, and the progressions all sound recycled while the dynamical shifts are already being seen from a mile away. This repetition continues to bring the record down, especially in its heavier sections. The opening progression in “Apathy is a Deathwish” is bland and will certainly give listeners a feeling of deja-vu. It becomes a bit obvious that Story of the Year is having trouble recreating their metal sound featured on In The Wake of Determination. The problem is their repetitive riffing patterns and minimal lead work make The Black Swan a dull, tedious and predictable listen. A latter track “Cannonball” finally dishes out a much needed solo. Unfortunately, its verses are filled with meathead chugging while the rest of the song relies on the group’s unsurprising and at this point annoying dynamical shifts. With repetitive sounds and transitions infesting the record, vocals and lyrics are the only aspects capable of a rescue. While the former is not a problem thanks to some stellar lead and backup work, the latter is a definite low point of the record.

The problem with The Black Swan isn’t in the lyrics themselves but rather the lyrical subjects. To be blunt, the record takes itself far too seriously, especially at its book-ends. The introductory sample discusses the fate of your nation and children. When its hardcore progressions and harsh screams are released, it plays like a watered down Rise Against. The interlude setting up the closer is honestly just a crack up as it talks about everyone in the world and how emperors fought for a little dot on the map years ago. “Welcome To Our New War” pulls in a handful of cliché one liners throughout the chorus “Welcome to our new war/Where the rich sell their lies to the poor/We’re dying but we don’t know what for” and continues the tradition of repetitive songwriting and transitions. A rare lyrical highlight both in theme and content and change in sound comes in “We're Not Going Make It.” The subject of an inter-racial couple is certainly not one the group would be expected to pull it off. However, the vocal sincerity, groovy bass work, and some fresh shifts really bring together a cohesive vision for the song. It’s a definite standout but feels like a bit too little too late.

When a group tags their third record as the a combination of the best moments of their previous two records, it might as well be a red flag that they are running slim on ideas. It only takes a few listens to confirm this prediction. While the conventional transitions are certainly dreadful, the constant political references and cheesy lyrical themes really serve as the nail in the coffin for The Black Swan. While lyrically the record is on the weak side, the vocal performances themselves often bail songs out from being total disasters thanks to their enjoyable harmonies and distinct tones. The six stringers are in definite need of further development as their performances are in need of variety and more inspired sounds. While it has a few highlights, The Black Swan certainly is a disappointment overall. Story of the Year said they found their identity on this record. For their sake, I hope this is far from true. Otherwise the rest of their career will be spent further riding on the success of their debut.

Recommended Tracks:
-Wake Up
-The Antidote
-Tell Me
-We're Not Going To Make It

Final Rating: 2/5



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user ratings (334)
Chart.
3.2
good

Comments:Add a Comment 
foreverendeared
July 21st 2008


14678 Comments


great review. i had no idea this even came out. i'm a sucker for pop/punk so i like Page Avenue, but i only like a couple tracks off In the Wake of Determination. i probably just won't even ever hear this

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
July 21st 2008


20858 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Pretty good review Mike as you back up your claims well. Although I feel that the overall rating may be a bit too harsh as your 4 recommended tracks are good, as is 'Message To The World', which you don't mention.
I think I'm just pleased that I have finally found someone else that believes that 'In The Wake of Determination' was better than 'Page Avenue'.
These guys are great live by the way.


ToWhatEnd
July 21st 2008


3172 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Yeah they are great live. I just saw them less than a week ago at Warped. They played almost all old stuff which was cool but no Anthem of our Dying Day which I was bummed about. I'd probably go see them again to hear them play a set longer than a half hour.

The reason the rating is so low even with 4 recommended tracks is due to the fact that there are 13 songs here. Just felt like there was the potential to have more highlights.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
July 21st 2008


20858 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

By the way, I almost did what you did & completely forgot about 'Terrified'. Since it is such a departure for the band, I think it deserved a mention at the very least...

SpinLightTwo
July 21st 2008


1043 Comments


the first song on the track listing says "Chose Your Fate"

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
July 21st 2008


20858 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Haha. Should be 'Choose Your Fate'. From memory, this album was added by a new user before it even came out. That accompanying review was then either lost in the database crash or deleted. I remember that because the reviewer gave it a rating of 5.

ToWhatEnd
July 21st 2008


3172 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Yeah it was davey and good find spinlight. Fixing that right now.

Edit: As for Terrified, it grows on me with each listen I just had a difficult time fitting it in to the review. To keep things from dragging on further I just decided to keep it out. I find it sad this was only my fifth review of the year. YIKES! This Message Edited On 07.21.08

SpinLightTwo
July 21st 2008


1043 Comments


oh, can you?

I just reported it to the mods, but when you fix it remind me so that I can delete my complaint.This Message Edited On 07.21.08

ToWhatEnd
July 21st 2008


3172 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Yeah I fixed that and the interlude which was labeled wrong. Thanks for the heads up again.

SHOOTME
July 21st 2008


2393 Comments


Good review man, you deserve a pos.This Message Edited On 07.21.08

SpinLightTwo
July 21st 2008


1043 Comments


Mmhmm.
Positive vote, good review.

rasputin
July 21st 2008


14555 Comments


I really don't like this band.

Willie
Moderator
July 22nd 2008


16145 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This album isn't as bad as you say, but I was hoping for the same progression you mentioned. Great review.

Digging: Mors Principium Est - Dawn Of The 5th Era

tapitforever
September 7th 2008


1243 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

i agree. borrring.

and good review tooThis Message Edited On 09.07.08

Phantom
September 7th 2008


8930 Comments


I much prefer the album before. This album is a letdown.

Good review though.

danrawkz
November 3rd 2008


337 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

not a 2. this album is like a mix and match of wake and page, yes it hasn't shown any great progression: but its still a very good collection of songs.

The Black Swan is one of the better songs on this album. but hey, this is coming from the same person that gave The Naturals a 2 and the new Anberlin album a 4.5

AlexTM510
November 5th 2008


1405 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Solid review though I disagree.

I think this is a fanboy love for me I can't lie. The band has this "charm" with their catchy sound despite the predictable. As for the lyrics I actually kinda see your point but lol I still think their great. Call me crazy but i think the way SOTY touches into the hardcore punk sound with things (Choose your Fate, Welcome to our New War) is really refreshing to listen to.



BallsToTheWall
November 17th 2008


44805 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I don't know what happened to the other review but I feel obliged to counter this 2.

Digging: Pink Turns Blue - If Two Worlds Kiss

cjgone
February 1st 2009


767 Comments


Poor instruments, good vocals.

ABlandLife
February 5th 2009


141 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This album is a much needed improvement.
IMO they delivered across the board on heaviness, technicality, and catchiness



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