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.
-We're Not Going To Make It
Final Rating: 2/5