Releasing a debut on a major label right out of high school turned many people’s heads in 2005. Scary Kids Scaring Kids seemingly came out of nowhere, and brought with them a sound only describable as some kind of hard rock symphony. It was a decent enough foundation, but their inexperience as songwriters hindered them from breaking any real ground. Nonetheless, they remained an interest. Now, only two years later, they’ve graced us with a follow-up that they themselves are extremely proud of, and then some. They say this is exactly the record they wanted to make and wouldn’t change a thing. From one listen it’s evident they have greatly improved, and that they did some heavy experimentation. Yet, it’s also apparent that they may have been too excited to analyze their new material closer.
That’s not to say this is a bad record; on the contrary, it’s very good as well as being a giant leap from their debut. The lyrics/vocals are much better, each instrument’s parts are more varied for the most part, the keys use much more effects than just synth, and the concepts are brought to the surface with music to match them (a very important step). However, there are many areas where the reason this album suffers is due to the lack of experimentation, in that they take the concept half way, then end it before the climax. There are about five or six examples of this but two of them stand out the most to me.
Two perfect examples of this are Star Crossed and the duo of Derailed and Breathe. With Star Crossed, you are introduced to a spacey atmosphere with reverb guitars, trickling piano lines, and a story of astrology. This is a great sound they started, but two things go wrong. First, the song structure is very normal: intro, verse, chorus, repeat, bridge, and chorus. Second, they don’t expand this sound at all. They could’ve branched out from the second chorus to a completely new feel/structure and brought the listener deeper into the spacey, starry atmosphere. The next two songs, Derailed and Breathe, are about a minute each, and flow right through each other beautifully. They seem to experiment with post rock ambiance with these songs, yet the main feature of this sound is only a minute long, when they could have continued further to make it more embracing.
The other problem with the album is that along with being too excited to expand their experimentation, they may have been too excited to cut any tracks from the record. This record has a lot of great songs, but a fair share of mediocrity. Tracks like Faces and Snake Devil are pretty bland and out of place from the record. Faces is your standard metalcore song, with predictable riffing and anthemic singing, while Snake Devil is an 80’s metal tribute of sorts. Another song they could’ve easily cut is Set Sail, an energetic song with no motivation basically. Among the rest of the album, it doesn’t stand out as anything special.
Now that the criticism is over with, let’s move on to some positives. This album starts very strong. Degenerates and Holding On are two of the best songs this band has written, and The Deep End is one of those fan favorites for the live set, along with A Pistol To My Temple. Degenerates and Holding On are actually a great pair of songs back to back, both being extremely catchy and powerful tracks with emotional lyrics. Musically they are much more than your average hardcore anthems, due to intricate keyboard work/atmosphere, and the guitars trade in pinch harmonics for exceptionally strong riff compositions. Goes Without Saying is another one of those written for the live set songs; in fact, a lot of these songs are absolutely perfect for that mantra, it’s as if the band did something on the mixing board to bring the intensity of a show to your own ears.
It really is a shame that the flaws are imperative to the overall rating of the record, because I have to say I’m proud of these kids. Tweaking the defects would’ve greatly improved the record as a whole. Though, it seems they finally have a vision for what they want to do with their music, a vital step, as well as signifying their own sound, which is something most bands can’t seem to figure out within their two-album careers. That alone shows the band has the potential to be something special, and if they can even slightly improve the missteps made on this record and deeper analyze where they could take their songs, their next record could easily be one of the best in the scene.