Review Summary: Floridian fringes flick back and prove less is Moore...almost.
One of the most difficult things for a band to undertake is the quest for a new lead vocalist, especially when the departing one is arguably the most important thing about the band. Even if a band is indeed successful, they are doomed to never recreate past glories. AC/DC have never been the same since Bon Scott’s untimely death, a fate unfortunately also suffered by INXS and Drowning Pool (and let’s not even mention Queen). The remaining members of Rage Against the Machine learned the hard way that replacing a screaming dreadlocked activist with a former grunge superstar could only work for so long. Even Motley Crue were kidding themselves by attempting to create an album without Vince Neil (their album with John Corabi is easily amongst the band’s worst).
Up to this point of their careers, From First to Last has arguably been best known for their (now former) lead singer, Sonny Moore. Moore, all of sixteen when he joined the band, whined and howled his way through two mostly awful records (2003’s horribly titled Dear Diary, My Teen Angst Has A Body Count
, and 2005’s horrible sounding Heroine
). This time around, on the band’s third record, founding member and guitarist Matt Good has taken over lead vocal duties and, luckily for the band, it has paid off. From First To Last
is easily the band’s best work thus far, packed with a new-found rock energy that is far more listenable than either of their previous efforts.
The main factor in the change of FFTL’s sound has been Matt Good’s switch to lead vocals. While Moore preferred to wail above his vocal range (which was limited at best), Good thankfully has a little more control over his voice. It isn’t a distinguishable voice, or even an overly-skilled one (at times, he is shaky and unsure of his depth), and his screamed vocals certainly could use some articulation and strength.
Still, he is not completely unlistenable (like his predecessor), and creates melodies that are solid enough foundation to keep the listener interested. The vocal hooks of opener “Two As One”, the dance-infused “Deliverance!” and the dark, post-grunge waltz of “Medicinal Reality” are all delivered with a surprising vigour and liveliness that feels authentic rather than forced.
Another surprise is the above-average proficiency of drummer Derek Bloom. He seems bored with the simple 2/4 patterns that plague his peers, instead flaunting a range of high-energy, fast-paced fills that force the song’s rhythm out of the background and into the spotlight. See the tom rolls on lead single “Worlds Away” and the cymbal-heavy thrash around the kit on “The Other Side” for just some of what Bloom is capable of.
Of course, the band are not without serious issues, even when they are on the road to self-improvement. The foremost issue that is to be had with From First to Last
is its top-heaviness. Every highlight of the record is found within the first five tracks, leaving the bulk of what is left to be lackluster and samey. Sure, “Deliverance!” has a great, stomping beat and some nice guitar chirps through its verses, whilst its follow-up “I Was Lost, But Now Am Profound” is a certain crowd-pleaser with some nice chorus harmonies and a cameo guitar solo. There’s just something about the second half of the record, however, that feels directionless and uninspired. “A Perfect Mess” suffers from atrocious lyrics (“Well, well, well/With a woman like you/Who needs to get out of bed?”) and underwhelming musicianship, and closer “In Memorium In Advance” manages to expose all of the band’s weaknesses in just under two minutes- and it’s an acoustic track.
From First to Last are still evidently struggling to establish their own identity as a band, and there is still plenty of room for improvement. Nevertheless, the album is a bold step in a new direction, and is definitely worth a listen. Let’s do exactly the opposite of what the band does lyrically and think positively for a second here: a new vocalist, some killer songs and a new vouch on band lifespan. Things can only get better from here, right?