Review Summary: Art of Dying establishes the band as a next big thing to come. In spite of featuring some outstanding tracks full of personality and confidence, the album lapses into moments of over-simplicity and vainly called “good tunes”.
Ars moriendi, the 15th century Latin text describing techniques for a “good death” during the Middle Ages, is a definitely a reference too dark and unsettling to be associated with Art of Dying, the Vancouver based 5-piece band, and its self-titled debut album. With spotless production, the band develops an assortment of interesting ideas and compact performance, but fails to take chances towards a more daring direction.
Art of Dying benefits greatly from Dharryl Rhompf’s production expertise into creating a brand of hard-rock which has proven effective in the past, with bands like Chevelle and Trapt and their capability to develop an enjoyable listen while also hitting the market at the right spot. But the recipe is not complete without taking into consideration the valuable experience that Tavis Stanley and Covis Gontier (from Thornley) add to the mix. The final product sounds perfectly polished and well-thought, although I think I heard an irregular hiss at the beginning of Crime.
A first impression conveys an objective idea about the album as Get Through This, first single, starts off directly into a verse, and an extremely catchy chorus. Jonny Hetherington (vocals) has just the right kind of voice to make you want to sing along to “If I can get through this, I can go through anything!” The song succeeds to communicate credibility in name of the band, but the formula leads dangerously close to the Seether/Nickelback concept.
These thoughts are pushed aside by You Don’t Know Me, which is surely the most energetic track on Art of Dying. A simple-though-effective guitar and bass riff followed by dazzling vocal euphoria tear off any doubts about the integrity of the band as the song promises a brilliant album.
Sadly, these short-lived expectations fall short with the coming songs. I Will Be There confirms my initial fears as the album takes a wrong turn with a rock ballad that is just as simple and standardized as its name proclaims. This tendency carries on throughout the middle part of the album with Fits of Clarity and Do What You Can being particularly low points. The band becomes trapped into an unoriginal blueprint which motivates phrases as feeble as “Do what you can, do what you need, do what you like with me”.
The album really picks up as it approaches its end. Crime lets Art of Dying shine again as the album touches unto a new darkness and Hetherington’s vocals revive with a deep heartfelt “My only crime is loving you”. Suddenly, the whole band resurrects with a legitimate sense of sorrow and honesty with breathtaking ballads Car Crash and Alone. These final instances of the album are where Art of Dying honors its name with tragic romanticism.
The last two tracks, Build a Wall and Dog Is My Copilot, dig deeper into this dark mood and allow Hetherington to even finish off the album a la Cobain, frenetically shrieking “God is gracious, god is good…” and saving the band from possible religious affiliation.
Bottom line, Art of Dying seems rushed by an urgency to take advantage of its good connections. Continually assisted by other big bands’ success (Seether took part in a duet for the band, Disturbed included them on their tour) Art of Dying release an album which fails to really explore the band’s true potential, but promises to be good enough to keep them on the partial spotlight from which they have benefitted up to this moment.