Review Summary: No Sophomore Slump found here...
I remember in the heat of high school in the United State, the huge gaps in class grades. The seniors were the older kids who dreamed of college and secretly ruled the school, the juniors were the ones who stressed over grades and routinely found themselves buried in schoolwork, the sophomores were fresh out of their hazing of freshman year and had a newfound maturity because of that, and lastly the freshmen who were the ones that thought they ruled the school but in reality just had a huge authority complex. This is how Set Your Goals seem to come across in their second full-length album, This Will Be the Death of Us.
Set Your Goal’s debut first full length Mutiny! was a solid release but in all reality failed to actually make a lasting dent in the recent surge of hardcore influenced pop-punk bands that have sprung up to fill the recently vacated area that New Found Glory has seem to have disappeared from. Mutiny! did have its high points with tracks such Mutiny, This Very Moment and Echoes and dealt with areas such as growing older, standing up for what you believe, and overcoming obstacles in ones life. But while these tracks were still solid and excellently delivered, with catchy, in-you-face riffs, it came off with a little too much teen angst. In This Will Be the Death of Us (henceforth referred to as Death of Us) Set Your Goals seem to approach this record with a new found respect that a sophomore would.
Where Mutiny! started off with a soft acoustic track in Work In Progress, it is not so in this album. In all essence, the opening track “This Will Be the Death of Us” seems to pick up where Mutiny’s last track “Echoes” picked off, subtle feedback starting with a punk influenced drum beat followed by the main riff laid out by the bass. During the song you get a very nice treat at around the end of the track with I Am Avalanches own Vinnie Caruana making an appearance. This is another thing to write home about, the guest vocals. Four tracks on this release have guest vocals featuring Vinnie Caruana from I Am Avalanche, Chad Gilbert from New Found Glory, Jon Gula from Turmoil fame, and lastly the lovely Hayley Willams from that one great band.
However, this also is one of the downsides to the album as a whole. While the dual vocal attack of Jordan Brown and Matt Wilson are still a mainstay of Set Your Goals and continues to help distinguish them from the genre, the guest vocals that are scattered throughout the record seem to overpower both vocalists and definitely take away the attention of the actual vocalists of the band and on the guest. This is painfully felt in The Few That Remain that features Hayley Williams on guest vocals at around the two minute mark; like I said, while Jordan and Matt’s vocals are still quite good, when it comes to singing, you really can’t beat Hayley. Another downfall of the album seems to be the overpowering of the guitars that can be subtlety felt throughout the entire album. But seeing how Mutiny! was done with one actual guitarist and how Death of Us sees Set Your Goals now using the conventional two guitarist approach, it might not come off as a surprise that the band might not be used to the idea of more than one guitarist.
Yet, all problems aside, this album is a definitely an improvement from their first full length. Where New Found Glory seem to sink deeper and deeper in pop-punk obscurity, Set Your Goals holds true to their hardcore roots in tracks such as Equals and Gaia Bleeds. The high energy felt on Mutiny! is carried over on to This Will Be the Death of Us, refined, improved and makes for a solid release. While there is still room for improvement, Set Your Goals in definitely on the right track and continue to show natural progression in their music were most seem to have stagnated and have even regressed. Time will tell if this band becomes the new king of hardcore influenced pop-punk that New Found Glory has abandoned. With a release like This Will Be the Death of Us, it will definitely be hard to surpass them at this point. All eyes are on Set Your Goals, the new sophomores of the musical high school.