Review Summary: Underoath drummer Aaron Gillespie consolidates, yet compromises, his rock-oriented side-project.
It is difficult not to anticipate The Almost's 2nd full-length release with a strong sense of deja vu. Where does this sound familiar? The drummer of a critically acclaimed & commercially successful band becomes the lead vocalist of another outfit. While taking the name of a group, this man practically plays every instrument on the project's more rock-oriented debut... And while the results are mixed, the potential is clearly apparent. Unfortunately for Underoath's Aaron Gillespie, The Almost's follow-up LP 'Monster, Monster' is no 'The Colour & The Shape'... And he has a little way to go to match up to the Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl.
Similarly to debut long-player 'Southern Weather', 'Monster, Monster' begins with a cavalcade of hooks. Certain to be a live favorite, 'Hands' especially stands out. With its winning piano line, jangly guitars and super infectious sing-along chorus, it is reminiscent of Jacks Mannequin's more up-tempo cuts. With the possible exception of the opening title track and ultra-melodic 'Souls On Ten' however, nothing else could be classified as distinctly memorable in this department.
Perhaps realizing this lack of distinction, Gillespie searches elsewhere for a secret ingredient. Many tracks re-explore the southern rock/alt-country vibe occasionally given off on 'Southern Weather'. Again however, only one such song stands out, with emotional six minute closer 'Monster' opening acoustically, before satisfyingly breaking out into a steel guitar led instrumental jam. The album's surprise element comes in the form of extending this sound into a slice of nostalgic Americana to lend it a stronger sense of storytelling. It helps to keep Gillespie lyrically focused, but he also has a little way to go to match up to The Gaslight Anthem.
While Gillespie does double duty on drums here, he is joined by Dusty Redmon & Jay Vilardi on guitars, as well as Alex Aponte on bass. However, any sense that this album has a fuller sound when compared to the one-man debut is minimal. One cannot help but feel that in consolidating The Almost as a group effort, Gillespie has compromised to some degree. There is a sense of safety which permeates through much of the LP and, while no track is entirely poor, a listeners attention is likely to fade during the filler moments. Thankfully, the highlights are strong and there is a level of consistency which still makes 'Monster, Monster' a solid release that suggests a potentially promising future.
Recommended Tracks: Hands, Monster & Souls On Ten.