Review Summary: Tithing a wealth of potential to the church of boring pop-punk.
Story of the Year have always been the ultimate squanderers of potential. Ever since their well-known and perfectly acceptable debut Page Avenue
in 2003, the band has been peppering their releases with brief moments of great potential amidst a surplus of mediocrity. Their dual attack of anthemic choruses and refined aggression has always been a little lopsided, but as the band discovered their knack for a less tailored, louder
sound with In the Wake of Determination
, one could only assume that Story of the Year were destined for a much more focused and memorable record in the near future. 2008’s The Black Swan
wasn’t that record, and regrettably, the band’s latest, The Constant
, certainly isn’t either. Recalling much of the melodic aspect found on Page Avenue
, those thrilled with the band’s well-worn formula will have plenty more to sink their teeth into on The Constant
. However, listeners waiting for Story of the Year to capitalize on their potential will be less than thrilled when they realize that this is in no way a regression or progression for the band - it’s simply another
Story of the Year album, no changes made. Going strong, but going nowhere.
As it has on every Story of the Year album before it, the band’s potential remains prevalent on The Constant
. Guitarists Ryan Phillips and Phillip Sneed are as capable of musicians as ever, but they’re still pretty bad at writing memorable riffs. ‘Ghost of You’ contains some of the crunchy riffs you’d expect from the band that wrote the powerful ‘We Don’t Care Anymore’, and lead single ‘I’m Alive’ opens with a chorus-ridden, classic picking part that is as acceptable as guitar lines get - but there’s nothing to latch on to. The two obvious solos on The Constant
- found on ‘To the Burial’ and ‘The Dream is Over’, respectively - are complete opposites. The former is the most indulgent, technical thing to ever fall under Story of the Year’s tree of riffery - a tour-de-force of musicianship that, while impressive, is just a blur of poorly composed ego-fellating. The latter, however, is a tasteful and well constructed example of Story of the Year’s potential - technical, tasteful and actually relevant within the song’s structure. This is essentially a microcosm of Story of the Year’s entire career (and The Constant
in particular) - they know how to write something catchy and memorable, they just don’t do it often enough.
The more aggressive moments on The Constant
are, somehow, the most memorable segments on the album. Contrary to the way Story of the Year probably intended it to be, the punk/metal hybrid of songs like ‘Won Threw Ate’ - while still rather bland - are miles more interesting than the smarmy power ballad of ‘Holding on to You’ or the Saosin-influenced ‘Ten Years Time’. When the band flips the post-hardcore switch on throughout the album, the results are immediately more varied and creative than the tepid pop-punk they settle for throughout most of the other tracks. Most notably, ‘To The Burial’ presents the most well-rounded song on the album; wedding vocalist Dan Marsala’s consistently strong harsh vocals (now more guttural than ever!) with a smorgasbord of decent riffing and a positively soaring chorus melody. However, despite Marsala’s improvement on the more aggressive front of things, most of his melodies you will have already heard before on previous Story of the Year records - his once explosive choruses are getting progressively less catchy as time goes on.
Although Story of the Year continue to consistently release average albums, something about the The Constant
hints at the band eventually breaking through and making something worth coming back to again - and why not, the band certainly isn’t done yet. Marsala says, “The Constant can mean anything; [...] we want music to remain a constant thing in our lives no matter what
" - and as long as Story of the Year eventually get as bored with their formula as most listeners have by now, this isn’t such a bad thing at all. We just want some progress, boys. Help us out - a little variation couldn’t hurt, could it?