Review Summary: 2010 may be a new year, but The Constant is the same old story. You decide if that is a good or bad thing.
It was difficult not to feel for Story of the Year following the release of their third LP ‘The Black Swan’. For a band that had been criticized for a lack of progression and variety, the St. Louis quintet admirably attempted to take a rather large step forward. While a couple of pleasant surprises did eventuate, the results were ultimately heavy-handed, culminating in arguably their weakest release yet. The recording process for that album clearly took its toll, with the band wanting to “just have fun, be spontaneous and make it exciting” fourth time around on ‘The Constant’. Taking the “regression = progression” approach sees Story of the Year near replicate their debut LP ‘Page Avenue’. It’s all there; from the aggressively catchy melodies to the genre-mixing.
The similarities between the two releases even extend to the fact that each album’s highlight tracks are arguably its first four. Opener ‘The Children Sing’ uses the gimmicky, but effective, ploy of having a children’s choir sing its chorus of “Don’t take this world away from me”, as it is once more apparent that the usual social issues will be the predominant lyrical theme of ‘The Constant’. The heavier ‘To the Burial’ follows suit as it barnstorms through its verses towards an anthemic chorus of “Bleed us for their capital, lead us to the burial”. Lead single ‘I’m Alive’ is radio-ready hard rock that eventually gets going, while the superior ‘The Ghost of You and I’ best sums up the melodically aggressive sound which serves as Story of the Year’s mission statement.
While the remainder of ‘The Constant’ is undoubtedly competent, a case could be made that nothing too fresh is heard once the opening quartet of tracks have passed. ‘The Dream Is Over’ best showcases the proficient, though never ground-breaking, guitar-work of Ryan Phillips & Philip Sneed, while drummer Josh Willis is as accomplished as ever in driving hardcore circle-pit starters ‘Won Threw Ate’ and ‘Eye For An Eye’. Vocalist Dan Marsala also continues to gain confidence & control, as best heard on piano ballad ‘Holding On To You’ and the resolute ‘Ten Years Down’. In fact, the only genuine missed step is the strange ‘Remember A Time’, which sounds like an 80’s hair-metal band trying to reach #1 on the singles charts (anyone remember Slaughter?).
By their own admission, Story of the Year “didn’t over-think everything” on ‘The Constant’; a solid, if formulaic, LP which clearly adheres to the K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple Stupid) formula. It means that the troughs of ‘The Black Swan’ have been eradicated, resulting in a more focused & consistent effort, which will unquestionably please their loyal fans and add value to their energetic live show. However, it is also an album which comes off as best in the moment and a little too forgettable due to its lack of attention to detail. Too many aspects seem blunted for fear of overly offending anyone. Of course, that was initially the fun and catchy sound which got Story of the Year noticed, so it really is up to you whether the “same old story” is a good or bad thing.
Recommended Tracks: The Ghost of You and I, To the Burial, The Children Sing & Ten Years Down.