Review Summary: A Day to Remember concoct a million dollar formula and proceed to utilize it in the wrong way on their debut album
Modern hardcore and pop-punk are two of the most maligned genres by the current music community. Pop-punk is labeled as generic sounding and juvenile and hardcore’s critics can’t seem to get over the fact that the vocals have a harsh tone to them. The idea of combining these two genres would seem to be a disastrous one. However, A Day to Remember, who do combine these two elements, clearly lack conventional wisdom. Prior to the release of And Their Name Was Treason, they were just a group of five naïve guys that “played what they liked to play” and happened to find a balance that works. Their inexperience is clearly what holds the album back from being something special.
Because this is their debut album, A Day to Remember haven’t had enough time to develop their idea of genre bending into a signature sound. The result is a lot of aimless noodling instead of the development of a strong theme and sound. The hardcore influenced vocals, which appear on six tracks, are spread unevenly throughout the album and don’t complement the pop-punk sounds, which dominate the album, very well. The band doesn’t have a very strong hold on either style of music but sound better doing their hardcore bit. Jeremy McKinnon has some strong lows but sounds more comfortable when he talks, a testament to how little experience he has. The lack of experience makes the vocals lean more towards the pop-punk, clean style.
The pop-punk sections of the album, sometimes entire songs worth, are weak. McKinnon’s vocals are soft and unconvincing, providing an uncomfortably strong foil to his growls. He knows how to write a song just fine but has problems with execution. The same can be said for the instrumental section of the band. Drummer Alex Shellnut is clearly more comfortable during the heavier sections and often feels absent from the softer songs. The guitars are standard, power-chord dominated fair and the bass is non-existent. These elements combine to form a rather boring mixture that is only sometimes overcome and when it is, it’s because of the harsh vocals. The lone highlight of the solely pop-punk songs is acoustic number You Had Me at Hello. The guitar work in it, while not particularly different, feels complicated compared to the rest of the album and McKinnon’s vocals sound perfect when supported by just an acoustic guitar. It’s a nice change of pace from the rest of the album and actually flows really well instead of feeling disruptive.
The harsh vocals are the Mr. Hyde to the clean vocals' Dr. Jekyll but are, ironically, McKinnon’s better half. While no songs completely lack clean vocals the ones with less of them are the ones that shine. Casablanca Sucked Anyways is one of the more interesting songs musically and features some soaring vocals during the chorus but is only saved from being a throwaway track by the breakdown near the end and harsh vocals during the second verse. The same can be said for You Should Have Killed Me When You Had the Chance. McKinnon sounds the most at home during these songs and it’s noticeable, both in terms of performance and overall quality of the songs themselves. It’s abundantly clear that this album would have been a much better one if the vocal ratio was reversed- more stress on harsh and less on clean.
It’s obvious that A Day to Remember shows potential with this album but didn’t have everything figured out while recording it. Their inexperience, both individually and as a whole, hold them back considerably. While And Their Name Was Treason never bores, it never gets particularly exciting either. Overall, the album is pretty tight and formulaic; especially considering the band was founded on the principles of fun and looseness. Although these elements aren’t absent, they’re not the focus, which is a true shame, because this could have been a very enjoyable listen.
Recommended Tracks: You Had Me at Hello, Casablanca Sucked Anyways, You Should Have Killed Me When You Had the Chance