Review Summary: I’ve got a big fat fuckin’ bone to pick with Wil.
One line of thinking suggests that you have to feel just a little bit sorry for gothic punks Aiden. For a band who were so derivative in following their inspirations during their early years, the Seattle quartet really should have achieved greater success. Initially discounted as being cheap knock-offs of bands such as AFI, My Chemical Romance and The Used, Aiden were probably as surprised as anyone when all three bands surged in popularity. Hell, it wasn’t as if front-men Davey Havok, Gerard Way or Bert McCracken had clean cut images and outstanding voices. The next step was obvious… Continue to follow their lead. Unfortunately, Aiden did not have the musicianship, song-writing ambition or hooks of their influences, so third LP ‘Conviction’ commercially flopped. Following a return to their heavier roots on the horrendously tasteless ‘Knives’, the much derided make-up clad gang are back for their fifth album ‘Disguises’.
Kicking off with a minute long introductory piece titled ‘The Devil’s Eyes’, listeners will know not to expect much deviation from the band’s formula as soon as lead vocalist Wil Francis asks us to “All hail the dark one”. While not as curse-ridden, hateful, violent and anti-religious as its predecessor, ‘Disguises’ once more touches on all of these lyrical themes in disconcerting – and often laughable - fashion. Whether attempting to be poetic (“I watched as the antique sky turned black through fields of heroin”), or blunt (“Faith is a question you can choose, faith whether Christian, Muslim, Jew. Still you all distort the truth, the death of fiction will save us all”), Francis is purposefully as subtle as a sledgehammer. The end result is that even when stumbling across an interesting idea, Francis botches it by coming off as childish, attention-seeking and occasionally repulsive.
To give credit where it is due, if ‘Disguises’ was not Aiden’s fifth LP, a case could be made that it is their best album to date. In many ways, it is an uncomplicated record, a trait which assists the band in finding a sound they are comfortable in playing. The production has also finally settled on a natural mid-point between slick and gritty, allowing the solid (sometimes even hooky) guitar riffs and improving drumming to sporadically shine. All the while, those gang vocals which have previously lent a sing-along quality to their best tunes, return on more than one occasion. Lamentably, even when Aiden appear to be on their way to something approaching the peak of their career, up pops Wil to ruin it. It might be via his trashy lyrics (‘Shine’ & ‘Hysteria’), or lousy vocals (‘Horror Queen’, ’ReEvolver’… Pretty much all of them actually), but one has to seriously wonder if Aiden would be better off with just the backing vocalists singing along (see certain passages of lead single ‘Walk Among the Dead’). .
To make matters worse, ‘Disguises’ closes with a recognizable track which hints that Aiden is now stalking a new inspiration: Alkaline Trio. As soon as the familiar ‘Shaking like a dog shittin' razorblades” enters proceedings, it is difficult not to shake your head in bewilderment that Aiden has decided to cover this year 2000 fan favourite. Basing the song around piano is just, but Francis makes Matt Skiba sound like Frank Sinatra. It is a demoralizing finale to the album which almost renders useless what few positives have come before it. In a sense, it sums up Aiden and ‘Disguises’ well… They have given up on significant progression and now aim to be solely prolific. Having released five albums and one EP in less than 7 years, I guess that has been successfully achieved… And that does not even include two atrocious LPs from Francis’ alter-ego side-project William Control. If the remaining three members of Aiden would like to release a worthwhile album in the future, then it may be necessary to form a side-project of their own.
Recommended Tracks: Walk Among the Dead & Hysteria (both of which could be seen as the best and worst tracks here).