Review Summary: Sum 41 return to form with their darkest, most layered and one of their best albums to date.
It’s hard to believe that Sum 41 have been around for no less than 15 years now. Rising to post-new millennium fame with classic pop-punk anthems such as Fat Lip and In Too Deep, the band embraced their metal influences and moved in a heavier direction with arguably their best releases Does This Look Infected? and Chuck before regressing with the comparatively disappointing Underclass Hero which marked a return to their pop-punk roots. Following such an anti-climax, it was out of obligation more than anything else that I bought their new album on the day of its release.
How refreshing it was, then, to discover that in Screaming Bloody Murder the band has produced arguably their most mature, dark and layered album to date. The first few tracks are indicative of their progression, composed of intricate song structures where unexpected tempo and mood changes see classic energetic Sum 41 choruses combined with slower, softer piano or acoustic sections. This works particularly well in Skumfuk, where a soft acoustic sing-along introduction gives way to a frantic, fast-paced section and a ridiculously bouncy chorus.
Indeed, perhaps the most striking feature of this album is its diversity. Alongside fast-paced energetic tracks bearing all the hallmarks of classic Sum 41 (Jessica Kill and Back Where I Belong) there are soft, part-acoustic or piano-led ballads (What Am I To Say and Crash) and, somewhere in between, relatively mellow tracks where Deryck’s voice lacks its characteristic raw edge (Time For You To Go and Baby You Don’t Wanna Know). There really is something for everyone here.
While this diversity ensures the songs are memorable in their own right, one of the most impressive features of the album is the way in which it builds up a distinct mood from the middle section to the end. Starting with the epic build-up in Holy Images of Lies, complete with wailing guitars and Deryck’s passionate vocals, through a section of spine-tingling repeated crashes and piano-flourishes to the stunning, moving ballad Crash alongside the brilliantly dark rawness of Blood In My Eyes, the album encapsulates the emotion which obviously was a big part of its making. This mood remains prominent towards the end as the album closes very strongly with the powerhouse Back Where I Belong closing with repeated crashes before Deryck sings softly, “there’s nothing left to say”, winding the album down to a satisfying conclusion.
One criticism levied at the band is that in this album they can be heard to rip off other bands and rehash old ideas. Sure, parts of Time For You To Go and Blood In My Eyes sound like they’re lifted straight from Green Day’s American Idiot or 21st Century Breakdown, while the chorus of Jessica Kill screams of Still Waiting from Does This Look Infected? nearly a decade ago…but these moments are outweighed by the evolution and diversity displayed throughout the album.
Overall, a very impressive return to form for Sum 41 – they’ve shown they still have what it takes to produce killer songs after all these years while branching out with their sound. Highly recommended.