Review Summary: Ladies and gentlemen, I am sorry to inform you that Attack Attack! is gone. In their place is a completely new and different band named Attack Attack!.
I’ve always considered myself to be a pretty generous person when it comes to listening to controversial and oft-hated music. While I’ve never quite stooped as low as Bieber, I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a fan of cock rock bands such as Nickelback, My Darkest Days, Theory of a Dead Man, and the like. However, there is one band that, until now, I have always considered to be a blemish not only on the face of the music scene, but also on the face of all that is good in this world. That band is Attack Attack! Ever since this so called “musical ensemble’s” first album has had the displeasure of entering my ear canal, the mere mention of the band’s name has caused me to violently contort, retch, and just generally bring my piss to a boil. How any band could have the nerve to call themselves “metal” through the putrid layers of synth and auto-tune sprinkled over an utterly moronic genericore backdrop has never failed to elude me over the band’s 7 year tenure. Despite the foulness that has contaminated the band’s sound, times have changed, and so has Attack Attack. Through the coats of scum and tar, one man has had the balls to step up, take charge and reinvent this band’s sound to the point that they seem downright enjoyable. That man is Caleb Shomo. Over the past 4 years, Shomo has transformed from the token overweight scene kid with the keyboard (ironically, supplying what caused me to most despise this band) to the strong, pissed-off lead vocalist and frontman we see today. Ladies and gentlemen, I am sorry to inform you that Attack Attack! is gone. In their place is a completely new and different band named Attack Attack!.
Ever since November 11, 2008, the release date of the rancid bile that was “Someday Came Suddenly”, band members have been quickly jumping ship and leaving this so-called-metal outfit behind. In 2009, screaming vocalist Austin Carlile left the band to pursue endeavors with his other group, Of Mice and Men. In 2011, clean vocalist Johnny Franck departed as well. Through the seemingly endless stream of vocalist mish-mash and hoo-ha, Shomo has consistently stepped up to fill the patches his former band mates left behind. Who knew that in the process, he would completely flip this band upside-down and morph them into a consistent, churning metalcore machine? Certainly not I. But this is exactly what Shomo has done, and it is absolutely made prominent over the 36 minute run time of “This Means War”.
As opposed to the often-terrible/barely-passable breakdowns and mindless AutoTuned whining of the past, when it comes to sound, the band has seemingly done a complete 180. On this album, Shomo has chucked the synths he once held dearly to on “Someday Came Suddenly”; big, thick downtuned riffs are the name of the game here, and every song is filled to the brim with them. Each and every song has them in excess, and all of them are strong enough to stand on their own. Sadly, when put in the context of a full album, many of these riffs seem to blend together and seem awfully similar at times; so much so, in fact, that someone could probably take out all of the intro riffs of every song, swap them all around, and no one would ever know there was a difference. In fact, this seems to be the most prominent issue this album faces. Although very strong in its delivery, the band sticks to the verse-chorus-verse-chorus formula for nearly every song and does little to switch things up or add variety. In fact, this is probably the only advantage the band’s previous outings have over “This Means War”; their old stuff was crap, but it was varied crap. The substance is there, it just does very little to break from the formula.
Another topic of discussion that must be brought up is the debut of Caleb Shomo on both screams and cleans. I’m going to be quite “Franck” with you; Johnny Franck was a garbage clean vocalist in every sense of the word. On the band’s debut album, he was auto-tuned to hell, and when he wasn’t, he sounded like a depressed emo kid alternating between crying about his relationship problems, washing his wide array of V-necks, and uploading crappy vocal covers of 2004-era Underoath on Youtube. On the other end of the spectrum, Shomo sounds more akin to Three Days Grace’s Adam Gontier. Now is this an album for post grunge fans? No. But Shomo clearly has something Franck never had; the ability to add some grit while still retaining the tone. There is no “boo-hoo, woe is me” whining here. Although most will agree he’s a decent clean vocalist, his screams are very love/hate. I personally don’t mind them; if you want to hear crappy screamed vocals, go listen to Jimmy Ryan era Haste the Day (shudders). While they are not the strongest, they are far from being as horrible as metal enthusiasts everywhere are saying. One thing I would have liked, however, is to hear more low-range screams from Shomo. They are much more powerful and beefy than his mid-ranged screams and many breakdowns could have benefitted from that.
One last complaint I have is the “concept” that supposedly persists throughout this album. From what I’ve read up on (and based on the song titles), this is supposed to be a concept album. I don’t see any persistent semblance of a concept here. While some songs, such as “The Abduction”, have some decent story-based imagery (“I’ll do all that it takes to get to you, this is my flesh and blood, my one and only son”), in other songs, such as “The Motivation”, I have found difficulties pulling out anything story based whatsoever. The idea of a concept album may have seemed promising at first, but the execution was lacking and I think the overall body of work may have suffered as a result.
Overall, Attack Attack! have produced an album that has far surpassed my expectations. I have wanted to like this album ever since I heard “The Motivation”, and the band has certainly succeeded in that regard. Is it a perfect album? Absolutely not. Is it worth 35 minutes of your time? I’d say so.