Review Summary: Unoriginal and overproduced: Destine fails at recapturing the spark of their debut.
For those of you who don’t know yet, Destine is a pop punk act from the Netherlands. The band was formed in 2006 and released their debut album “Lightspeed” in 2009. They claim to have been influenced by bands such as Jimmy Eat World and Paramore and have toured with pop punk legends All Time Low and Simple Plan. Illuminate is their second beat around the bush, and I honestly had big hopes for it. They released two solid singles prior to its release and I enjoy their debut very much.
As much as I wanted to love this album much more, I am unable. Simply put, Illuminate is not able to keep up with Lightspeed (no pun intended). Their debut set them apart from mainstream/successful pop punk bands like All Time Low and Simple Plan. Not only because they’re capable of writing original and entertaining material, but the overall quality unexpected to find in a debut album, much like Mayday Parade’s debut “A Lesson in Romantics”. I guess “Illuminate” in that sense can be compared to Mayday Parade’s “Anywhere But Here” seeing how that album wasn’t able to keep up with their debut either.
So, what happened? I’m not sure, but this album feels rushed. It just doesn’t feel finished. The opening track “Four Leaf Clover” for example was a horrible choice for an opening track. It is one of the better tracks on Illuminate, but it doesn’t in any way fit as the first song. The album thereafter goes on to “Stay”, the lead single and the most commercial song they’ve ever made. Granted, most albums “needs” a commercial song for the masses, and “Stay” isn’t all bad, but it’s slower track, and going soft on the second track doesn’t promise much for the band that once released a really good debut album, which indeed had quite a punch, where Illuminate has about none. From here, the album goes on to “All of the People” a slow song which is enjoyable, but gets old really fast. It’s like one of those songs you kind of like at first but end up skipping each time you listen to the album for a third-fourth time. Opening their highly anticipated second album this way just feels... weird.
You would imagine that after 3 years you’d be able to at least put out a album that doesn’t feel as misplaced and rushed as this… There’s no build up for an epic ending, no conclusion, no “real” meat… just a boring mediocre record with a couple of songs like “A Thousand Miles” and “Wait Forever” which deserve another listen. Granted, they are a relatively new band, so I shouldn’t be too hard on them. This is after all just their second album. But when I compare Illuminate to Lightspeed, kind of felt cheated on after listening to it. Like if it wasn’t enough, like if something was missing…
Their debut was all about showing of what talents each and every single member of the band had. This album sounds like a total ego-trip. It’s all about singer/guitarist Robin Van Loenen. Even the background vocals are all recorded by him. On the debut every member of the band sang, which again gave the album an original feel, much like Mayday Parade had/has. I am not saying they are anything close to Rise Against, or any of their accomplishments, but the case of Destine reminds me a bit of how Tim McIlrath over the years became more and more the key aspect of their sound, only in the case of Desitne, it happened on their second beat around the bush.
As for the rest of the guys, the bassist Tom Vorstius Kruijff follows the guitars nicely, but never goes outside the box and doesn’t get any free time to show. Fortunately compared to a whole lot of modern rock acts (especially pop punk) you can actually hear the bass lines, even if they are repetitive and nothing out of the ordinary. The lead guitarist Hubrecht Eversdijk, does still his part, although compared to Lightspeed he’s nonexistent. He was a key aspect of the sound of the debut with a lot of leads and solos, but on Illuminate he’s pushed back so far into the mix that you can barely hear him in the softer songs or softer parts of the songs. Which counts for about every song seeing how there really are just 2-3 “true pop punk” songs instead of cheesy radio friendly teenage rock songs... Whom I miss the most however, is pianist Laurens Troost. On this album, it almost doesn’t feel like if he’s a part of the band, and just a studio add-on to make the album sound more grand. Really, on Lightspeed he was all over the place with really strong background vocals and keyboard/piano playing throughout every song. On Illuminate, he sounds like a background noise that’s behind the huge ego of Robin. As for their new drummer, Jordy Datema whom replaced original drummer Robin Faas in 2011 does a good job, but much like the Kruijff he’s nothing special. To be fair, if I didn’t know Robin left the band I wouldn’t have heard the difference… for some that’s a plus, for me it is not.
Seems like what they were trying out on this record was 2 things:
1. Going between “harsh” and soft
2. Having a “wall of sound”
Their debut had so to speak a wall of sound, but nothing compared to this. Here, it is all the time, and causes quite a disarray, if not for some, a headache. This might also have a lot to say about the mix, which in my honest opinion isn’t that good either. There’s no balance, it sounds like they’ve randomly pushed people back and forth while keeping Robin on auto pilot since the first song.
Listening to the album as a whole is a much better experience than listening to solitary tracks. When you listen to it as a whole, you can at least hear that the band put an effort into making it. While if you listen to the album track by track you’ll most likely find two, maybe tree tracks you like skip the rest. Why? I don’t know how to say this… the album just isn’t that good. It’s an average second album that will be forgotten in time. It has a low replay value and lacks memorable songs, unless you’re 10 to 12 of course. Then this album would sound like the best thing you’ve ever heard. Then again, those are the kids who worship the likes of Tokio Hotel and Jonas Brothers, which should explain a whole lot on its own..
Lightspeed was an original and interesting album filled with good and memorable songs. Illuminate is a slow and overproduced album that’s not memorable, but is repetitive and filled with cheesy commercial/radio friendly rock songs. It’s straight out boring and falls short everywhere the debut shined… So maybe their debut was just a lucky shot, or maybe the band simply ran out of creativity, which would be quite unfortunate, because compared to many of the pop punk legends now days Destine are more than capable of using their instruments. Unfortunately for them, they were not able of recapturing the spark of their debut. Better luck next time guys!
“Wait Forever”, “A Thousand Miles” & “The Awakening”