Review Summary: Instead of utilizing their full potential, “Woe, Is Me” unfortunately decides to stick to the doctrine that most metalcore bands follow: reduce, reuse, recycle.
I hate wasted potential. Absolutely hate it. Whenever a band has the tools and ability to create something amazing, and instead chooses to follow in the footsteps of generic counterparts, I find myself sadly shaking my head. Unfortunately, Woe, Is Me, is one of those bands.
Don’t get me wrong, I actually like this album. But whenever I listen to this, the thought that this could be so much better keeps nagging at the back of my head. The end product turns out to be somewhat better than your average metalcore release, and that in itself is a disappointment. Somewhat better? Hell, with the talent on board, Woe, Is Me had the chance to produce a good, maybe even great, metalcore album.
The most impressive part of this album is, to me, the vocal work. Singer Tyler Carter has an incredible voice comparative to that of Jonny Craig’s (Craig even provides guest vocals on two tracks). Soulful, emotional, and rich, his voice is an acrobat, dancing around each track. Carter truly is an exceptional singer: he might even be one of the best vocalists in the entire scene. Bohn is no pushover either. His lows are deep, harsh, and gravely. He growls along and then easily transitions to his higher range. His screams, quite simply, sound good, and fit into the dark atmosphere that the rest of the band attempts to create. This vocal lineup is solid.
Instrumentally, however, the band starts to fall flat on its back. Woe, Is Me seems to be addicted to the breakdown. Make no mistake; I do not hate the breakdown. I feel that breakdowns, when used sparingly and fittingly, contribute greatly to a track’s heavy atmosphere. But everything’s only good in moderation. The guitarists chug along and one-note so much that, in the absence of vocals, each song would be indistinguishable from its fellows. I refuse to believe that the guitarists are not more capable. They are definitely withholding technical skill, to stick to the breakdown formula that plagues and characterizes metalcore. Drums, however, are another matter. Drummer Austin Thornton hails from the critically acclaimed and now-defunct Of Machines, which released perhaps one of the best post-hardcore albums in existence (no exaggeration). Thornton fills the album out skillfully, demonstrating that, while the guitars are slacking off, he has no reason to. He is still a skilled drummer and his relentless playing keeps the album on a solid foundation.
The bassist barely deserves mention. Perhaps it isn’t even his fault, but, like in most other metalcore acts, he is barely audible. The lead guitarists and the powerful vocalists easily smother the sound of the bass guitar. The keyboardist and programmers actually do their job well. While at some points, they flood the airwaves with synth annoyingly reminiscent of Asking Alexandria, at other points they sparingly add that little touch to actually enhance the song. An example of this would be the beginning of "[&] Delinquents", and the first few sweet seconds of “Mannequin Religion”.
In summary, while the guitarists demonstrate little skill, the band as a whole is solid. However, some songs aren’t cobbled together well. Songwriting is rather weak at points, and although Tyler Carter is a great vocalist, he is inconsistent in formulating catchy verses, and obviously Michael Bohn works more than he does. Sometimes Carter displays strokes of genius, but more often than not, his lines are, quite frankly, not interesting. Additionally, it seems that he is constantly struggling to make his voice heard. He seems to be battling with the rest of the instruments, so the result is sloppy and distracting. This is clearly shown at the beginning of “Mannequin Religion”.
Carter’s inconsistency is unfortunate, because when he unleashes his true talent, the results are incredible. The tracks "[&] Delinquents" and “Our Number[s]” become the most enjoyable on the album, and it is because Tyler’s voice blows everything away with catchy hooks and admirable execution. It is exciting and brilliant, but it is rare.
This band could’ve been bigger. They could’ve been better. Woe, Is Me had the talent, but songwriting inconsistencies, breakdown addiction, and low levels of creativity prevent this disappointingly average release from being the great metalcore album it could’ve been. And I’m sure that I’m not the only one who hates wasted potential.
Recommended tracks: “[&] Delinquents”, “Our Number[s]”, "Desolate [The Conductor]"