Review Summary: A surprising little gem that holds more power than one would expect based on the genre it’s associated with.
For some reason it is surprisingly difficult for a great amount of modern alternative metal/hard rock bands to have mainstream success. These unlucky bands that get glanced over possess near-identical qualities in sound to the bands in the genre that are fortunate enough to gain the attention they desire, so one would wonder what exactly makes a band qualify for the gift of fame in an over-saturated and barely surviving genre in which most of its rather unremarkable artists do little to distinguish themselves from each other.
Perhaps it’s just the luck of the draw, but it seems that time and time again the bands in the post-grunge/alt metal crowd that have traits that put their rendition of the genre above the rest of the bunch in quality are the one’s who end up being overlooked. It’s a shame that such redeemers of a sound remain virtually unsung, and Digital Summer’s newest release Breaking Point may inevitably become another one of those unfair cases.
Based on the flat material of similar acts such as Breaking Benjamin and Trapt, and judging from how same-old Digital Summer’s genre has become (and how less than notable the band has been on past outings), one would understandably not expect Breaking Point to be an album that emits pleasantly surprising waves of force. The band owes obtaining this in-your-face impact to recently recruited replacement guitarist Jon Stephenson. Stephenson employs a wide variety of different tunings, effects, and riffing patterns in a masterful fashion that shows as much concentration on style and sound as it does talent.
The album itself gives the impression of putting heavy emphasis on the much improved guitar department, starting out strong and bold by featuring guest Clint Lowery of Sevendust fame on guitar to raise the volume of the assault on “Forget You” right from the get-go, and wrapping up the album with an acoustic version of the single-ready ballad “Broken Halo” to show that Stephenson is just as skilled unplugged. However, even with all the stress on the guitar end, Stephenson doesn’t become the star of the show or outshine the music surrounding him, the production balances out Stephenson’s playing quality with the rest of the band, avoiding issues of one aspect of the album hogging the listener’s attention.
Breaking Point is a well-crafted record in that it doesn’t just focus all its effort on its area of specialty while the rest of the areas remain unchanged and audibly inferior. The blunt furry of the chugging, and the wails and shrieks reclaim a certain standard of engaging heaviness that has been lost in mainstream hard rock for quite some time. It allows for this album to push the boundries of how intense an album of its type will typically get, and does so impressively without changing genres.
The lyrical themes of this album may be all too familiar and exactly like too many other artists in the genre, but this was only a problem because the post-grunge music that has encased these lyrics has been so feeble for so long, and it has exhausted the themes into annoying redundancy as a result, but the musical back-bone of Breaking Point accomplishes instilling new and exciting life into the lyrical themes of this type of music again. Digital Summer doesn’t aim to be angst-ridden, and instead opts to revive the interest and emotional value in the topics of love and rage viewed through the lens of post-grunge style, and vocalist Kyle Winterstein does so with a tinge of confidence in his delivery.
Instead of abandoning these well-known themes for the route of pretentiously cryptic lyrics like most alternative metal have in an attempt to rely on that to make their music creative, Digital Summer decide to bravely act as redeemers of a tired method.
Breaking Point will undoubtedly surprise any listener with just how heavy-hitting of an impact it has, and that's what makes it worth sifting through the seas of alternative metal artists to hear it. It’s a refreshing and solid album that makes its genre powerful again, which is just as respectable as creating a variation of the sound. Showing how much difference one change can make for the better as long as it is handled properly, Breaking Point is the savior of an album its genre needs in wake of the genre's dwindling progression.