Review Summary: On album number three, Brisbane’s The Amity Affliction cement themselves at the top of the genre.
In a genre notorious for breakdowns, played out synth and auto-tuned clean singing, The Amity Affliction always stood out among others from the genre. The constantly over populated Metalcore/Post Hardcore scene was growing tired but didn’t appear to be slowing down. If anything it was gaining forward momentum, with the more accessible cleanly sung, almost pop-punk like choruses and the gateway into heavy music preaching to newer fans and yet, The Amity Affliction were different. They had a certain charm about them which made them stand out from the competition. From then on, it was apparent that The Amity Affliction were something special. That, given the time, they could go on to do great things.
Such was with the release of 2010s Youngbloods, and the group’s popularity only grew more from there as they arguably became one of the biggest bands in the Australian metalcore scene. While the album was good, great even, it lacked a little direction. That’s not to say it was all over the place. Quite the contrary; it was a solid and above all, fun record to spin on occasion but it could have assisted their sound if they took advantage of a more direct and focused approach to their songwriting. So is the case with Chasing Ghosts. Frontman Joel Birch has always been adept at screaming but he really shines when he combines his harsh vocals with his ability to write confronting and meaningful lyrics. Birch’s lyrics are taken from his own experiences dealing with depression and the contemplation of suicide. The record’s eponymous title track opens up the themes of the whole album based around a character who has taken their own life, and the impact it has on himself and those around him. In Birch’s own words:
"I wrote Chasing Ghosts as a narrative based wholly around someone that has committed suicide and has passed onto the other side. It's a story that I hope people will see for what it is; an example in song of why you should turn to someone close and talk instead of taking that last fatal step towards death prematurely.”
The album continues on these themes in different ways, from the perspective of a grieving friend (R.I.P. Bon) or the impact it has on a complete stranger (Geof Sux 666). Birch excellently handles a delicate subject without coming across as excessively moralistic or sanctimonious. His lyrics are perfectly executed and backed by the talented vocals of Ahren Stringer. While Stringer’s singing can sound a touch overproduced at times it’s no doubt that he has an incredible voice and is one of the best clean vocalists in the genre, and the way he plays off Birch’s screaming is one of the reasons the band really excels. Despite his occasional singing in parallel with Birch, Stringer primarily takes center stage during ‘Open Letter’ and ‘Greens Avenue’, especially during the choruses of each.
The synth sections really shine in how they’re used in a less forced, less direct manner. ‘Open Letter’ has an almost trancelike bridge which is reminiscent of the early works of contemporary Aussie band, House Vs Hurricane. Moreover, ‘I Heart H.C.’ has a fast, yet, elegant sounding piano scattered throughout it that adds to the overall song, rather than detracting from it, which is the trap so many bands fall in to. Keyboard and dual vocals aside, the main drawback to the album is the guitars, while perfectly adequate, are a little uninspired at times. The chug-chug of Drop C echoes throughout the whole ten tracks, with rare occurrences of variation. It’s not bad by any means, and it definitely gets the job done, but it does leave a little to be desired when it comes to distinguishing songs from one another. On the other hand, credit must be given towards Ryan Burt’s performance behind the kit. His powerful drumming reinforces an already tight band of musicians, and really adds a backbone to their sound.
Some would say that the band have regressed, because while it does sound a lot like ‘Youngbloods part 2’, it lacks much of the melody and catchiness of said record. You’re not going to find something akin to ‘Anchors’ or ‘Dr. Thunder’ on here as vocal hooks aren’t as frequent or distinct and the closest thing you’ll get to a sing-a-long chorus would be in ‘Greens Avenue’ or even the title track. However, the album flows much smoother then their previous work, taking a much more subtle route, putting more emphasis on atmosphere and melody rather than churning out typical ‘mosh-core track part 1 of 10’ repeatedly.
It doesn’t feel like The Amity Affliction are trying to win over any new fans with the release of Chasing Ghosts, but the record is a commendable piece of work from one of Australia’s most consistent bands in the metalcore scene and highly recommended for fans of the band or the genre itself. Many bands these days could learn a thing or two from Amity, prominently that less, is in fact more, and you don’t have to be shoving music down people’s throats to get them to appreciate it. It’s difficult to convey to someone what it is that make The Amity Affliction so special. They aren’t doing anything out of the ordinary (especially in a genre that is already played to death), but they do it with so much more tact and expertise which makes it something worth listening to. On album number three, Brisbane’s The Amity Affliction cement themselves at the top of the genre.