Review Summary: Decent effort that unfortunately suffers from too much experimentation, inconsistency, and uninspired lyrics.
Steven Juliano has had the fortune of having an incredible musical career, this includes being part of The Silence, Fallout and Monsta Zero, and of course fronting I am Ghost, the band that gained him major success. One thing is clear though, he hasn't been the best frontman, his previous band suffered from many line-up changes, the most noticeable one being the Telestais departure, and obviously affecting the quality of the music, going from the nothing-short-of-spectacular Lovers' Requiem, to the mediocre Those We Leave Behind, Juliano wanted it his way, eventually leading to I am Ghost breaking up on 2010. Everyone’s thoughts were very similar, this was the end of something that could have been massive, oh well, maybe this lonely artist will now have the time to concentrate on his graphic novel "Lovers & Kings," and know he will have to deal with publishers instead of labels and bandmates. But then, on a surprisingly and unique move, Juliano announced his new project, Requiem for the Dead, not only that, but he also expressed how he felt about the current music "biz" calling it a "shallow, ***ed up industry," his new band not only would turn down labels and agents but would release music for free, now that’s definitely something anyone can appreciate. And we now finally have a group of focused musicians who know exactly what they want to do, these are dudes making music because they love to do it, our current scene does need more people who think like this, unfortunately the final result isn't the best one.
Now to clear things up this release doesn't resemble I am Ghost, nor the rock-opera sound of Lovers' Requiem, it does have a few similarities with Those We Leave Behind however. Instead, Always and Forever relies on a lot of electronic elements, use of atmospheres, and a lot of pop hooks. Intro "Sad Boy Meets Sad Girl" fails miserably, it doesn't achieve the effect they were trying to create, they add too many elements to it that instead it ends up sounding ridiculous. But getting past the intro is worth it, because it leads to one of the best tracks on the album, "Those Lovely Shark People" might not have the best lyrics but it features the catchiest chorus and Juliano's voice sounds clear and perfect as he sings "So mother can you hear me? This loaded gun can't kill me, and as the bullet rushes in; Requiem for the Dead... Do you know it's just the two of us right now? and as the bodies are washed and bled, our requiem for the dead," a good song that is worth checking out. Lead single "The Death Note of Shipwrecks" is a prime example of the sound the band has adopted, as it is fast-paced with a lot of synths, and it gets aggressive at times.
Requiem does also show their more hardcore influences here and there, and Juliano's screaming is always welcome, "Blonde to Red" features what I just mentioned, and even has a bridge with "la la la" sounds that could have been done by Ronnie Radke. It's at this point, however, that the formula starts to lose its charm; "I'm No Angel" and the title track are actually brought down by the use of electronic elements and lack of guitar playing. The interlude "Her Pocket Full of Poises" finishes the first part of the album which had started to lose focus, however these track is surprisingly good, unlike the intro, here we encounter a dark atmosphere that sounds like Lovers & Kings turned into a song.
I forgot to mention the fact that there is an actual concept behind the album, it's supposed to be the prequel to the story from Lovers' Requiem, but as expected this doesn't translate as well as it did on spectacular songs like "Beyond the Hourglass," and that isn't because of the absence of a female singer/violinist, but because the songs aren't as moving, the band doesn’t have that solid musicianship and emotion I am Ghost once had, which is frustrating because Steven has proven before that he can get it all together with excellent results. Well anyways, moving on to the second half we come across "The Misadventure of Coffin Kid" another album highlight, it has a nice punk feeling "Put your hands up in the air if you're sick of the same old ***!" sings Juliano, just his very thoughts about the music scene. The next two songs are pretty forgettable, showcasing the softer side of the band and relying on pop melodies, lyrically "All That I Wanted" bears to much similarity to "Smile of a Jesus Freak," then you start to wonder about all these I am Ghost references, there's plenty of them, as if the band are trying to bring back that old glory, or are simply just running out of ideas, whatever it might be doesn't work well. Album closer "The Terrible Tale of Two" might have one of the biggest flaws, the chorus goes "And if I die before I wake, let's cheers to life and love of you" which sounds too much like HIM's "Buried Alive By Love," this sole fact kept me from actually enjoying the song.
Final verdict is that, while there might be some really solid songs, the rest are brought down by obvious flaws, nothing here tops the good Ghost days, however it shows a group of men making music because that’s what they love doing, surely a good sign for the future. Requiem for the Dead do have the potential, their frontman is a veteran musician that has put out some great stuff in the past, and a very talented man. The band is releasing a new album in the following months, so hopefully this time around they will come with a more focused album, with its own identity, that doesn't have to rely on past success.