Review Summary: Not quite right yet.
On paper, Abel sounds almost too good to be true: a cocktail of Manchester Orchestra
's honesty, Brand New
's brooding atmospheres, and Thrice
's fire and ferocity with lyrics that are unmistakably Christian but surprisingly relatable and strikingly deep. Of course, claiming that Make It Right
lives up to that standard would be hyperbole at best and an outright lie at worst, but Abel does string together enough flashes of tremendous potential to write a solid album.
The album's highlights come early. “I'll Be Waiting” shows some impressive dynamic control, alternating smoothly between resounding riffs and delicate passages, culminating in a guitar-centric bridge that takes its time before erupting. “Fire Walk With Me” is an album highlight, fueled by a spiritual-esque chorus (“Oh, the devil wants to drag my soul/ drag my soul down to the lake of fire”). The whole track builds tastefully to the final chorus, and a soaring guitar solo doesn't hurt.
Dynamics within songs are clearly one of the band's biggest strengths; even with relatively traditional song structures, something is always changing or building on just about every song. Those structures, though eventually become crutches, as some songs don't have as much punch as they should. “Fifteen Years,” the tale of a homeless man begging for a dime to prove he won't spend the money on booze, should have an incredibly poignant climax, and when the band quiets down so Kevin Kneifel can whisper “I've been drunk as hell for fifteen years/ but the spirit sounds so sweet to my poor ears,” there should be one..but no, just another iteration of the disappointingly major-key chorus.
The more energetic tracks tend to be the best anyway; “Daughter” features one of the album's best moments in its pre-chorus as Kneifel shouts repeatedly, “I'm just a man with a ghost!”, and even the song's more subdued moments bear a sense of urgency. Contrarily, there's “Come Home,” (which has an opening riff very similar to Manchester Orchestra's “Virgin”), a sleepy song devoid of any sort of energy that makes the somewhat sappy lyrics even harder to appreciate.
It's hard to shake the feeling that Abel was heavily restrained on Make It Right
. Song after song seems to be asking for a huge, no-punches-pulled climax, but they never come. What could have been great songs are crippled into being merely good; call it bad production, call it caution, call it what you will. The songwriting and lyrical talent on display can't be fully suppressed, of course, but it's this overuse of restraint that renders Abel merely a band influenced by industry giants instead of a giant in their own right.