Review Summary: They did it...
Escape the Fate have always been a band of change. From the abrasive, hit-or-miss records "There's No Sympathy For the Dead" and "Dying Is Your Latest Fashion" to "This War Is Ours," and the self-titled album, a significant level of diversity in the music appeared. With Mabbitt as vocalist in the past two records, the band have sounded like everything from a darker Weezer to a less thrashy Bullet for My Valentine. Unfortunately, the lyrics have fallen flat during Mabbitt's stint with the band, becoming the weakest link. Yes, everything the band has done in the past has been awful and great at the same time, but this album is where everything changes.
Opener "Ungrateful" is unarguably the record's heaviest and strongest track, barely giving listeners time to catch their breath before Mabbitt angrily screams his way through the first verse, with the Monte brothers readily creating an oddly catchy guitar riff for the song. Bassist TJ Bell's work isn't quite as audible as it should be, but it keeps the anger raging and hearts pounding. Drummer Ortiz has finally gotten himself together, making quite the backdrop to the energetic metalcore work. Verses and pre-choruses are entirely screamed, and the bridge chanting of "stand and scream" is entirely unclean. 5/5
The next track is "Until We Die," reminiscent of the self-titled album. A decent instrumental show with average-level vocals, it keeps listeners aware, but nowhere near as eager for the rest of the record as the title track-- honorable mention to the final chorus. Screaming in the opening part, pre-chorus and in the bridge. 3.5/5
Directly after is the album's longest-confirmed song, "Live Fast, Die Beautiful," immediately a disappointment when the listener hears the out-of-place guitar effects and aching reverb on Mabbitt's vocals. Undoubtedly the worst thing about this song is its lack of Caleb Shomo, believed and even stated to appear on the record for many months. Backing screaming and a brief scream at the end. 2/5
"Forget About Me" comes next, sounding very much as though it could have been on "This War Is Ours." A close second to "Ungrateful" in musicianship, the guitars are spectacular, the bass audible, and the drums at their best. The vocals are a clear show of Mabbitt's range and ability, with himself, Monte Money and Bell launching into harmonies in the chorus. A rare occurence of a tasteful breakdown occurs towards the song's end, with a bit of growls. Backing screaming at the end of the chorus and some at the end and in the breakdown. 4.5/5
Single "You're Insane" is up next. A heavy metal song with minimal screaming (much like "Live Fast"), it's not much special, but will undoubtedly pull in fans of modern rock. The brief solo is the song's peak, despite the catchy chorus and Marilyn Manson-esque vocals on the verses and pre-chorus. A small bit of screaming. 3/5
"Chemical Love" is a bit of a stretch for fans of the band, sounding more like H.I.M. or a poisoned Muse than anything these boys would come up with. Better than expected, but still not great. Very dark and synthy. Not really any screaming. 3/5
"Picture Perfect", co-written by Fall Out Boy frontman Patrick Stump, is the album's power ballad, using a quiet background vocalization and pain-stricken chorus vocals as its main element. Some acoustic guitar in the verses proves little more than useless, and the lyrics are cheesy. Nonetheless, the bridge and solo are worth waiting for. No screaming. 3.5/5
"Risk It All" is, lyrically, any other hard rock song about being individual, but gains some credit for the drums' riveting rolls. A generic but well-placed guitar riff, good vocals, no easily audible bassline. A symphonic soft bridge that seems like it was made for any other "emotional anthem" is the worst part of the song. It's bearable, but nothing special. Backing screaming. 2.5/5
"Desire" sheds a brief but lovely light, reminiscent of Motley Crue or perhaps even Poison, it won't be hailed as a classic, but it's a catchy throwback song that's sure to be a good time. Tiny bit of screaming at the end. 3.5/5
"One for the Money" is another sleazy heavy metal track, with god-awful lyrics involving the constant use of "***" for no purpose other than edginess. However, if the lyrics were ignored, it's very much like a Motley Crue song, so fans of Sixx and the boys may enjoy it. Depending on who you are, it's a hit-or-miss, aside from the trashy lyrics. Backing screaming and a bit at the end. 3.5/5
Album closer "Fire It Up" ends our dose of non-deluxe Escape the Fate for the next couple of years. Good vocals, chanting and screams, fantastic guitars, bass and drums. Possibly a classic album ender, it leaves the listener wanting more, throwing some hardcore into the style of "One For the Money." A good end to a good album. Screaming in the pre-chorus and a bit at the end. 4/5
Overall, "Ungrateful" is two steps forward for a band that have undergone ample criticism, internal turmoil and lineup changes. Mabbitt is finally utilizing his range in both screams and cleans, Monte Money finally getting the solo/showcase he deserves in every track, Michael Money holding his own, but unfortunately not being used as much as he could have been, Bell riveting on the bass and being an appropriate replacement for Max Green and Ortiz finally being the great drummer he's always had the potential to be. Despite low points in the album, it's more decent than most seem to say it is.
Keep it up, Escape the Fate.