Review Summary: Wildly flailing away in the hope of stumbling upon a successful balance. Sorry, you're not a winner!
Ever since Enter Shikari apologized to us for not being winners in 2006, it feels as if hundreds of bands have attempted to emulate such a successful balance of electronica and post-hardcore. Considering that the Englishmen themselves struggled to follow up their first physical single, it should come as no surprise that synthcore act after electronicore act have subsequently delivered albums ranging from sub-par to unlistenable clusterfucks. Promisingly, Michigan sextet I See Stars – another group who had previously released three barely passable LPs – stepped it up in 2013 with ‘New Demons’; an album which proved that the genre could juxtapose such disparate elements to sustain tunes that crossed the four minute barrier. Could their Canadian counterparts Abandon All Ships overcome their reality show roots to replicate such success on their third LP ‘Malocchio’?
While containing a moderately catchy chorus courtesy of clean vocalist Martin Broda, lead single and album opener ‘Reefer Madness’ suggests the answer to the aforementioned question is unfortunately in the negative. Doing nothing to break away from the tired formula of screamed verses and clean choruses, the Toronto quintet deliver another messy album where they wildly flail away in the hope of stumbling upon a successful balance, to no avail. As per usual, practically every track provides at least a fleeting moment of inspiration, but each is brought down by one obnoxious element or another. On occasion, it is the loud, in-your-face clubby synths, but more often than not it is Angelo Aita’s nondescript, predominantly unintelligible screams, which lack the necessary power and emotion to anchor these ten songs.
From a musical perspective, it is disappointing that apart from the slowed down section of ‘Trapped’, there isn’t a great deal of experimentation with tempo here. Nor – with the exception of a handful of intros – is there much atmosphere infused into proceedings. As ‘Malocchio’ progresses, Abandon All Ship’s metalcore foundations give way to their electronic tendencies. ‘Alive’ stretches the blueprint the furthest; Featuring Canadian producer AstroKrat, it is ready made for the Ibiza crowd, even making a belated toe-dip into Skrillex’s popular brand of dubstep! Of course, with the synth and keys of Sebastian Cassisi-Nunez taking precedence, Kyler Browne’s guitar-work – and to a lesser extent, Melvin Murray’s drumming – is reduced to mere background noise when not in full breakdown mode. Disappointingly, there is barely a striking riff or exciting solo to be heard.
From the heavily auto-tuned clean vocals of their debut (which are wisely dialled down here) to the rap and R&B embellishments of latest release ‘Infamous’, Abandon All Ships have admirably continued to tinker with their formulaic brand of trancecore. That continues on ‘Malocchio’, and while the clubby style actually suits them, the results are pretty much the same, since the band rarely approach balancing all of the varying elements satisfyingly. They come closest on ‘Trapped’ and closer ‘Paradise’, but even then there is the nagging feeling that the choruses simply aren’t infectious enough to make the tunes memorable. Abandon All Ships may be steadily improving their consistency, but it still feels as if they are as far away from Enter Shikari’s benchmark song as they were when they entered that reality show back in 2009. They could very well be heading in the right direction, but for now: Sorry, you’re not a winner.
Recommended Tracks: Trapped, Paradise & Bloor Street West.