Review Summary: Despite some grievances of trite and overdone novelties that plague its genre as a whole, “Rebel Revive” delivers on it's promise of ingenuity and creativity in this ever-stagnant scene of music.
“Rebel Revive” is a kickstarter funded album that Jamie’s Elsewhere had produced with Nick Sampson after they departed with their record label and former vocalist, Aaron Pauley. The most notable thing about this album is that it is a pioneer of the idea of having an album funded by the fans. There are the obvious positives to a D.I.Y. album. Artists can easily express the creative freedom that entails from not being contracted by a label and their expectations. Though while that statement may be true, there has been a lingering question that has been on my mind: When you ask normal, everyday individuals to donate to essentially fund an album, are you then constrained by new expectations packaged with backers emotional and monetary investment? Just something to ponder.
“Rebel Revive” is a far cry from it’s predecessor “They Said a Storm Was Coming,” as it completely changes it’s intended audience and sound, and centers itself around more literal songwriting and traditional structures, and has ditched the synth-core musical style for something more pop-metal oriented. That being said, this band has the quintessential recipe for a generic post-hardcore album. Low tuned guitars, depressing lyrics, and catchy choruses are everywhere here. The thing that sets this album apart from it's competitors though, is that it's executed at a quality that sets a gold standard. This is an album that can easily define a genre, and represent every positive thing that made what we consider the overdone and generic to be what it is. While it has a similar sound to others around it, "Rebel Revive" stands at a higher pedestal than those who follow it's formula. To simply put it, this will be the type of album that bands will try to emulate in the future.
While not as technically savvy as its predecessor, there are still fragments of ear-candy in instrumentation that seem well placed and are pleasantly surprising all throughout the album. Every song is backed with synthesized orchestral effects that give each one a distinct and poignant atmosphere. Most songs are played in a strangely unique, fast paced, tempo that regardless of their speed, never feel too short.
You won’t find deeply philosophical and emotionally contextual lyrics here. Nor will you find a list of songs that sound distinct and separate from one another. Where this album shines, is in it’s attention to detail. It fleshes out the little things that people take for granted in music. There were many occasions where I listened to a song, expected a generic transition, and ended up pleasantly surprised by the different directions it would turn to. For example in the title track “Rebel Revive” there is a transition after the second chorus that presents a sound that is sporadically different than what the listener expects and it was a welcome inclusion. “Capital Vices” starts off with both a guitar and a drum solo, and is essentially a song that gives each of the instruments (vocals included) their 30 seconds of fame, which was a perfect example of showing what all of the albums strengths were. Namely, in "The Cover Up," there was a fantastic use of creativity in structure and technical finesse that is a refreshing change of pace from the norm. If I had to, I would describe the song as Post-hardcore’s version of a rock ballad. It was executed so well that it made me wish that the band changed up their formula like this more often.
Justin Kyle is an exceptionally unique singer that can contribute a lot to this genre with his hip-hop esque vocal style and I look forward to hearing more from him in the future. His screams are well pronounced, notably so in “Backstabber.” They really throw emotional context into that song, they give purpose to their existence.
That’s doesn't mean that all screams are perfectly placed. Certain transitions throughout the entire album seemed tacked on, and almost felt as if they were added in the appease the hardcore crowd who would complain if a song didn't have screams in it. Songs like “The Illusionist,” “The Cover Up,” and “In Depth Perception” would have been fine without them, and I found myself wishing that they were taken out.
The album definitely has its weaker moments. While a majority of songs presented are solid, there are a certain few songs that lacked substance, namely “Sick Fiction,” “Empty Eyes,” and “In Depth Perception.” Each of these songs, at first, feel promising, but they never reach their full potential. The songs are solid in their own right, but after hearing what this band is capable of they leave much to be desired.
There is one thing that left me confused and disappointed: The rather empty and meaningless cameos by certain artists.
This album has one of the best artist collaborations I've heard in a long time with "Capital Vices." Phil Druyor, and Nick Sampson's contributions form to make a perfect representation of a song that merges together elements of both bands involved in a fantastic way. But it also has some of the worst collaborations I've heard in "Empty Eyes," and “In Depth Perception.” Garret Rapp and DEV are by no means bad vocalists, and the songs they’re in aren't necessarily bad. It's just that their overall integration into their respective songs are nonessential and frankly feel poorly executed. They could've done a lot more with Garret and Dev, both of whom don’t contribute much at all to the songs they’re featured in. They both have unique vocal styles that would have made for interesting sounds had they contributed more. Though, in this case, anyone else could've played their roles and no difference would’ve been made.
This album was a frustrating one for me to score. I want to shout praise for every unique thing it does, but its shortcomings are hard to ignore. The inconsistency in this album is so polarizing, there are some songs that are among my favorite in this genre (maybe even period), and there are some that made the album feel like any other post-hardcore album. That aside, this is an album that, despite it’s “cover up” (pardon my pun) of genericism, has a plethora of innovative ideas that show massive potential for future releases.
-P.S. If anyone can answer this it would be appreciated: How did they get DEV to make a cameo on the album? That was the last person I expected to ever collab with them.