Review Summary: On this release, the metalcore influence is more present, and the alternative rock is replaced more with a post-hardcore sound. And dang, it's a pretty good choice.
Improvement for heavy bands can mean many things. It can mean getting a heavier sound and maturing at the same time, it can mean keeping the same general sound but adding in some cool quirks, or getting a little more melodic and still maturing. For SBR this time around, improvement was getting a heavier sound and maturing at the same time. Production is improved, lyrics are improved, the musicians have improved, all of it is better than the great self-titled EP the band released a year previously.
Right off the bat, album opener "Trailers vs. Tornadoes" shows that this will be a heavier release from the group. The heavy guitars pound, there's some intricate almost-soloing from Andy O'Neal and some great chuggery from JJ, and vocalist Zach Riner tears through his whole range, going from low notes to high notes to passionate screams. Production for the record is also better, this track and the rest sound very clear, and the clicks and scratches from the first EP are gone. The better production actually adds to the more post-hardcore/metalcore sound, as well as more usage of screaming vocals, and just an overall darker tone. The next track, "This Awakening", is also superb. The whole thing is great, and the interplay between both guitarists throughout is genius. However, the highlight of this track is the ending. There's a great breakdown in which all of the band members, yes, even the bass, work together to propel the climax of the song. It's a fast breakdown, granted, but it's still an intense breakdown, especially the scream at the end. The double bass part is actually the highlight, drummer Dane Anderson proves he has more of a prominent place than just providing the tempo. The heaviest track on the release (and my personal favorite) "This Battleship Won't Budge" is up next. This is where the heavier style really becomes more prevalent, because those who listened to the self-titled EP remember that the alternative rock track "Modern Day Mary" was the third track, and slowed down from the high intensity a little. Anywho, "Battleship" opens with hammering rhythm guitar from JJ and pounding drums from Dane, then a cool lead-in, almost solo riff from Andy. The song then pauses for a moment, then rockets into metalcore territory with another guitar and drum led assault. There's a great deal of screaming on this track, and another great breakdown after the second chorus, and another breakdown, which is also superb, at the end of the song. The last breakdown has some amazing drumming, Anderson really shines. The final heavy track, "My Friend Courage", opens with both guitarists playing some cool riffs, and those great riffs continue throughout the song, later climaxing into a choatic solo. There's a good but not great breakdown towards the end, and that's really it for that song. The next two songs, "I Am" and "Best In Me", are the slower ones on the release. I'll skip "I Am" because it's just some quiet guitar blended with spoken-word lyrics. "Best In Me" is the album's ballad, but it still rocks pretty hard. Both the passionate chorus and the rocky, guitar-led intro are highlights, as well as the addition of Mrs. Riner on vocals at the end of the song. It's a great end to a great album. Lyrically, the album deals with awakening in Christ from wrong decisions, confronting others who are making wrong decisions, standing firm for faith, and appreciating/loving those around us.
Positives include better production, tighter musicianship, an overall heavier and more consistent sound, and improvement on the screamed vocals. The lyrics are more mature this time around as well, and just sound more well-written then on the previous release. The addition of both group vocals and Riner's wife on "Best In Me" was awesome as well. All the band members worked so much better together on this release, and it was just an overall better release. I need to correct myself here. On my review of their self-titled EP, I said the self-titled was the band's best work. I'm wrong, this EP is the band's best work.
Negatives include barely being able to hear the bass, and "I Am" seems like it could've been replaced by an actual song, though it serves as a good lead-in towards "Best In Me".
This is a great release, I would highly recommend this to any post-hardcore fan. It's the band at their highest, and makes me regret the fact that they are no longer together.