Review Summary: Good try Summer, but better luck next outing.
On their previous release, Digital Summer performed a well iteration of a clichéd genre: hard rock/post-grunge with radio rock leanings. What kept them from radio rock was their heavier edge, much closer to Breaking Benjamin than Seether. The question is, have Digital Summer dealt with their flaws, and matured on this release? Or have they released more of the same?
From album opener Counting the Hours, its apparent Digital are aiming for a more anthemic, almost epic sound. The downtuned riffing is still there, the edge is still there, but the music doesn’t feel as dark. Also, the presence of two guitarists help this band a lot (note: John Mark was apparent on the last record as lead guitar, but as there were more places for Ian to riff than for him to solo, he’s much more useful on this record.) John’s presence is acknowledged much more fully on this album, and he leads the track with a cool solo, backed up by Ian’s riffing. The fast pace of the track and the urgency also help contribute to the “epic” sound. Kyle pretty much sounds the same, but at least hasn’t gotten worse. His screams also mainly sound the same, though some of them are a little deeper than before. Is it as good as previous opener Disconnect? Honestly, it is. It doesn’t rock quite as hard, but it just feels stronger. All the band members feel just somewhat more united, and the music feels more involving. Does the rest of the record follow suit? Some do, including songs like Just Run, Hostage, and Playing the Saint. Just Run has a powerful chorus and a great guitar “solo”. It’s one of the stronger tracks Digital Summer has written easily beating anything off Cause and Effect, and there’s some great screaming as well. “Hostage” has a great, tremolo-picked guitar riff throughout, it’s one of Ian’s strongest riffs. This song also has a strong, energetic, rocking chorus that will probably get stuck in your head. Both guitarists show off during the breakdown, as well. Playing the Saint opens with industrial effects mixed with some cool riffing, then the riffing takes over for the rest of the song. Kyle is extremely angsty and angry, but again, his vocal style makes the angst work for the band. The chorus sounds similar to Disconnect, bringing back some of the heaviness of the first album. Without a doubt, this is a strong album highlight.
So, how are the mid-tempo tracks? They don’t differ much from previous mid-tempo tracks. Morphine sounds similar to Crash, though a tad bit more melodic. Rescue Me is a heavier version of Morphine, and again sounds similar to Crash. Other than a few screams, Inside My Head gets pretty monotonous, due to again sounding just like Crash or Rescue Me. Ballad-wise, it’s not much better. Shallow comes off as a more melodic Five Finger Death Punch ballad, and While the City Sleeps rips off Sxxxoxxxe. Without a doubt, this time around, slower songs are not the band’s specialty. Speaking of songs, there’s sixteen of them on this album. With sixteen tracks, there’s a great deal of filler, and on those filler tracks, Summer either sounds exactly like they did on Cause and Effect, or like tracks earlier on in the album. If the record was shorter, this wouldn’t be as much of a bad thing, but with sixteen tracks, improvement is needed. Also, other than the mini-solos and a slightly more melodic approach, Summer still sounds like a heavier Seether clone, or a more melodic Breaking Benjamin clone, just like they did on Cause and Effect. But, while the band does great rocking hard, the more melodic heavier tracks do work for them, and bring a slight new sound to the table. Also, while Anthony is practically never audible, all the band members still sound great, and new drummer Ben isn’t any worse than their previous drummer. Kyle has a powerful enough voice to make his anger believable, though it tends to get old.
Lyrically, Digital starts off well, then degrades back into familiar territory by end of record. Counting the Hours, for example, talks of changing the world. Just Run warns a hostile that a victim is about to explode in anger. By end of record, though, it’s the same angsty lyrical approach, the same used on Cause and Effect. Overall, Summer almost improved on this album. If they’d had less tracks on this record, it would’ve been rated higher. But, due to an overall lack of variety on a sixteen-song record, this gets a lower rating than the group’s first outing. Good try Summer, but better luck next outing.