Review Summary: Stuck in a rut...
Since bursting onto the metalcore scene in 2003, Michigan’s melodic hardcore worshipping For The Fallen Dreams has established a sound often compared to that of their more acclaimed counterparts Misery Signals. The bright guitar melodies and raw, emotive vocals of debut album Changes won the band a legion of fans who fell for the melodic hardcore vibes on a heavier backdrop. In reality For The Fallen Dreams’ sound owes more thanks to metalcore than it does melodic hardcore, evidenced by the heavy, down tuned rhythm sections which provide the base for the ambient guitar leads the band has been famed for. On the back of their debut "Changes", For The Fallen Dreams' global profile was raised very quickly thanks to extensive touring both in the States and in Europe. Despite the departure of vocalist Chad Ruhlig, (who went on to form metalcore band Legend) For The Fallen Dreams followed up with the more coherently put together sophomore “Relentless”. Dylan Richter was brought in as Ruhlig’s replacement prior to the release of “Relentless” and obviously added a bit of the ‘X Factor’ they had previously been missing. It was with this release that For The Fallen Dreams found a sound distinguishable from their peers.
Unfortunately for the band their struggles only seemed to mount up following the release of “Relentless”. Two further members left the band under a cloud, one of which was drummer and principle songwriter Andrew Tkaczyk. A mixture of unresolved issues involving the departed band members and not replacing these members full time put the band’s long term future in jeopardy and consequently much of the lyrical content of new album “Back Burner” is concentrated on these struggles. Much has been made of this album being a ‘make or break’ release for the band when taking into account all that had happened but the result has yielded neither outcome in all honesty.
The absence of Tkaczyk is altogether more evident in Back Burner as the coherence and complexity of Relentless has been traded out for A Day To Remember esque plodding verses and repeated cleanly sung choruses. Ironically, A Day To Remember’s Tom Denney was assigned production and mixing responsibilities and this has not translated well to For The Fallen Dreams' sound. In order to support the song writing shift there has been a greater emphasis put on clean vocals in Back Burner. This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing had the clean vocals been sung well or dare I say it produced well. Unfortunately, they seem to have been completely mismanaged and thus the vocal inconsistencies make Back Burner almost unlistenable at times. Not befitting of the trend however is the vocal performance of Richter whose performance is both passionate and compelling. His monotonous style of low pitch growling wore a little thin on Relentless but this has been improved upon significantly in Back Burner. In great contrast to the cleans, the raw aggression of the screamed vocals has been polished up nicely in the studio and works well with the angsty lyrics of Back Burner.
There has been no let up in the technicality of musicianship in Back Burner, still present are the ultra melodic riffs of old, infact with a greater abundance. Still present however is an abundance of uninspired breakdowns, which are rarely built up properly. Clocking in at something like a breakdown every minute and a half, For The Fallen Dreams rarely deviate from what has become the norm with modern metalcore. This meanwhile the tasteful guitar lines of “Yellow” and “My Anthem-Like Symphony” are drowned out by yet more woeful clean vocals. It is no coincidence that the only song without clean vocals, album closer “Fist Fight” is the outstanding track on Back Burner.
It is obvious the band has the tools to succeed but they seemingly have no idea how to use them anymore. Ultimately, the glimpses of good are few and far between. Are there harder times still ahead of For The Fallen Dreams? On this evidence, yes there are.
Say What You Will