Review Summary: The evolution of Chasing Victory since their EP “A Not So Tragic Cover Up” has been a bit of a roller coaster. With “Fiends,” we're brought up to the summit of the first giant incline and are enjoying the heart-thumping ride down.
“Fiends” is Chasing Victory's third album to date. Their first release on Mono vs. Stereo records was their 5 song EP “A Not So Tragic Cover Up.” When we were first introduced to the band, we were introduced to a group of 5 emo/indie hardcore teens. The music on the EP was good. Lead singer Adam Harrell's vocals were whiny and his screams were on their way to full development. The music was full of good guitar hooks and drum beats. The style of the EP was mostly emo rock with some screamo elements, but overall you couldn't help but feel a little like these were guys that just came from playing a few local shows and a friend's birthday party. Nevertheless, I loved the EP and anxiously awaited the full length release.
Well the wait was finally over when September of 2005 finally brought Chasing Victory's first full length album on Mono vs. Stereo records. I was expecting more of the same, emo/indie rock with bits of screamo, just more refined. I remember putting that CD in for the first time and being blown away by the first raging scream of “Lead me out to shore!” What I got was a screamo album with bits of emo/indie rock. The guitars were heavy and distorted, the vocals were powerfully and the screams made you feel good. However, it did take some time to adjust to the sound after becoming familiar with their EP. I was a little turned off at first, and even put the CD up and went on an “Underoath only” spree for a while. I eventually came back to “I Call This Abandonment” and fell in love all over again with Chasing Victory's sound. They became one of my top favorite bands and won a spot on my “Top 10 of 2005” list (see my Journal Entry).
Then on May 8th, 2007, we were introduced to Chasing Victory's third album (2nd full length release), “Fiends.” I followed this album for a couple month before it came out. Listening to a couple new songs on their Myspace page. I have to be honest, I was disappointed at first. I heard the opening screams of the first song on the album “Chemicals,” and thought, “Yeah, we're at home here...this is good ol' Chasing Victo...” My thought was interrupted by Adam Harrell's falsetto crooning into the microphone. My initial reaction was “What the #$^&%^*"""” As I went through more of the songs I became increasingly more disappointed. This wasn't the normal ear-piercing screamo band that I knew from “I Call This Abandonment.” They were in there, pieces of them, but the overall feel of the band had changed. Well, needless to say I purchased the album a month after it came out. The first few listens were difficult, but after that I found myself getting more and more into the catchy riffs and lyrics and now...I listen to this album at least 2 times a day.
As said before, the first track on the album, “Chemicals” will make you feel almost right at home with Chasing Victory. It opens with pounding drums, a catchy, beefy guitar riff and Adam Harrell's excellent screaming vocal talent. You get a taste of what's to come in the rest of the album when Harrell breaks into an eerie falsetto in the second verse. The whole song is well crafted together, but is one of the harder songs on the album. I do get the feeling this track was strategically placed as if to say, “Alright guys, what you're about to hear is a bit different, but bear with us...”
The next track on the album, “Wolves” (my personal favorite), opens with a heavy bass riff and a lone trumpet, before it breaks into a more modern pop-rock sound. The beefy guitars are here too, but it is definitely a different sound. The lyrics of this song certainly do a great job at describing a girl who is only out for who own gain...the kind of girl “Mom warned me about.” Harrell sings:
“Everybody knows, everybody knows.
Everybody knows she's a riot when she's striking a pose.
Place your bets. Place your bets
On the girl in the short skirt showing off her assets.
They call her home wrecker, but she’s not a humble beggar.
There's a closet full of skeletons an undertaker
Couldn't spot with a keen sense of dark apparitions.
Her lips are poisonous, but men'll die just to kiss 'em.
She works her magic with the devil's ability.
She's a monster, a monster.
She's got a fashion that could humble an enemy.
She's a monster, a monster.”
The song then breaks into the awesome bridge where Harrell screams in rage “She's a wolf, she's a wolf!” and ends just as heavily. At this point you're thinking, alright, I can go a little further.
The third and title track of the album, “Fiends,” starts with a single picking guitar and Harrell crooning into the microphone. When it does finally break into full instruments, it doesn't necessarily get harder, just more of a modern pop/rock anthem for today's youth. It's still a great song and includes the screaming bridge. The lyrics of many of these songs are what makes this album worth paying attention to. In “Fiends” Harrell opens with:
“I've been feelin' kind of sick to my stomach,
It's just a gimmick, but the kids seem to love it,
And if you're patient you can witness the sell out,
I'm not a killer, but Hollywood's gonna drown,
And if you're feeling original,
Don't let it go to your head it's all been done before,
You're not the first one,
You're not the first one,
There's a rumor creeping into my ears,
That we've been changing how our image appears,
And I'll be the first one, not the last one,
To tell you images in mirrors aren't as big as you hear”
It's almost as if he knows that this new effort will get a lot of criticism including the all too popular phrase, “They've sold out.” Instead, this band has merely tried something new stylistically.
The rest of the 7 tracks on the regular version of the album follow suit. Ranging from pop rock sounds to some more familiar Chasing Victory screamo with the songs, “Carnies” and “Zombies,” this album covers a whole arena of musical flavors.
What sets this album apart musically is what lead vocalist Adam Harrell contributes in both vocals and lyrics. I was amazed at the vocal range displayed here. He goes from the rawest of primal screams to the “prettiest” of falsetto croons. You're always wondering what he is going to be doing next with his voice in this album. The other instruments play a huge part in this album as well. The guitarists keep us entertained with awesome riffs and hooks and the drums are some of the best I have heard in certain areas of this album. The bass is one of my favorite parts of this record as well. They let bassist Chris Crutchfield have a lot of fun on this album and this guys is very talented.
I did mention a couple of paragraphs ago that there is a “regular” verison of the album. This means that there is also a different version. A limited supply of albums were made specifically for sale at Best Buy. These albums included two addition tracks “Ghouls” and “Mutants.” You might at first think that these two tracks were just two extras that “weren't quite good enough to make it on the normal album.” I didn't feel that way at all with these tracks. In fact, “Ghouls” is one of the most stand-out tracks, with some amazing bass riffs. I would highly encourage anyone to try and find the extended version of the album at a Best Buy near you. It's definitely worth it!
Overall, this album is without a doubt Chasing Victory's finest. I have been listening to it for a month straight and I don't see it going away anytime soon. The fans of hardcore may not care for it as much, but you have to give these guys the credit of crafting a well balanced album and for doing something original. I think there is definitely something to be enjoyed by most people in this album. They will be reaching a wider audience with this album and this is definitely not selling out.
Again, the career of Chasing Victory has been a roller coaster, constantly getting better in my opinion. It may seem easy to put this album aside after first listen if you were a fan of “I Call This Abandonment,” but let me encourage you to play it through a few times, read the lyrics and get familiar with the songs. After that, it's an addictive album that is hard to put down.
Pros: Mixing new and old sounds to form one of the best crafted indie rock/ post hardcore albums in recent times. Harrell's eerie falsettos are awesome and give the music a lot of dynamic. Screams are better than ever.
Cons: Regular version of the album feels a little shorter than I would have liked. They didn't make enough copies of the Best Buy extended version. More of an absence of the “hard-ness” that got most of their fans from “I Call This Abandonment.”
Standout Tracks: Chemicals, Wolves, Fiends, Zombies, Kings
Overall: BUY IT!!
Listen to Chasing Victory at www.myspace.com/chasingvictory