Review Summary: A diamond in the rough that most people haven't heard of
It seems like usually new unsigned or newly signed bands that fall into the alternative rock, rock, etc. genre sound like they are just trying to replicate their peers and are pretty hit and miss. A Rotterdam November is a hit. ARN debuts with an album that results in a diverse, satisfying blend of sounds.
Musically, ARN is a solid album. David McCormick does a good job with the vocals; his voice soars and usually goes with the instrumentals very nicely. He at times is reminiscent of the singer of Acceptance
, but not too much so. The song structures manage to be organized but not boring or repetitive. Instrumentals aren’t my specialty, but I find them very pleasurable. They don’t stand out as considerably noteworthy, but they do a terrific job of highlighting the vocals and lyrics. And that’s the album’s selling point.
A Rotterdam November is a reference to the city of Rotterdam, which was destroyed in World War II. It was called “the city without a heart” but the city survived and was rebuilt. While also serving as an analogy to Christianity, the title sets the stage for the lyrical content of the album. ARN is a loose concept album to WWII, as many of the songs are based off of it or at least utilize war imagery. The lyrics aren’t necessarily deep, but creative in concept. For example, 1914 is about Christmas during war. It shows the effect of a day of peace in the violence and gore. They declare “One day, one day only, the fighting stops, defenses drop, brothers talk.” This is really one of those albums that every time you listen you catch a different phrase or interpret something in a way you never have before, and that is the main thing that makes the album great and one that can be listened to again and again.
As far as individual tracks go, the clear highlight is Crippling Machine. It features the best instrumentals on the album and uses distorted spoken word and clean singing to make for a powerful song. It is pretty much a direct address to the war, an emotionally charged “how could you"” song that is perfectly written, constructed, and produced. If nothing else, Crippling Machine is a must listen for any listener of alternative rock.
Really, all of the tracks are very good though. I would say the album is made up several star tracks with an uncommonly entertaining and dynamic supporting cast. The album never has a lull really, which is something you hear a lot with new artists I think. The only weaknesses present are the odd instrumental track that starts the album, the second track, Fight, which is a little weak, and the last track, which while still good is a bit of an anticlimactic end to the album.
Any fan of Anberlin
, The Classic Crime
, or Acceptance
needs to give this a listen; it’s a diamond in the rough for sure. An exciting debut for these guys that needs more publicity than it’s getting. Recommended tracks again: Crippling Machine, Trainwreck, Breaking for You, Unraveling of a Tragedy