Review Summary: So much more than what is at the surface.Worse Than A Fairy Tale
is not what anyone expected. Drop Dead, Gorgeous had released two discs of beyond-generic mallcore. Their brand of scene metalcore incorporated just about everything that their peers (The Devil Wears Prada, Scary Kids Scaring Kids, Greeley Estates) had done, but they did it in an even more boring fashion--awkward keyboards, breakdowns, monotonous screamed vocals, the occasional chorus to keep your average Senses Fail listener interested--this music was nothing if not shallow, overproduced, and insincere. In Vogue
was probably one of the most easily hateable albums of 2006, and rightly so. There was absolutely nothing creative, or even interesting about it. With song titles like 'Dressed For Friend Requests' and 'Knife vs Face: Round 1,' it was unashamedly catering directly to the Hot Topic metalcore scene.
And then, a year later, they released an absolute monster. Worse Than A Fairy Tale
eliminated almost every element of their previously generic sound to create something new, terrifying, and quite frankly, masterful. Everything that was previously used to create 'heavy' music (breakdowns, screams) and all the things that were being utilized to make said music more palatable to 'the scene' (choruses, pleasant keyboards, silly song titles and lyrics about breakups) have been turned on their heads to create a deeply unsettling and impressive atmosphere. The guitar parts are no longer over-polished breakdowns and squeals, instead opting for indecipherable riffs which lay a backing for the atmosphere more than anything else. The screams are almost entirely gone, as are the melodic choruses, both having been replaced with Danny Stillman's unsettling, almost-uncontrolled singing. The keys have moved from adding a melodic flourish to adding yet another eerie element, clashing with the music more often than making it easier to listen to. The band set out to create a concept album about a series of murders in the town of Saylor Lake, told from various perspectives (although, mostly the perspective of the killer), and despite being an almost cliche subject for a metalcore album, they back it up perfectly with one of the most atmospherically chilling releases in recent times.
And that's really what this album is about--the atmosphere. While it is nothing similar in tone, the band goes for a similar aesthetic as My Bloody Valentine's classic Loveless
album, loading on layers of guitars, thundering bass and synths over the vocals to make everything almost
indistinguishable from what's going on around it, but leaving enough recognizable that you can still latch on to the melodies and emotions. This is most apparent in songs like the title track, where the chorus of 'singing in your sleep' in layered over so much that it just creates an overwhelming atmosphere which is so rarely seen in music, it's difficult to not be impressed. 'It's Pretty Hard To Beat The King' weaves ragtime keyboards into the eerie verses, and 'Red Or White Whine"' opens up the album with powerful, dirge-like guitars, ripping all preconceptions to shreds. The intense opening of 'Drawing The Devil' matches up with some of the best moments in the genre, and the true album highlights (the title track and 'It Sounded Like An Accident') pull so much emotion into them it's ridiculous. It's easy to find yourself genuinely moved at the brief moment of reprieve before the final explosion of 'It Sounded Like An Accident' where Stillman's voice jumps down the octave, or to be genuinely terrified by the final cries of help
that close out 'Donner, Party Of Five.'
The point is, out of a rather mediocre discography, Drop Dead, Gorgeous managed to craft one absolutely remarkable, terrifying, powerful, atmospheric masterpiece. There really are no other words for Worse Than A Fairy Tale
. While it's certainly easy to skim over it as just another release by a mallcore band with even whinier vocals and sloppier playing, it's so much more than that. Almost every song on the album nails the mood spot-on, and the emotion and terror conveyed by every element of the band is simply astounding. While it may be difficult to digest and easy to overlook as trash, this album begs that you give it another chance--it just might amaze you, and even scare you a little.