Review Summary: Another winner
This Or The Apocalypse have been doing Metalcore a bit better than most since they released Monuments. The great melodies and leads, the insane drumming, the passionate vocals, all brought together beautifully. Monuments, as much as I enjoy it, had below average production quality and despite it's awesome elements, it got repetitive. In 2010 the band put out Haunt What's Left. The production was outstanding and the songs each had their own identity, and despite lacking some of the technicality of Monuments it seemed to be an improvement for the most part.
When the band released their single 'In Wolves' I was worried. It's a solid track, but they can do better, a hell of a lot better. I'm extremely relieved to be able to tell you that the single is the album's weakest song. The rest of the material meets the standards that many of us now hold this band to.
The album kicks off with 'Hell Praiser' which immediately displays some very aggressive yet melodic guitar leads and a powerful scream from Ricky. The track is chaotic. Ricky, who has always had a fairly unique sound, displays his new range in full right off the bat, switching from mid range rasps to powerful growls to higher screams and back again. His performance on this album is displays more emotion than any of his previous work, and certainly more urgency and desperation. His lyrics are also quite strong. It's easily his best overall performance to date.
When listening to this band you expect good guitar work, and they have delivered once again. When going for a more melodic sound, the leads very from aggressive and in your face, like the opening of 'Hell Praiser' to stunningly beautiful, as they are in songs like 'Hate The Ones You Love' and 'Americans.' Even when going for a more chug and rhythm focused sound these guys deliver a stylized sound that is so much better than what most bands in the genre are putting out.
When I heard that TOTA's drummer, Grant McFarland had left the band, I was horrified. The drumming has always been one of the biggest highlights of this band's material. With that beast of a drummer no longer behind the kit, many fans, myself included, were more than a little worried about what the drumming on the new album would sound like. The end result is... Fine. Grant's playing is not something that can be easily replaced. The producers that wrote the drums for this album did a solid job, and crafted some stand out moments. It'll do.
Sadly, a few wrong moves hold Dead Years back. There were clean vocals on Haunt What's Left, and they worked quite well, Ricky is actually a solid singer. The problem here is that he leaves the singing to others. According to the band, Ricky's performance here is much more demanding than it was previously, and he simply wouldn't have the energy to pull off these clean choruses live. It was a smart move in theory, but the singing provided by the others never fits the band's sound like Ricky's voice did. The other issue is that there's really no need for them to be there. Sometimes clean vocals enhance a chorus or a certain section, but here they just feel tacked on to add some diversity, which they didn't actually need to do. When you have a lead vocalist with this much range and emotion, there's really no need to add anyone else to the mix.
The other problem... Yeah, we're talking about Metalcore, it would have to be breakdowns wouldn't it? They aren't bad, but they certainly aren't great. They don't match the outstanding quality of the rest of the record. Like the cleans, they make brief appearances and do no lasting damage.
The immense amount of things this album does right pound it's few mistakes into the ground, when you finish your listen it shouldn't be the little flaws that stick in your head. They're fairly easy to forgive.
On top of everything else, this album really has it's own identity, as I believe all records should. Many bands fall into a sound and never really move away from it. This is clearly a ToTA record, but it manages to sound nothing like either Monuments or Haunt What's Left.
This is not one to be missed.