Review Summary: A gripping, magnetic album from start-to-finish.
Smile Empty Soul's Anxiety
is a haunting portrait, as it is seen almost immediately delving into themes such as solitude and greed. The album holds a strong, rebellious nature throughout, making criticisms on things such as television and war, all while crafting a very bleak atmosphere that encapsulates the entire album. While it is a fair bit depressing throughout most of the runtime, Anxiety
is also shockingly enjoyable, even at some of its most darkest moments, thanks to wonderful song-writing, excellent musicianship and a gifted vocal performance from Sean Danielsen. As with their first album, this sophomore production revels in setting fire to patriotism and religion. However, unlike their previous effort, this album is far more laid-back, subdued and constantly effective at conveying its messages with precision and clarity. While the début album often came across as a more profane, Hybrid Theory
-type of record, Anxiety
thankfully deviates away from that notion, starting strong with its powerful opening track.
immediately kicks things off in a skilled fashion, laying out a very daring message in the opening seconds: "Break everything you love, after all there's no hope for God above"
. The chorus itself is stunning too, featuring a first-rate vocal performance from Danielson, along with some crackling guitar and bass-work, making it unusually hopeful for being such a dark tune. Each track has a certain charm, as they all feel genuine and honest, the songs have varying qualities that make them very easy to resonate with as well. "To the Ground"
follows "Bright Side"
nicely, it's very apocalyptic in tone, describing a world that's crumbling to the ground, leading towards a blazing and fantastic final chorus. Later in the album, "Proud to Be"
emerges in all of its disturbing and unsettling glory, it's easily the toughest track to get through on the record, but pays off well with a good chorus and a hilarious intro named "Cody"
; which is a phone message from the singer of Troll Forcefield left on Sean's answering machine.
Feeling almost improvisational comes along "Fight of a Suburban Couple"
. Clocking in at only two minutes and fifteen seconds, it mocks everything having to do with television, from the news, all the way to mindless game and reality-shows. While it almost reaches a humorous level, it's far from it, as the lyrics depict a common problem in the world: the problem of people who simply don't care as long as they have their favourite channels, and the corporate media stations which only promote fear and hatred to keep their ratings up. Similarly, "God's Army"
criticises the American army for shipping soldiers to battlefields for vague reasons: "I really don't know why we're fighting, I know there's got to be a reason, our government would never send us without a cause... let's hope I'm fighting for God's army"
. These kind of heavily political and anti-TV songs definitely aren't the best this album has to offer, they're very bitter and mean-spirited, which works against the album's more subdued nature, even though it worked favourably for the far heavier self-titled album (especially with the song "This Is War"
Despite some hiccups, the album proceeds at a rapid-fire pace with powerhouse inclusions such as "Not Alright"
, "Never Again"
. "Not Alright"
resonates immediately with a chorus that spits "I hope you're not alright"
to whoever may be the intended target. Blasting off right away is "Never Again"
which features some of the best guitar and bass-work this album has to offer, as there are plenty of crisp riffs layered throughout. "Saturday"
is similarly rollicking, charting some of the most engaging lyrics this record has to offer: "What if I sail and I don't wanna come out so #@%$ing busy getting &@#$ed up at my house, what would you think of me then? Since you're doing the same, I know you'd understand"
. Finally, "Holes"
may be the most notorious track on the record, and for good reason, it was supposed to be the album's leading single, but religious groups took offence to the lyrics on-display and succeeded in holding back the album's initial release in 2005; thankfully the band came through and released it through their record company, MRAfia Records, in 2008.
There's nothing subtle about this album, and rightfully so, as it's at its best when it's in-your-face with ferocious instrumentals and fiery vocals, while also leaving some breathing room with relaxing and thoughtful acoustic ballads such as "California's Lonely"
and the album closer "End of the World"
is chock-full of sonically-pleasing alternative, rock, metal and grunge classics from start-to-finish. Some may find the harsh themes sprinkled throughout to be a bit dodgy, but there's no denying the talent that this band have assembled with this under-the-radar masterpiece. It takes a lot of bravery to make an album of this kind, as it will surely make a lot of groups and organizations very upset over its content, but who cares? It's pleasing to see the corporate big-wigs put in their place with this kind of blood-curdling record, one that's swift in sharing tales of fear and uncertainty as every person has gone through in their lives. Overall, if you're a fan of grungy-rock music, you owe it to yourself to give this album a shot, there are a ton of terrific songs to choose from.