So, now it's time for my second review. I took this album because it was the first great punk album I listened to and it leads me, a poor german student J, in the world of Pennywise.
“From the ashes” is their eight album and was released in the early September 2003. It’s different from all other Pennywise releases because the style goes straight to pure
melody core and has elements of skate-punk and pop-punk. The sound is very smooth but also fast and cracking.
Lyrically the album is not so political like “Land Of The Free"”, but nevertheless with a lot of criticism and reproaches against the government of the United States. Also there are lyrics about hopes, fears and feelings, with allusions on the society, all in all very diverse.
My first impressions on the record are overwhelming, because I never listen to such a kind of music before. It’s very harmonious, everything sounds right and well-placed, no stupid screaming destroys the harmony. The sound blows you away and makes you sing along with Jim, whose voice sounds very advanced and more serious compared with older records.
On the enhanced DVD, which contains some live performances, funny scenes and statements to the new record, Pennywise said that they practiced a lot for this album. In the first moment I wondered why because it doesn’t seemed to be very pretentious music they made in this album, but later I noticed that they didn’t meant that they only practiced their instruments but their musical interplay and understanding.
Jim Lindberg – vocals
Fletcher Dragge – guitars
Byron McMackin – drums
Randy Bradbury – bass
Before I start with the song-by-song review, I must say that I listened very obsessive to this album a year ago, because I tabbed the whole album for the guitar at this time. When you look for it in the web, you’ll find it, but I don’t want to make advertising here in my review.
(1) Now I Know
Maybe you know the first song of the album from the Punk-O-Rama 9, where it was the best song of the whole compilation in my opinion. This song starts slowly with high power chords and a well-audible bass line, a great drum pattern in the back. It is repeated some times and then the very fast verse riff starts, simultaneous with the lyrics. Jim’s singing is like the guitar and the bass very fast and sounds very cool. The pre-chorus is ingenious, because it fits perfect, the short holding chords and no singing. The following chorus hasn’t this many chord changes, what makes it musically more slowly, but also fast and hectically lyrics, accompanied with some good background vocals.
The lyrics in this song are about going your own way and don’t get influenced or controlled by some stupid persons; make your own thing! These are the main lyrics of the chorus:
“Now I know – I can hear the voices in my head they’re telling me what to do next.
Can’t figure it out – I guess we’ll see – I know nothing comes for free.”
The bridge has a rough touch with the muted strings and Jim’s darker singing and the outro is very great, easy to play, but sounds amazing with the fast change-over of power chords and a little arpeggio.
(2) God Save The USA
This song contains one of the greatest guitar riffs I know, but in this song it is only the second intro part. After two chords ringing and nice drum work of Byron, this amazing fast power chord riff starts with so much energy and this catchy rhythm, very nice.
The verse has in the first part very fast palm mutes, also fast singing by Jim. The second part, which starts with the critical questions…
“What’s the CIA – and the NRA"
They’re all the same – just the names are changed”
…is smoother and pleases me a lot, because the sound is more harmonically with a nice audible bass.
Like “Now I Know” the chorus is slower and Jim’s singing misses this great emotions, it’s a bit disappointing in my opinion, but also nice.
The lyrics in this song are ironical, very political and a bit societal I think, but not sure what they’re exactly about.
In the bridge you can listen to a kind of speech or something in the background, escorts by a simple bass line. It leads to a very powerful breakdown with overlapping singing parts of Jim, which makes it more exciting, and it’s a great outro.
(3) Something To Change
This song rocks!!! It’s a very catchy one with kickass chorus and melodic guitar solo.
It starts with some drums and then guitar and bass fade in with a great mixture of
power chord-riff and melodically picking. Also there’s a second guitar, in my opinion a bit unnecessary, but sounds nice and fits. The atmosphere in this song is very casually because of its easy-going singing of Jim and the easy power chord riffs and this is what makes the song so catchy. The verse and the chorus riffs are more or less the same, only different timing, but the main difference makes Jim. His voice sounds so great in this one and gets backup from some background vocals. After the second chorus Fletcher starts a little solo, not to hard and fast, only nice melodically. The silent part, only with Fletcher playing palm muted bass notes, raises the excitement and so the following chorus sounds greater once again.
I can’t say so much about the lyrics, only that you should change something^^ when you are unhappy or something like that. You know what I mean (I hope).
In my opinion one of the best melody core songs!
This song goes from the beginning straight forward, with a nice audible second guitar plays melodically high notes with some bendings in the intro. When Jim comes in with powerful singing the second guitar disappears and left the other guitar only playing palm muted
power chords, same notes like the baseline. A very simple verse, but Jim’s singing fits great to the raw distorted guitar and the drum pattern. The pre-chorus is only one chord bunched few times and during Jim makes the transition with his voice, in my opinion a bit too simple, sounds boring. But however the chorus starts great with all guys yelling “Waiting!”, and goes on with a cracking guitar riff and proper singing. The best point is at the end of each
chorus line, when guitar, bass, drums and voice (“a way inside”) have pretty much the same staccato rhythm. The bass play some crazy little fills and loose it a bit, the drums are fine, but nothing special, I know better parts of Byron.
Fletcher plays after the second chorus a little solo yet, very nice and melodically, fits great.
In the end you can hear some kind of rap of Jim, under putted by few abrupt power chords, a steady bass line and simple drum pattern. It’s a little alternation which leads into a last chorus, not new, but sounds great again and again.
All in all nice song.
This song starts with one guitar playing the main riff, after some measures a second guitar and bass comes in, playing almost the same. The following part is more or more the same, with a little nice bass part when the guitar plays this fast chord changes; sounds nice. When Jim starts singing and opening the verse it’s the same riff again and this showed me how simple Pennywise works in some songs. I can’t say it sounds bad but it sounds boring after some times, because Jim’s singing don’t make a difference to the rhythm; a bit disappointing and in point of fact also a bit bad. But nevertheless the song goes on with the first musically variation, the pre-chorus. It sounds greater yet, because Jim’s singing fits better and Byron rocks his drums like non before on this record. The chorus is typical simple with an ordinary power chord riff and steady drums, but I miss Jim’s emotional singing in this one, so the chorus is one of the worst on the record. At ca. 1:33 starts the best part of the song and the only reason why I don’t skip this track. The guitar riff is catchy and the bass well-audible, the drumming fits.
“What you want, you might never get it – till you try – so reach and grab it”
Another time very positive and cheerful lyrics in this part, under putted from powerful
palm mutes and normal power chords in alternation. Jim’s singing is here at his best, strong and expressive.
This is the first average track on the album, but the great thing at Pennywise songs is that they still have nice parts, even if the song itself is lame.
(6) Look Who You Are
This is one of the slower tunes, at least in the main parts of the song. It starts with a melodically guitar combo, one is playing only one power chord in one measure and the second guitar pickings; it sounds like a kind of pop-punk, except the fast drumming of Byron. The verse contains a cracking palm muted riff and Jim singing, very smooth but also more serious than, for example, “Something To Change”. Later the second guitar plays a little fill and the verse turns to an open riff, but the same chords. After a little pause, only with Jim singing (very great part, sounds exciting) starts the chorus. Exactly the same chords in the same order, what I already criticized at “Salvation”, but here Jim makes the main difference with his voice and so it isn’t noticeable, but a bit disappointing again.
He sings mainly about the naivety and blindness of the society and that they puts up with everything, so far I understood it.
The bridge of the song is amazing. It starts with a little pre-bridge, where a second guitar plays cracking distorted power chords on higher strings. Than Jim sings:
“So you just give up – so you just give in.
“You got to sleep and dream at night of the life that might have been.”
These lyrics pleased me a lot, because they are very motivating and Jim’s sings them very nice. The drum pattern in this part is great and fits perfectly to the rhythm of the palm muted guitar riff. The whole bridge sounds very rough and aggressive and so the statement of the lyrics is more expressive.
(7) Falling Down
This is IMO the greatest song on the album, with an awesome picking main riff. This one reminds me at some pop-punk songs and makes the song more different than normal punk songs; more alternative. The song immediately starts with this riff and softly drums; Byron only plays on the hi-hat with some well-timed openings.
The rhythm guitar accents some part of the riff after a few measures and comes then full in, playing powerful power chords. Meanwhile the main riff is repeated. Because there are no lyrics in the beginning, you can concentrate on the great interaction of the instruments.
The first verse is the main riff with Jim singing and a great bass lick, before the second verse goes straight forward with cracking drums and a catchy power chord riff. After a pickslide the chorus starts…and disappoints me. Like other songs before the chorus is only four or maybe some more power chords in a boring rhythm. To be sure, it fits in the song and sounds nice, but it’s always the same on the album: awesome fast verse and then such a boring chorus.
Nevertheless the song goes on and contains a great bridge with a second guitar playing a mix of lead and solo line. The drums here are awesome; Byron uses a lot of Crash or China.
Instrumentally the song is the best and Jims voice is also good. Mainly the beginning is the part you will love and the part I love, but the whole song is well-balanced and with a lot of energy.
(8) Holiday In The Sun
This song is pretty boring. I really tried to like this song because some of my friends find it awesome, but I can stand it. It’s like “Salvation”, but the main riff is worse and the whole song simply boring. The only thing I approve is the solo, but this is it.
The song starts with pumping palm mutes and steady drums and after a pause there’s an odd fade in of the drums and the following main riff fits not a bit. The main riff itself is solid, only the drums can convince me with a great pattern.
The chorus contains the same chord order like the verse and I must say I’m slowly sick of it. To be sure Jims singing is different, but not that much. Overall Jim’s singing is only average, the lyrics are everyday ones, but the statement is good and impeaching.
The solo is backed, can it be true" , by the main riff and makes a little variety in this song. It’s a solid one with some nice melodically parts, but nothing more.
Very poor song, maybe one of the worst Pennywise ever did.
(9) This Is Only A Test
The first time I heard the beginning of the song I couldn’t believe that Pennywise did an acoustic song and I was very excited. After I listened to the whole song my pleasant anticipation were disappointed. The few simple acoustic chords E, D, Am and C in the intro, backed by Jims singing, were displaced after some measure through an e-guitar playing power chords.
“This is only a test of the emergency broadcast system.
This is a product of hysterical mass confusion . . . “
These are some of the lyrics that Jim sings in the beginning and also in the following distorted part; it’s about humans’ arrogance and egoism.
Jim sings solid in the acoustic intro, but IMO he hasn’t the suitable voice for it. It really sounds better when the e-guitar comes in.
The verse contains the corresponding power chords to the acoustic ones and sounds really boring compared with the intro.
The drums here are really fast and well-audible, the only thing you should looking for while listening.
The following chorus is smoother and nice to listen, a great chord series and the best part in the song. Jims singing is very serious and fits great.
But the whole song didn’t impress me very much and the acoustic part is a big let-down for all who hoped for an original Pennywise acoustic song.
(10) Punch Drunk
This one is the roughest track on the album and maybe with the most energy. It starts with a great, but short drum intro and then guitar and bass comes in, later also a second guitar with octave chords, leading into the first singing part of Jim. With the rough palm mutes in the back Jim sings very strongly and dark, IMO his best performance on the album. The whole verse is f***ing great, catchy and with nice instrumentally work. The chorus is less hard but also nice and with great fitting lyrics.
“We all bleed – We all die
You don’t believe it but it happens right before your eyes”
The solo is the hardest one on the record and also the best and fastest, great one of Fletcher.
Byron plays solid with some great ideas, especially in the chorus at the beginning. He plays something on the Crash (I think), only noticeable in the background, which sounds very advanced.
(11) Rise Up
This is maybe the most typical song for this album, containing all what make up the largest part of the album. Not the best, but with a great atmosphere and the usual sound.
Starting with a simple drum solo the guitar and bass come in with lots of dead notes and power chords. After this the catchy part of the intro starts, very great riff, followed by the fast third part. It’s a very long intro with a lot of variety, but it’s in my opinion a bit too long and with too much alternation, it doesn’t fits anyway. But nevertheless the verse sounds ok and Jim sounds nice with the fast lyrics. At best is the last part of the verse when the background vocals yelling the word phrases “to fight”, “to feel” and “to know that this is real”; it sounds very crazy.
In the pre-chorus and chorus Randy shows his skill by placing some cool bass licks, so it sounds more exciting. The fast chorus is one of the things I ever wanted, not this slowly ones. So it sounds more like the main sound of the song and that pleases me.
A very cool song.
The slowest track on the album contains one of the catchiest riffs I know. Every time I play along with my guitar I remind at this riff and play it, because it sounds great at any time. But the rest of the song is pretty normal. Maybe that is because Pennywise simply cannot make such slow songs. But here they tried it and the first time it sounds very interesting, but after some listening a bit boring.
Jim did his job very well and convinces me completely with his singing, and the music is well-balanced, but only solid.
The power chord riffs are almost the same, sometimes palm muted and sometimes open, except the chorus. But the vibe of the song and the atmosphere is great, all fits together.
There is a little piano interlude with bass line in the song, makes the song complete in my eyes.
(13) Change My Mind
This song is Randys masterpiece. Maybe you won’t notice it immediately but the whole song is full of great lines and licks of the bass. The song is probably the fastest and in styles the most punk. Byron rocks the house with a great fast intro pattern while two guitars increasing the tempo, one with picking, the other with power chords. The verse has a great catchy chord line and Jims voice sounds great. The song reminds me a bit at older records especially Jims hectically singing, the lyrics are typical punk rock ones. Then the chorus kicks in and here is the best bass line Pennywise ever wrote. Very fast and with a great melody, the bass dwarves the guitar riff easily. In the few bridges that the song contains are also similar riffs, but not so audible like the chorus.
The solo in this one is maybe the weirdest, because it doesn’t sounds like a solo, but it fits and the end is very great with fast picking and bendings.
The highlight of this song is the outro. While Jim is yelling “ain’t gonna change my mind”, Randy plays a line similar to the chorus line, always fitting to Fletchers power chords, but with a lot more speed and energy.
(14) Judgment Day
This is a good song to close the album, because it’s mainly very catchy. Starting with a high shredder intro, a simple power chord line follows and leads into the verse. It contains only some chords ringing and cool drums in the back, before the main part starts, the same chords but faster. The chorus rocks, because the lyrics are very catchy and you will sing along with Jim.
“Hooray – It’s judgment day – We had it good till now – Now there’s hell to pay”
The riffing is like always very simple but Jims voice is here the only thing you’ll hear and it’s very great. Later in the song is a little simple solo, backed by palm muted chords, but it’s nothing special, only a good addition.
All in all a fun song to hear and play.
That is all I can tell about the album and I must say listen to the album again since one year is great. It isn’t an excellent one IMO, so I wouldn’t recommend it all friends of punk, but it’s still a very nice buy.
*overall rating 7/10*