Review Summary: A good start for a band that only got better as time progressed.
Debut albums are a tough beast to master. The bands that start off are usually trying to figure out who they are and what they want to sound like, making their first album come across as somewhat unrehearsed. This album is no exception. BoySetsFire began their journey in 1994, laying out several EPs and performing various live shows to gain further recognition. While they did eventually get picked up by Initial Records in 1997, the harsh sound quality of the production on this starter album unfortunately make this a difficult listen at times.
Though the production is noticeably lacking, "Pure"
starts the album off in terrific fashion. Fast, ferocious, and incredibly well-executed all-around. At a mere minute and 44 seconds, it is the shortest track on the record, but also one of the best, blending Fugazi-type vocals with Dillinger Escape Plan-style intensity to create a balanced clash between melodic-and-heavy sounds. "Cringe"
follows this formula with less-than-stellar results though, as the lyrics are rendered completely irrelevant by the piercing screams and amateurishly loud instrumentals. One thing the band has going for them is an amazing vocalist in Nathan Gray, whenever he gets the chance to actually sing, he proves to have an amazing set of skills, especially in how he's able to switch up his range on a dime; he's hardly even recognizable on the cover of Mötley Crüe's "Live Wire"
, often coming across as a young Geddy Lee in the process with his unbelievably soaring vocal performance.
Further displaying the amazing range of Nathan Gray comes along "In Hope"
. The instrumentals are often eased back here, allowing Nathan to deliver a devastating vocal performance throughout. The only thing holding the track back from perfection is the production itself, when the track gets heavier, it becomes almost grating to listen to all the way, as the track switches between low-and-loud instrumental volumes seemingly at random. Better utilizing overall volume, "Swingset"
feels like a song that would have been right up Blind Melon's alley thanks to Gray's Shannon Hoon-inspired vocals and the lyrics "deep inside / I can hear the screams / growing louder everyday / crying out for a new rain"
. The song is beautiful during the first-two thirds, opting for a nice acoustically-driven atmosphere, eventually shifting gears into becoming a much angrier track, featuring a heightened bass and Gray's haunted repeating of the phrase "I can fly"
"The Fine Art of Falling"
arises earlier and stands out as another quality track, largely due to riveting guitar sections and outstanding drumming on-display. Regrettably that's where the truly great tracks come to a close. Undeniably there are a lot of solid moments held within the individual tracks to help maintain attention; "Cadence"
, for example, ends on a very touching and sombre note, using the lyrics "and my eyes will always show my empty soul / more like him / more like her / more or less like you"
. Tragically the production itself holds this album back considerably from being something truly special, instead working as an example of what these guys are willing to achieve with their music in the future. Lots of themes are explored throughout, but they are genuinely difficult to care for, as most of the time lyrics are forcefully overlapped by frustrating screams, as well as the excessive loudness that is being punched throughout.
Thankfully this flawed debut was not the end of the road for BoySetsFire, but a simple starting ground for where they wanted to take their sound to next. After the Eulogy
followed this album up and presented a much better sense of purpose, as well as a far better production for the band to play with, giving the band a level of clarity in sound that they genuinely deserved after such a high-energy first attempt. The Day the Sun Went Out
feels similar to Deftones' Adrenaline
in various ways, it's another album which featured great tracks, but was ultimately hampered by a faulty production, as well as a number of occasions where the band felt as if they were improvising to fill up the runtime. This is still a good album to listen to overall, despite the reoccurring production problems, there are a fine number of gems housed inside, helping to keep this from being yet another middle-of-the-road debut from the 90s.