Review Summary: Blessthefall continue to embrace the newfound sound they've created for themselves.
I never really liked Blessthefall before Hollow Bodies. There may have been one or two songs that I sort of liked, but overall I didn't particularly care for them. Then by chance I heard "You Wear a Crown But You're No King," which wasn't spectacular but got my attention when I heard what they were doing with their sound; which was putting some electronic effects into their music, thus making them essentially a Devil Wears Prada copy, while the clean vocalist sounded a little more like Shayley Bourget from Of Mice & Men. Ultimately, the blend worked quite well for a pretty stellar album.
Considering that Joey Sturgis was coming back for this album, there was little doubt that this one wouldn't be much different. And that was indeed correct; although the band tried to experiment around with their newfound sound just a little bit on this album, the gist of it remained the same. The strong opener "Decayer" still has the crisp techno/keyboard layered riffs throughout, while still being clearly metalcore. The song also contains some of the stronger vocals on the album.
There are a few songs that are pretty clearly taken straight out of Hollow Bodies. The energy-filled "Up In Flames" is an album highlight which still feels like a b-side from the previous album (not that that's a problem in this case). The other main single, "Walk On Water," focuses more on strong riffs and some of the weaker clean vocals that Hollow Bodies had for a slightly mixed bag. "Keep What We Love and Burn the Rest" is also pretty clearly this album's "Buried In These Walls," although it does well on its own too.
"Dead Air" is probably the most unique track on the album, as it focuses quite a bit less on screaming in an attempt to make a slightly more radio-friendly track; overall, it's a pretty strong attempt for them, as the chorus manages to be quite memorable. It's not the only song to take a "less-screaming" approach; "Looking Down from the Edge" does as well, only far better as it contains a pretty good rhythm and a fantastic chorus, making for the best track on the album. "Condition // Comatose" is fairly subdued as well for a Blessthefall song. However, there are still plenty of more energetic tracks to balance it out, namely the title track, "Walk on Water," and "Against the Waves."
There's a couple more missteps on this album overall than the previous one, however. Clean vocalist Beau Bokan is still hit-or-miss on occasion; "Walk on Water" is one of his lower moments, and he's not particularly strong on "Condition // Comatose" either, which struggles to find stable ground in general. "Oathbreaker" is a heavier song, but it doesn't really have any strong qualities about it to lift it up, leaving a pretty generic track. And although I may have been expecting a little much after the fantastic closer that was "Open Water" on the previous album, "Departures" is shockingly bland and ends the album on a rather boring note (especially after following the energy-filled title track).
Blessthefall's second Joey Sturgis effort may not be quite as strong as the first one, but it still has enough of what was great about Hollow Bodies and adds enough new material to make it an interesting listen. However, if you were hoping for something completely different, you're likely to be a little disappointed. Blessthefall is surging forward with the new sound they've found, and it's still working for them as of now. It may not be just quite what Hollow Bodies was, but it's still a pretty darn good album and still warrants a purchase.
Song Highlights: "Looking Down from the Edge," "Up in Flames," "Decayer," "To Those Left Behind," "Dead Air"