Review Summary: New Years Day stuck in neutral
New Years Day, a hard rock and post hardcore outfit from Anaheim, CA are a polarizing "love em and hate em" debate for fans of their contemporaries. If you like the grit and rasp of frontwoman Ashley Costello, you'll like the music. If you like Ash for her drop dead looks, then you'll probably go to the ends of the earth to defend their music simply out of the fact you think she's hot. Stereotyping is not the intention here. I have friends who care more for her looks than her voice. But if that's the case, and her looks are all that matters to you as far as this band is concerned, then you better get used to it, because the music itself on Malevolence is the band's worst to date.
Okay, maybe not their worst per se, but certainly their most disappointing. Especially after the stellar performance on Victim to Villain, the group's 2013 full length. What that album had was Costello soaring through the choruses with competent instrumentals behind her. Chris from Motionless in White provided guest vocals on their popular single "Angel Eyes." Fast forward to the present day, and Malevolence oozes wasted potential and the listening experience suffers greatly from what can only be described as a lack of effort.
The real problem here is that the album opens with some decent tracks. Opening track "Kill or Be Killed" is a decent enough tracks, but it's with this track that the album immediately lets it flaws out in the open. Costello barely limps through the verses before harshly yelling through the chorus. Costello's aforementioned grit and rasp has actually always been one of her best qualities, and don't forget she can sing too. She's got the pipes, so where did those pipes go? "I'm About to Break You" is the lone exception to what plagues the rest of the album. It's the only track that sees Ash let her vocals fly rather than stay grounded. The best side of her vocals shine through on "I'm About to Break You", as she manages to gracefully knock the track out of the park. Salvage what you can, ladies and gentlemen, because this is the only standout track on Malevolence. "Left Inside" sees Costello sleepwalk through some otherwise decent verses, but the choruses sadly see her great voice get overshadowed by screams that aren't in the least bit appealing. They're actually quite annoying.
"Relentless" and "Save Myself from Me" also suffer from unpredictable left field vocal performances from Costello, but her voice isn't the only problem with the album. The instrumentals throughout the record aren't nearly as competent or even as good as that on Victim to Villain. The poor lyricism is another gaping hole in the album's very vulnerable facade. But due to the vocals that I've ripped deeply into thus far, the lyrics almost go unnoticed at times, especially considering poor vocals and poor lyrics might as well go hand in hand.
As mentioned, the opening handful of tracks are at the best, decent and fairly average. The back half of the album abandons all pretense and catapults Malevolence straight into the ground. "Scream" and "Your Ghost" try to capture the haunting staple of previous New Years Day releases, but feel more like filler than anything else. In fact, several tracks on this feel like they're just thrown in for the sake of having 12 tracks. Leadoff single "Defame Me" is arguably the best song from the album's second half, and seeing as it's merely average, that should give you the idea of what the album's truly worst has to offer. "Defame Me" was lifted from the band's excellent 2014 EP "Epidemic." If tracks from that EP such as "The Joker" and the outstanding "Other Side" had been included, Malevolence might have had a chance. But I guess the best of this band's discography takes a back seat to harsh and annoying vocals from Costello, as she tries to kill a thousand birds with one stone.
Long story short, I was extremely disappointed with Malevolence. 2015 has seen worse releases, but none this disappointing and underwhelming. If Costello had injected life and passion into her performance, this could have been one of the best albums of the calendar year. Even fans of their work, like myself, will be turned off by this. But, in reference to the opening point of how some people care more about Ash's looks than anything else, this album will certainly sell, and again, only because some fans are to blind and naïve to see just how bad this record is. So lackluster and contrived, that it feels almost offensively bad, the final nail in the coffin is the realization that this record is 100% genuine.