Colliding By Design



by beachdude USER (36 Reviews)
March 2nd, 2017 | 11 replies

Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Striking a balance between past and future.

Acceptance is a band that has become nearly as defined by their mythology as they have by their actual recorded output. As the band was preparing to release its debut album Phantoms in 2005, they seemed to be on the verge of major stardom. The band consistently managed to toe the line between pop rock and more hard-edged pop punk in a compelling way, and the soaring vocals of frontman Jason Vena helped make Phantoms one of the most memorable releases from the ‘00s pop rock scene. However, label politics, a botched album rollout, and an early leak doomed the band’s commercial chances before they even got off the ground. Within a year, frustrated at treatment by their label and plagued by creative differences, Acceptance called it quits.

While some of the band’s members continued into other musical endeavors (most notably guitarist Christian McAlhaney joining Anberlin), the group’s greater legacy became largely defined by Phantoms, and the cult following it attracted in the decade that followed. When the band reunited in 2015, questions abounded about whether any new music they put out would be able to live up to fans’ expectations. Fortunately, Colliding by Design is an album largely unconcerned with expectations of what a follow-up to a cult classic album should sound like. Rather than trying to put up a facsimile of their 2005 sound, Acceptance have synthesized a decade of musical and personal growth for the band members into a distinctly modern pop rock sound.

Returning producer Aaron Sprinkle brings his trademark pop sheen to the forefront, and this time the sonic balance shifts heavily in favor of glistening pop hooks and subtle ambiance. The album’s title track is a bouncy jam, with verses propelled by a simple yet catchy drumbeat, and an addictive guitar lick that wouldn’t feel out of place on a song by The 1975. “We Can Escape” uses well-executed synthesizers to give it a sweeping singalong atmosphere, and like many of the tracks here, it wouldn’t feel remotely out of place being performed in a stadium setting. “Fire and Rain” is one of the catchiest pop rock tracks likely to be heard this year, striking a delicate balance between intimate relatability and grandiose splendor.

However, none of this is to say that Acceptance have abandoned their roots completely. Perhaps the single most impressive aspect of Colliding by Design is that no matter how much the band pushes themselves into new sonic territory, the record still feels distinctly connected to their core identity from a decade earlier. Central to this accomplishment is the performance of Jason Vena, returning after a decade largely absent from music sounding as passionate and driven by emotion as he ever did on Phantoms. His soaring vocals give every track its emotional center, and make songs like breakup anthem “Haunted” feel distinctly intimate despite their stadium-soaring sound. Some listeners may find the album contains too many mid-tempo songs for their liking, but repeat listens reveal plenty of depth and variety across the album’s 11 tracks. There will certainly be detractors who mourn the absence of any tracks that feel straight out of 2005, but Colliding by Design was clearly not made as a nostalgia-baiting cash grab. This is the sound of a band that has struck a balance between its under-appreciated past, and a surprisingly promising future. After a decade apart, Acceptance have caught a new breath of life, one that will hopefully carry them forward for many more years to come.

Recent reviews by this author
Amarionette [US] AMVRIVox Vocis Star Meissa
Underoath Erase MeA Lot Like Birds DIVISI
Deaf Havana All These Countless NightsThe Weeknd Starboy
user ratings (51)
other reviews of this album
outofthedark (3)
Accepting the new musical trends that have come along, Production effects, synths, Auto Tune, vocode...

Comments:Add a Comment 
March 2nd 2017


Album Rating: 3.0

Nice review, might have to give this a listen.

Spiritual pos

March 2nd 2017


I've known about this band a solid ten years and have still never listened to Phantoms. May listen to these two albums this week.

March 3rd 2017


Album Rating: 4.0

Nice review, really happy to hear this band finally put out another record.

March 4th 2017


Album Rating: 3.0

Nowhere near as cool as Phantoms but this was still enjoyable.

March 10th 2017


Album Rating: 2.5

loved phantoms back in the day but this is pretty uneventful

March 12th 2017


Album Rating: 3.5

I kept thinking this sounded like Anberlin and now I know why lol

Staff Reviewer
March 13th 2017


Ok album. Love the cover, somehow.

March 16th 2017


I really want to like it more than I did. Love their sound, just some meandering songwriting that leads to a lack of "wow" moments.

Great, great sound though. Maybe it's nostalgia, and probably it's because of their guitarist, but this reminds me of later-years Anberlin.

March 16th 2017


Album Rating: 3.5

Listening to this a bit more it's really good but it just makes me miss Anberlin even more.

March 17th 2017


Yeah man. I'm really not in a good place about never getting to see them live. Anberlin was the very first non-Top-40, non-mega-popular band I ever "found".

I started listening to podcasts when I was 15, the year NTFP was released. Jesus, 12 years ago. The host of this podcast once played Cadence at the end of an episode, and later mentioned that the vocalist was his friend Christian who he went to high school with.

I ended up really briefly talking to Christian over email. 100% forget what I even said to him. It was really easy to contact them back then from their website.

Downloaded NTFP and was in bliss. Anberlin really set me down the path that led me here and made me passionate about seeking out and finding music that's not necessarily in the public eye.

Everything after Cities was hit-and-miss for me at the time, but boy were their albums ever growers after that. I've come to appreciate that stuff too late, and by the time they did their final tour, they didn't hit my city, and it was too late.

Now I'm sad. Time to spin their older stuff.

March 17th 2017


Album Rating: 3.5

I got into them just in time. Saw them on Warped 2014 and the Final Tour.

You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile


Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Site Copyright 2005-2023
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy