Review Summary: I wish you TO IMPROVEEEEEE!!!
I struggle to call something a gimmick in music, honestly. The term has always just seemed very derogatory to me. If a band has something in itself that sets it apart from others, chances are there’s often a reason for it. RED uses string orchestras and a general symphonic undertone because they want that big, cinematic feel with their music and love the idea of 19th century violins clashing with heavily detuned, Mike Mushok-model PRS guitars. And it works well for them, making a listen to any of their records more of an experience than simply an album to listen to. Slipknot uses masks in order to project their largely deranged mental states into the audience and enhance both the live performances and intrigue as to why the band is wearing them. Thrash metal bands soloed constantly because everybody from that period seemed to love guitar solos and thus a band like Avenged Sevenfold (admittedly a rip-off of Metallica but hear me out) just loves to solo in order to emulate that era. Motograter created their own instrument that they would only use for one album before losing Ivan to FFDP. And it at least enhanced the intrigue of how an instrument called a “motograter” would sound. My point is, I don’t think it’s fair to just automatically label something a little bit different a “gimmick” and move on. You can state that the band doesn’t use whatever the differential factor is well (pretty much Skillet with the symphonic stuff and Thousand Foot Krutch still insisting on pushing forward with the rap/rock sound of the early 2000s), but don’t just label it a cheap gimmick.
With rock band Like A Storm coming out of New Zealand (not the same genre but Flight Of The Conchords shout-out anyways), you would expect the differential factor to be the accent of the vocalist, right" Wrong. Vocalist Matt Brooks sounds similar to Adam Gontier actually, though maybe not quite with as much power in the cleans but much more force in the screams. The band actually brings in the native instrument of the didgeridoo, sounding very much like some sort of ancient synthesizer. It took me aback the first time I heard it, and I do enjoy the juxtaposition of the older instrument with the heavier elements. But beyond that, what else does Like A Storm do that truly separates from the pack" To tell the truth, not much. The rhythm guitar work reminds me again of Three Days Grace but also of 3 Years Hollow. The lead guitar work could’ve easily come from any of RED’s catalogue or Breaking Benjamin’s catalogue. The glitzy, poppier synths are right out of Dead By April’s backlog. Lyrics are not offensive and truly not bad, escalating far beyond a certain “Rockstar” and bloodily bashing in the “Lips Of An Angel”. However, I will say that this doesn’t necessarily accelerate the cause of angsty-yet-hopeful lyrics. While it isn’t bad, it’s very surface level most of the time, such as opener “Chaos” simply repeating “take” and “break” multiple times or hit single “Wish You Well” bearing the poetry “I wish you hell. Walk on out.” . There’s not much symbolism here and sadly, this isn’t a record for the pensive, melancholic listener. Actually, now that I think about it, these lyrics even are very much like Seether (if you don’t believe me listen to “Fur Cue” or “Because Of Me”). There is little to none true bass presence and the drums only have a few seconds to really shine (bridge of “Love The Way You Hate Me”).
But let me restate something important: this is not bad. There’s some strong moments of being in the eye of a largely generic storm. “Wish You Well” has quite the country tinge throughout (especially with the finger-picked guitar) and though Seether did something quite similar with the honky-tonk feel of “Country Song”), Seether didn’t use the didgeridoo with the finger-picked, twangy riff and thus Like A Storm gets the point here. “Become The Enemy” is a fun arena rocker, especially with the “hey!” refrain and the alternate in the guitar riffs between heavy power chords and left-hand muted scratches.
But when all’s said and done, Like A Storm have a lot of work to do. Every ballad on here is, to put it bluntly, awful. And even the good moments are largely overshadowed by the generic feel (though I’ll give the band credit, there’s some fantastic production here). But good production and a bloody local instrument with some bloody decent clips cannot ultimately save Like A Storm in the end.