Review Summary: Young Lions perfect their formula on Blue Isla and bring us an atmospheric experience guided by soaring vocals and anthemic instrumentation.
Zach Britt sure has made his presence known throughout the local post-hardcore scene in Brisbane, Australia. Whether it be in his former band The Dream The Chase, his current position as clean vocalist and rhythm guitarist in Dream On Dreamer, or his position as frontman in Young Lions, he is making sure that his voice is being heard. While Young Lions has been a significant style change for Britt, he showcases his ability to branch out into the alternative rock scene with excellence. As opposed to the raw aggression found on their debut album Burn
Young Lions tone down the aggression for a more atmospheric approach on their sophomore album, which works to their favor. Blue Isla
puts Britt to the forefront of the music, and when listening to each track on this record it’s easy to see that it’s where he rightfully belongs.
The first track “When Will We Be Free"” sets the tone nicely; this album is an emotional journey piloted by soaring vocals and anthemic instrumental work. We’re immediately introduced to Zach Britt and his strong vocals, with a wide range that allows for varied melody lines in his singing. While one could certainly pick out the 30 Seconds To Mars influence in the backing instrumentation, here it is used more in a manner that makes the music sound whole rather than being used to make the music sound bigger. Young Lions uses a very effective formula of catchy, melodic verses that explode into huge singalong choruses that accentuate each song. This structure is used throughout the first half of the album to great success, as the songs all share that same energetic feeling that invigorates the listener. It is not until we get to the halfway point that the style shifts towards a softer, more laid back feeling.
While title tracks are usually powerful and loud in this style of music, Young Lions took the risk of slowing everything down in order to focus on two things: vocals and piano. While this dramatic change in style could be a hindrance to the album, Britt puts on a performance that only strengthens the album and brings it to its high point. “Blue Isla” strictly showcases Britt as he passionately sings and plays his way through a truly emotional piece. His strong vocal performance allows this song to shine bright, and the lyrics paint a picture to what he is singing so passionately about
Bought a house so you can call it home
I was scared but now I couldn’t be without you
I’ll tell you about….
The moment where it all begins or it ends
I remember the second when you first called out for my hand
I lost my mind,
but gained a life
I think of you all the time
Apple of my eye
Blue eyes, blue Isla
The next track “Keep Learning” follows the same pace, but brings forth female vocals during the second verse which then join Britt in a climactic and powerful vocal duet. After a short interlude, Britt’s post-hardcore roots start to seep into the music. The guitar work is more riff-centric, the drums are more upbeat and have their fair share of fills, and Britt’s vocals have more grit and more of a bite to them. Britt puts forth a new vocal style in the form of a yell during tracks “Knowledge Is Power” and “Tearing Us Apart”, which fits in perfectly over the down-tuned, open note riffs.
While Britt is the star of the show, that doesn’t mean that the rest of his band mates are unnecessary. On the contrary, the other four band members that accompany Britt make a tight knit group that bring out the best in each other. Every track has its share of energetic, passionate performances from each member of the band; whether it be the atmospheric guitar lead in the bridge of “Forever III”, or the prominent bass line in the verse of “I Know I”. Drummer Matt Gibson deserves special recognition, as he pounds his way throughout the album with precision. His tasteful fills in songs such as the previously mentioned “I Know I” and “The Gold Was Never There” get the listener moving with the music. Along with the spectacular musicians, the production on this album is pristine. Each instrument is able to be heard, which gives the album a depth that not many other albums in this genre can say that they have.
Young Lions truly outdid themselves on their sophomore album Blue Isla
, putting all of their strengths to the center stage. Britt’s vocals soar up and down all over this album, and the instrumentation provides a perfect playground for which Britt’s vocal chops can play around in. With this album, Zach Britt can cement his place as one of the best voices that the alternative rock scene has to offer.