Review Summary: Help me find a way to resist.
Like a Storm are a tricky band to discuss, and not without reason. Apart from the inclusion of a didgeridoo to their arrangements, there isn't a lot that the Auckland quartet do different from other radio rock bands in the US and Canada, but that doesn't mean they're an inherently bad act. Since 2009's The End of the Beginning,
the band has had a fairly decent wave of mainstream success; around that album's release they had toured with acts such as Creed, and afterwards shared the stage with other notable mainstream rock bands. That album along with 2015's Awaken the Fire
showed potential albeit not with its shortcomings; singer Chris Brooks sounded like a less powerful version of Adam Gontier, and the instrumentation was standard post-grunge. On Catacombs,
a few changes are put in place, but the results are mixed at best.
It's hard to deny that this is a step back from Awaken the Fire
in many respects. Opener “The Devil Inside” and closer “Pure Evil” do well enough to begin and bookend the release, but many moments on here feel hopelessly artificial and difficult to stomach. Chris Brooks has declined a fair bit since their last album; it's not hard to tell, as his live performances haven't been as sharp as they presumably were in the past. Unfortunately, he's often aided with such an excess of pitch correction that on tracks like “Complicated (Stitches & Scars)” and “Solitary”, he is almost unbearable to listen to. With his vocals being as front-and-center in the mix as they are, it's difficult to rely on the rest of the soundscape to save said tracks from sounding painfully artificial; often the screams are what save the songs from complete atrociousness, as they're delivered with far more power than the actual singing.
The band’s lyricism has never been top-notch, but it managed to work to an extent in the past. The overarching theme of Catacombs
is that of burying your problems within yourself, but as universal of a subject as that is, the writing is far from satisfactory. “The Bitterness” comes to mind as one such example, as it feels like the band are going through the motions rather than playing something in depth; in other words, relatable as they may be, they still come off as generic, and the vocals sure aren't natural enough to save it. Some lyricists can mask their more generic tendencies with an honest delivery, but Brooks and co. aren't in that camp in any way, so it comes off as lackluster. On the aforementioned track “The Bitterness”, it does not come off as an authentic cry for help, despite Brooks’ pleas for someone to help him “find a way to resist the bitterness.”
Like a Storm have potential, but it seems as if they are content with wasting a fair bit of what they have. Catacombs
is filled with some of their best work to date, yet also some of their worst. For every track that works as well as “Out of Control” or “Pure Evil”, there's an equally disappointing piece like “Solitary” that relies on pitch correction to mask Chris Brooks’ decline as a singer. Not even the didgeridoo can save them from sounding almost identical to other artists within their genre at points. This is far from the worst album of 2018, but there's a possibility that their next release might make some's “worst album of the year” lists if they continue down this path with the same level of inconsistency.