Review Summary: A failed attempt at reinvention
It’s sad to see a band fall to obscurity. That’s not an uncommon feat; bands come and go all the time, with some maintaining their popularity for years on end and others falling to the wayside when the next big thing arrives. Regardless, it can be rough knowing that an artist you saw potential in faded away. Granted, Hinder was never the most inventive or worthwhile act to come out in the post-grunge boom of the mid-2000s. They had a few decent cuts off their debut Extreme Behavior
, but it wasn’t something anyone could call “deep”. That being said, regardless of its laundry list of issues, if you were looking for a fun, smutty radio rock album, you surely could have done much worse.
The first thing you’ll notice with When the Smoke Clears
is that Hinder underwent a significant lineup change; in 2013, lead singer Austin Winkler departed from the band, presumably due to his struggles with alcoholism. His replacement was that of former Faktion guitarist Marshal Dutton, who had been working with the band as far back as 2009. Dutton has a much brighter tone to his voice when compared to Winkler, almost possessing a faux-country twang at points. While I may prefer Dutton from a sonic perspective, the band definitely lost a key part of what they were, and it wasn’t necessarily a change for the better. The smut of past releases has been largely traded in for an attempt at darker, more introspective feel. It’s not completely absent, as “Intoxicated” and “I Need Another Drink” still contain the same alcoholic madness that bogged down their work with Winkler, but it’s greatly reduced.
Don’t let my description of this album being their attempt at dark and introspective mislead you though, because this is still middle-of-the-road radio rock. If you’re not already sold on Hinder because of their usual stupidity, this won’t change your mind. It’s not deeper or more substantial than any of the slower cuts off Extreme Behavior
or Take It to the Limit.
The two biggest highlights, “Dead to Me” and “Nothing Left to Lose”, were written years prior for use in other projects; in other words, the best cuts from When the Smoke Clears
have seen far more time on the drawing board. “Intoxicated” waters down the already-generic formula Hinder relied on in their heyday, “Letting Go” comes off as a half-baked attempt at recreating “Dead to Me”, and most of the other cuts on this album see Hinder going through the motions and failing to be memorable like they were in the past. It’s not so much a fall from grace; more a failed attempt at reinvention. No wonder Hinder was forgotten in the long run.