I'm used to writing song by song reviews but that would be atrocious to use on this album so forgive me as I get used to a different style.
Though it took The Early November
three years since their previous full-length album to put together this triple album, the work they put in is clear throughout. In the time it took them to put together the album, a few noticeable changes overcame the band. Firstly and most noticeably, Ace Enders' vocals have matured a lot. The older, whinier style much more characteristic of Pop-Punk has been replaced by a more controlled voice. Bill Lugg, formerly the band's guitar tech, also joined the band during the recording of the album as a third guitarist adding a little more lead work (including solos even!) and riffage than the previous albums.
The band went into the studio with the idea of recording a triple album with the premise of two more straight-up rock albums, as well as a third "soundtrack" album complete with both music and dialogue. The premise of the album is a triple-disc concept album that tells the story of a family through three different motifs paralleling each character.
The first disc, The Mechanic
, revolves around the motif of the father. The songs are, to quote the band, like "an assembly line, everything made the exact same way." The Mechanic is the album the band would have created next if they followed a logical musical progression and was the "safe bet" rock album. It consists of more straight-forward rock songs, a little more rough, but with a soft side that appears occasionally, maintaining the parallel characteristics with the disc's character.
begins with one of the highlights of the entire three disc set, Money in His Hand
. Maintaining the character of the disc, the song reflects on the importance of money over character in living a successful life. The other highlight of the disc is the penultimate track, The Car in 20
. This track is also a strong example of the evolution of the band from their previous work. While older songs generally relied primarily on chords and simple lead work, this song is much more riff-based and generally steps away from the straight-forward Pop-Punk into a more Hard Rock style of music. The addition of yelling (as well as some screaming) also adds a little more intensity not found in their older music. Far from falling into the trap many Pop-Punk bands do keeping music simple to keep it catchy, all instruments edge towards more technical parts.
Though the disc does tend towards harder styles with more intensity and force, songs like Figure It Out
and Long Talks
do add a softer, prettier side to the disc as well, though distorted guitar undertones keep the songs away from the more acoustic-style music of The Mother
. The middle of the album, with Outside
, Figure It Out
, and The Car in 20
is the strongest section of the disc and all three of those songs are great. For those familiar with The Early November
's earlier work, this disc will be the logical next step in the band's music with many obvious similarities but also containing a noticeable growth and maturity in style.
is the second disc of the album and is a softer, more acoustic-focused disc. It's more mellow and natural feeling, easier to listen to as a relaxing album that lulls you into relaxation. Because I tend to prefer harder music I find this to be the weakest disc of the three but if you have different music tastes you might find it to be your favorite.
From the opener, My Lack of Skill
the difference in style between the two discs is obvious. Based around Ace's vocals and some piano, the song is simple and very mellow. Is It My Fault
is the highlight track of this disc in my opinion and crescendos from more ambient music to a more driven section before closing out with more typical rock feel. In many ways it reminds me of the style of the Pop-Rock band Jars of Clay
, which is a good thing. Hair
is the first single from the album and is truthfully not one of my favorite tracks on the disc. While not weak, it's not as strong as many of the other tracks on the disc and especially on the full album. Hair
does, however, highlight the extra instrumentation most especially prevalent on The Mother
and The Path
via the trombone work on it. A variety of other horns, strings and percussion appear throughout the album.
Those with The Early November
's Acoustic EP
will find similarities in several songs here, but though this disc is more acoustic based, there is a broader range of styles and influences present in the music here than in previous releases which keep the album fresh and not just another Punk band playing acoustic songs.
Last but certainly not least comes The Path
. This disc is unlike anything else I have ever heard. Some concept albums do feature soundclips and dialogue in that form, but unlike those types of concept albums with little snippets of talking, the dialogue makes up about half of this disc. It is a central focus which is used to tell the story of the boy, the child of the mother and the mechanic. In keeping with characteristics to set the style of music, The Path
is a meshing of the styles of The Mother
and The Mechanic
, just as a child is a mesh of the parents.
The dialogue usually comes in the form of talks between a shrink and the patient (the boy), though the dialogue does have music and other ambient sounds backing it to keep it from being simply talking. Some of the coolest parts of the songs involve the juxtaposition of the dialogue and singing in fact. The boy first details the past before he was born, how his father and mother got together and their struggles, and then goes onto to talk about his childhood up to present time (where he is 18).
The story, in a nutshell, is that the father runs away from home early on and moves in with his girlfriend, the mother. Her father offers him a job and help getting an apartment if he straightens his life out, and so he does. But then they have the boy and don't know what to do, so they give him to the mother's parents to raise. He is raised being taught his real parents are his aunt and uncle because no one wants to tell him his parents are too busy for him. Then the boy's grandmother dies and he goes to live with his actual parents, but ends up running away and repeating his father's mistakes, including having a child he isn't prepared to raise, which lands him in the shrink's office, which is where the disc ends.
In the backstory when the father runs away from his home comes one of the highlight songs of this disc, Runaway
. Like the entire disc, the song is packed with emotion (accented by string instruments) but still catchy. It is also remarkably upbeat considering the depressive lyrical theme. The entire disc is incredibly depressing in fact, it's a sad story.
The disc features the most diverse music of the album, as many concept albums do, ranging from soft acoustic pieces, to more upbeat circus-like pieces, to orchestrated piano-led pieces. If you like concept albums and unique music you should definitely listen to this disc.
The three disc album shows several facets of the band and does not consist of three discs with the same music over and over again.
is incredibly original and well-executed.
The concepts behind the entire album are very well thought out and presented. The album is very clever.
The diversity of styles may not appeal to all listeners.
Some tracks are similar enough as to become a bit boring.
The dialogue may not interest all listeners.
Though the song writing is strong, not all the songs are amazing which is the biggest failing of the album as a whole.