Review Summary: You're invincible, like a stone to the flame
My experience with Escape the Fate has definitely been different from the norm, if everything I see on the internet about them is indicative of the overall reception. I was always more partial to the Craig Mabbitt era than most, despite it arguably being the most critically contentious era. A lot of people would rather re-spin Dying Is Your Latest Fashion
than even entertain the thought that their current direction could be stronger than what they were doing before. My perspective going in is that of a stalwart fan of the Craig Mabbitt era. Of course, there’s been a few missteps, namely Hate Me
being a bit of a mixed bag, but they’ve been getting back on the right track. Chemical Warfare
might just be their best album that isn’t their self-titled.
I’m convinced that Craig and co. intend to turn Escape the Fate into a mishmash of everything. Examples include hard rock/alt-metal stylings in “Lightning Strike”, “Invincible”, and “Ashes (Broken World)”, metalcore on “Demons” and “Burn the Bridges” which also sees lead singer Mabbitt lay down a rap verse
ala Ronnie Radke, forays into pop-punk on a Travis Barker-featured “Not My Problem”, inspirational pop rock like “Walk On” and “Unbreakable”, and even some stuff in the realm of trap mixed in, i.e: “Erase You”. The common complaint I’ve seen is that they “don’t know what they want to be”, well I can tell you: they want to be whatever the fuck they want to be. Experimenting with multiple different styles has been a thing for a long time. It’s not hard to see that they’re just having fun making stuff that doesn’t sound all the same. It’s funny how people already complain a lot when a band like Nickelback stays largely within one or two sounds and then still have an issue when a band like this digs deeper and does many different things.
Don’t get me wrong though, it’s perfectly possible for this kind of experimental dive to fail; hell, Escape the Fate have been trying to perfect this for the past three albums and it finally feels like they’re realizing it here. Granted, “Unbreakable” is admittedly kind of a mess, and even the band said they didn’t want to include it yet the label made them add it because they wanted it. Frankly, Eleven Seven’s been a burden for these guys for a while and I’m shocked they haven’t up and left, but I digress. Outside of that one little blight on the album, there’s a lot here that works quite well. Title track “Chemical Warfare” is one of the most standard-feeling songs here, featuring a structure you’ve likely heard before, and it lyrically doesn’t deviate much from usual cuts from this band, as shown here:
The bells are ringing out, it's five o'clock somewhere
If I told you that I missed you, wonder, would you even care?
I guess I keep pretending, ignorance is bliss
But not knowing if you loved me only feels like loneliness
Basically, it’s the same failed love lyricism we’ve heard for years. While some may consider it whiny and petulant, and even say that Mabbitt should “get over it already,” is it really any different from, for example, Taylor Swift writing about boys for eons? This tells me this band, among others, just has not had the best luck with love. Maybe Mabbitt needs a hug, some support, not some internet troll telling him he’s not allowed to feel the way he does.
Musically, the rest of the album has multiple different modes, and it flows into itself pretty well. Going from the alt-rock of the first two songs, to the dancey “Unbreakable”, to the back-to-basics title track to the trap-influenced “Erase You”, it’s not super hard to see where they’re going with this. Since that’s followed by “Not My Problem”, it comes off like they’re taking the styles that are currently hot - trap and pop-punk - and having a go at it themselves while doing what they’re good at as well; and it works. When they get back to their usual rocking formula, there’s still influences from that scattered around, such as the rap verse in “Burn the Bridges”. I’ll admit that at first I wasn’t sold on the first single “Walk On”, but there’s such an earnest and emotive quality to even that and it helps keep me invested. Other notable moments include “My Gravity”, which along with the title track might be my favorite thing here, for little explainable reason other than I just enjoy the idea they were going with a LOT.
This is the result of years of tweaking the formula Escape the Fate has crafted from Hate Me
onwards, and I think this is the first time I can say for sure that they’ve written a consistently good album front to back since at least Ungrateful.
Even I Am Human
had a few stinkers as much as I enjoy the good moments, but the only thing here I’d even consider axing is a song that even the band would’ve left off, so I’m not completely factoring it in with my perspective. Overall, good work, and I’m excited to see where they go next.