Review Summary: In spite of its obvious nostalgia baiting, Tear Me To Pieces is a well-cut album worthy of standing alongside Page Avenue.
On September 16, 2003, Story of the Year released their debut album, Page Avenue
. The album was a smash hit success, went gold (later platinum), and remains a certified scene classic. Four albums with lessened success, several dabblings into metalcore and nearly twenty years later (hey, do ya feel old?) Story of the Year has finally come back to grace us with their first new album in six years, Tear Me To Pieces
. And what a better time to do so; with emo nostalgia on the rise (and again, in general), it should come as no suprise that Story of the Year have chosen to capitalize on that one album of theirs that most people exclusively care about (which is a shame, because some of their later stuff is good!) with the release of a new one that shares many of its aesthetic and musical qualities, although not completely. While it sometimes relies a little too much on past nostalgia, Tear Me To Pieces
largely feels like an updated version of Page Avenue
, rather than an emulation of it.
Story of the Year have very much grown as musicians since the release of Page Avenue
, and although the album is a quote-unquote “revisit” to the aforementioned album’s sound, many traits from the band’s subsequent albums, mainly the anthemic qualities of In the Wake of Determinaton
(2005) and the metallic polish of The Black Swan
(2008), are incorporated into the mix to give the album’s catchy, poppier tendencies some additional chugga-chugga in between. Even better yet is that, in contrast to Page Avenue
, the production of Tear Me To Pieces
is able to merge the album’s heavy and light moments in a way that both keeps the album engaging and interesting, while still maintaining a sense of appeal to SOTY fans on both ends of the metal and pop spectrum. Vocalist Dan Marsala still remains a competent singer, screamer and frontman as always, often alternating between the two with ease on tracks such as “Can’t Save You”. He is occasionally brought down by the album’s use of autotune and effects; even the littlest of mishaps (i.e. “Take the Ride” and that cringe-inducing “psych” in “Knives Out”) manage to be enough to distract and derail from the overall listening experience of individual songs, though not as a whole. As a unit, Story of the Year leaves little room for complaint on the album. Well, mostly.
Although Tear Me To Pieces
has enough integrity and precision to avoid falling into most common pitfalls that plague albums (i.e. bad production, mixing, musicianship, etc.), it struggles to avoid a pitfall it has dug for itself; musical dog-whistling, or in simpler terms, getting a little too similar to acts of its time to appeal to a certain fanbase, to the point where the album sometimes lacks any distinct identity. “Use Me”, which serves as the album’s “Sidewalks”, feels all too familiar, and that’s because it is; the song largely revolves around a guitar line that rips off “Better Half” by emo contemporaries The Get Up Kids. In other instances, “2005” gets a little too close to comfort to Blink-182’s “I Miss You” and/or other cuts from their untitled record or Neighborhoods
, and “Sorry About Me” is little more than an emulation of their patented, winning “Anthem of Our Dying Day” formula, with an acoustic guitar lead mixed with heavy sections. To further the point of songs taking influence from their back catalogue, several of the issues from Story of the Year’s past albums also make a recurrence on Tear Me To Pieces
; “War”, “Knives Out” and most of the album’s bridges suffer from the underwhelming drop-tuned messiness that plagues several tracks on The Black Swan
, which at times makes you grateful for the restraint used on Page Avenue
’s production; while this might be a symptom of the band’s reduced one-guitar setup used since Wolves
, it’s an unavoidable issue that can’t easily be ignored. With all factors considered, Tear Me To Pieces
is at risk of completely submerging itself into homogeneity and therefore, irrelevancy. It's a fine line, but one they don't manage to fall off of.
Even still, I can’t say that I dislike
this record. As much as I am inclined to object to things like the sometimes stagnant, looping lyrical structures, the slightly irritating romantic angst of “Real Life” and “Sorry About Me” and possibly even the band’s decision to return to a more simplistic sound (hey kids! Give Determination
another chance, will ya?), I won’t; Story of the Year damn well knows why they’ve made the album this way, and for all of their motivations, they’ve really knocked it out of the park in terms of making an album that is both heavy, fun and appealing to both old and new fans. For its 33-minute runtime, Tear Me To Pieces
should warrant plenty of listens, and is quite possibly one of their most concise outings to date.