Review Summary: I Watched the World Give Up on Your Dreams
Sometimes life gives you lemons and sometimes lemons are self-created, thus being the case with Like Moths to Flames following their abysmally received record ‘The Dying Things We Live For’ which failed to make any significant impact in sales and resulted in poor concert attendance subsequent tours. While I might be in the minority of listeners who quite enjoyed that record and even attended a few shows during those tours, in retrospect it’s very apparent that it lacked marketable singles and the promotions leading up to the album’s release were almost non-existent on the record labels end. Without a doubt, the band needed something to revitalize a dwindling career; lo and behold, “Nowhere Left to Sink” was released as the lead single for now their most streamed album to date. With a substantially more ‘radio-friendly’ approach for their lead single, the streams, views, and listens came in droves and the band was back on the map. What came of the full release was a noticeably more consistent effort and more memorable highlights that solidified the band as an essential piece of modern metalcore.
While ‘Dying Things’ was more rigidly formulaic and obsessed with creating heavy, crushing musical expanses, ‘Dark Divine’ was more heavily focused on injecting earworms into each of the songs. There’s certainly plenty of mosh available during the runtime but this is without a doubt, Like Moths to Flames catchiest release to date with tons of massive chorus melodies which see vocalist Chris Roetter needing to expand his range and versatility like never before. With an extremely distinct gritty yelp, Roetter makes the best of his abilities and delivers his most convincing and emotionally gratifying performances to that point. While it’s clear that in the past, Roetter had struggled at times to reach the highs he always sought after, his confidence and skills seemed to have finally reached a noticeable peak and the results were formidable. Tracks like the lead single “Nowhere Left to Sink,” fan favorite “Even God Has a Hell” and the quality deep cut “Instinctive Intuition,” carry some of Like Moths to Flames most memorable melodies and are highlighted by those quality vocal chops.
From an instrumental standpoint, the band doesn’t deviate too far from their usual riffy, chunky madness only adding just a bit more space and breathing room for the vocals and melodies to shine through. Overall, what it lacks in originality it makes up for in simplistic, effective execution. Tracks like “Dark Divine” as well as the more pathos-tinged “Empty the Same,” while distinctively different offer a very familiar, tried-and-true structure and formula that capitalizes on that catharsis of familiarity. “Dark Divine” is comfortable it’s slower, darker patterns instrumentally while not attempting to smash-faces with overt heaviness, instead weaving through its changes from dark and slow to moody and aggressive, finally climaxing into an immense sing-along chorus. “Empty the Same” is the ‘ballad’ of the record formalized by quieter, cleaner guitar tones as well as a more subdued vocal performance which is complimented by a traditional slower intro, a big, hooky chorus melody, and a bit of a more angsty bridge section to tie things together because of course, this is still a metalcore album.
My main qualm with this record lies with the mix and production choices. Erik Ron, who helms this project, is not one of my favorite producers because I find he compresses the mix so heavily that a lot of instruments sound flat and the vocals are either lost in the mix of cut way too sharply. In this scenario, the guitars and drums sound extremely flat at times and fail to project enough strength to rival how loud Roetter’s vocals are. It’s not too big of a distraction and once your ears have adjusted, it sounds fairly normalized and doesn’t take away from the quality of the songs too heavily.
Overall, Like Moths to Flames managed to keep themselves afloat by delivering a very solidly written and executed record that changes the usual format a bit that highlights their strengths. I fondly remember hearing this record for the first time when I was in a bit of challenging relationship and finding a lot of solace in Roetter’s lyrics and vocals. It holds a special place in my heart, and I feel holds up to this day as something special as a signature addition to their discography.