Sum 41
Heaven :x: Hell


4.4
superb

Review

by Sowing STAFF
March 27th, 2024 | 253 replies


Release Date: 03/29/2024 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Why doesn't anything good ever last? / I gave it all I could give...

Sum 41's career feels uniquely tied to the legacy of pop-punk as a whole. Their 2001 debut All Killer No Filler was released at the peak of the style's second mainstream wave, while hits like 'Fat Lip' and 'In Too Deep' not only earned the band unprecedented levels of fame, but also became instantly identifiable calling cards (and key cornerstones) of the genre's early 00's success. Does This Look Infected took Sum 41's raw, rebellious attitude and polished it a little, resulting in an even tighter collection of songs including 'Over My Head' and 'Still Waiting', which took the band's seemingly unstoppable momentum and kept it rolling right into their first (and only?) true evolution in sound, the metallic-laced Chuck. Fans will recall this three album stretch as not only the band's undeniable heyday, but also as an important catalyst to what was arguably pop-punk's most popular era.

For all the fame they achieved in a comparatively brief four year span, it's hard to believe how sharply they declined afterwards. Underclass Hero was the obvious inflection point, aiming to create their own version of the at-the-time monumentally popular and influential American Idiot – a zenith that Sum 41 never arrived at themselves. Underclass Hero is, in hindsight, probably a bit better than the critical rebuke it received at the time; however, the absurd stabs at establishing itself as a "concept album" with something important to say (especially when Sum 41 has never been a band of lyrical aptitude) ultimately sank it. It was slim pickings afterwards as well, with Screaming Bloody Murder fairing poorly both commercially and critically only to be followed by a five year gap and 13 Voices, which also failed to move the needle in any appreciable way. The first real sign of Sum 41 recapturing their earlier magic came in 2019, with a return-to-roots approach that included some politically-charged lyrics amid the chaos of the Trump years. It wasn't on par with the group's All Killer/Infected/Chuck holy trinity, but it felt like Sum 41, and that was enough.

Pop-punkers: may I finally present to you the long-awaited follow-up to 2004's Chuck.

Despite red flags abound – "final album" / "double album" / that meme-like artwork – Sum 41 actually pulled it off. The record is split in two: Disc One, or Heaven, is a pop-punk album through-and-through akin to All Killer No Filler, while Disc Two, or Hell, marks a return to the glory days of Chuck. When diehard followers look back on the group's career, those are the two albums that stand out the most – so it makes sense from a fan service standpoint that Sum 41 would do their best to recreate the catchiness and intensity of those two eras, respectively. What's a bit unexpected is just how wildly they'd succeed.

To preface things, there's an obvious prerequisite to appreciating these two records – because if you've never enjoyed Sum 41 (or pop-punk at all, for that matter), then Heaven :x: Hell will do absolutely nothing to change that. It's a victory lap, not an evolution. But – if you've grown up with and/or appreciate 2000s pop-punk for all its infectious hooks and silly whoah ohs, then you're in for a great time and a trip down memory lane. It should be obvious from the opening notes of 'Waiting on a Twist of Fate' – and the way Deryck Whibley screams during the verses – that this is not going to be another phoned-in effort. The energy and intensity is immediately back in a way that it hasn't been for literal decades, and the alternating punchy choruses/riff-laden verses wash over your ears like a tidal wave of nostalgia. The immensely catchy refrains to 'Landmines' and 'Dopamine' rank up there with any of Sum 41's classic earworms, and that's before you even reach the biggest anthem of either disc – the heartfelt, stadium-filling, sing-along chorus to 'Radio Silence'. The group's penchant for weaving excellent guitar work throughout their effortless melody-crafting also returns intact, giving us ten straight bangers on the Heaven LP.

What Heaven does for All Killer/Infected fans, Hell does for Chuck disciples. As the metal-leaning half of the double album, the drumming, riffing, breakdowns, and solos all go harder. There are actually many moments across Hell that might make you question if it's even heavier than Chuck, which is an impressive feat when you consider the band's pop-punk roots. The single 'Rise Up', with its fusion of captivating melodies and blistering riffs/solos, is the best place to set expectations for what the second disc has in store at-large, but Hell peaks around 'I Don't Need Anyone''s tension-building pause (a moment full of subdued, glitchy electronic backbeats) and its riffy, intricate, downright gnarly breakdown – which is quite possibly the most impressive instrumental moment in all of Sum 41's entire discography. 'House of Liars' is the most well-rounded song on the Hell disc, sacrificing some of the intensity to showcase Whibley's best vocal performance in recent memory while also tying in a particularly biting condemnation of modern government: "Burn down this house of liars now I say, you're guilty as you can be / I want to watch it all go down in flames / Burn, there's no shadow of a doubt, I blame you all for every goddamn thing / God help us it's all fucked up now, the further we go, we wind up in hell." From front to end, there's nary a weak moment to be found on Hell – it's a wholly satisfying package of ten scorching, searing metal-punk tunes that continue to deliver melodies in high doses while surprising even the most ardent Chuck fans with its instrumental complexity.

Despite the tremendously satisfying hooks and quality of songwriting present across Heaven :x: Hell, the same shortcomings that have always plagued Sum 41 – even on their most well-received "classics" – still exist here. They're a band that resides comfortably within their niche, and here they play to their known strengths even if it means facing a lot of the same criticisms that have been levied against them for their entire existence. Although we get some unexpected moments like the piano outro to 'Over The Edge', the songs generally lack variety. The lyrics are occasionally good, but primarily serve to convey feelings of depression and rebellion without the emotional core or sense of purpose, respectively, to back either one up. However, these weaknesses are more inherent to Sum 41's DNA than they are to Heaven :x: Hell specifically, which just makes the album feel even more like a summation of Sum 41's career: this is them, flaws and all.

As a whole, it's difficult to think of a better way for Sum 41 to end their careers. It's an album that is emblematic of who they are, showcases their greatest strengths, and represents their most popular eras as a band. Across twenty songs, some end up being more memorable than others, but none are subpar – and they're all brimming with fun hooks and youthful energy. It's twenty fleeting moments of Sum 41 leaving it all on the table, one more time. It's as Whibley sings on the record's finale and the band's swan song: "Why doesn't anything good ever last? / I gave it all I could give". With Heaven :x: Hell, what Sum 41 has given us is a true grand finale, and it's one worth reveling in.



s
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user ratings (106)
3.5
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
onionbubs
March 27th 2024


21090 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

"the same shortcomings that have always plagued even Sum 41 – even on their most well-received "classics" – still exist here" hard [2]



i casually liked their first four albums growing up but, i guess because of how close a lot of their peers are to my heart, ive always kinda wanted them to be better and wished they could get out of their own way a bit and do something that i can really stand behind, and they did not really do that here. this is solid enough though, and probably the best of their last four albums. a few songs i can see myself coming back to

Flugmorph
March 27th 2024


34312 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

hyped for this

FrozenFirebug
March 27th 2024


856 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

deryck whibley is the dmx of pop punk lyricists

and that's a good thing

neekafat
Staff Reviewer
March 27th 2024


26201 Comments


What is going on

Faraudo
March 27th 2024


4637 Comments


I would've never guessed that an album with such terrible cover art could be this good, so consider me hyped.

Spec
March 27th 2024


39478 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Hype train. Cant wait.

bellovddd
March 27th 2024


5995 Comments


ye that is some terrible artwork

onionbubs
March 27th 2024


21090 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

this bands cover art is generally pretty bad across the board so they sure stayed true to themselves lol

Odal
Staff Reviewer
March 27th 2024


2095 Comments


Never thought I'd say this in 2024 but......Sum41 hype???

Scoot
March 27th 2024


22207 Comments


*checks date*

JayEnder
March 27th 2024


19966 Comments


Their artwork was always bad tbf

Faraudo
March 27th 2024


4637 Comments


Yeah, but this is particularly terrible lmao

Flugmorph
March 27th 2024


34312 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

no its epic, wdym

wildinferno2010
March 27th 2024


1906 Comments


I'm intrigued. I'd love for this to be good

AsleepInTheBack
Staff Reviewer
March 27th 2024


10216 Comments


The hype train is crashing the hype train is crashing

That chuck comparison got me intrigued

Sowing
Moderator
March 27th 2024


43955 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Heaven feels like a return to their carefree punk days, and Hell is basically Chuck II. I think there's something to be said for diminished returns on known formulas, and if those albums were 3.6's here then this definitely won't be a 4.4 avg on the site lmao, but it's definitely a really fun and energetic double album. It's 20 songs and I don't feel the need to skip any. Basically, it's what Sum 41 fans have been screaming for since 2005 - fun, raucous pop-punk with a side of metallic hardcore stuff that brings some surprisingly huge riffs and breakdowns. Nothing creative or new, just Sum 41 making a truly representative finale that actually doesn't suck.

TheTripP
March 27th 2024


4511 Comments


haven't cared of these lads since all killer, is this really that worth it?

Sowing
Moderator
March 27th 2024


43955 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

It's not going to displace any of their classics and become their new "best", but it does feel like all their best styles of music rolled up into one super fun nostalgia trip.

Scoot
March 27th 2024


22207 Comments


it can't be overstated that these guys were massively influential in their prime

they bridged the gap between hardcore punk and radio rock and found a scalable commercially successful formula that worked

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
March 27th 2024


18303 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Wow, did not expect that rating



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