After suffering the infamous sophomore slump of Lonely Road, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus were in desperate need of a revival. Their music had grown stale and soft compared with their instantly successful debut album, Don’t You Fake It, which ruled the airwaves for a time with the hit single “Face Down.” But in their second album, RJA lost track of the heavier element of their music, settling for a poppy and more generally accessible brand of rock that made for a very mediocre record. Fortunately, the band turned things around wonderfully with their third album, Am I The Enemy, which almost rivals the appeal and artistry of their phenomenal debut. And while The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus’ newest album falls just short of that mark, it’s not by very much. The catchy and fun songs are still here, but accompanying them this time around are the same aggressive, in-your-face, post-hardcore songs that made their debut album a success even before “Face Down” made them so popular. Also making a return are the moving and pleasant ballads that were nowhere to be found on Lonely Road, further displaying the diversity and versatility in RJA’s music. Lead singer Ronnie Winter fluctuates between edgy, screamed unclean vocals and his buoyant, smooth singing, which adjusts appropriately to each type of song. All in all, Am I The Enemy is a knockout that sees the band return to their roots to become truly relevant again.
“Reap” shows the more aggressive side of The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus with hard-hitting verses that have Winter yelling out the lyrics with his edgy, hard rock before transitioning into a cautionary chorus, complete with Winter’s cryptic words of warning: “If you gain the world by trading your soul / Remember you will reap what you sow / There’s no one left to save you now / You’ll get what you deserve, your own place in hell.” Winter delivers his stinging reprimand to the backdrop of blaring, resonant guitars and bass from Joey Westwood, along with deep, booming drums, which all combine to give the album’s first single a dark but ultimately cool feel that makes it the best song of Am I The Enemy.
“Angel In Disguise” narrowly edges the peaceful serenade of “Dive Too Deep” as the best ballad on the album thanks to its particularly sweet message shared with the listener through sincere and acute lyrics as Winter sings “Who am I to say angels from the sky don’t walk the earth? / As time goes by, I realize / There’s so much more than I could ever learn / You’re an angel in disguise.” Calling this song a ballad is slightly inaccurate since the presence of whining electric guitars and banging drums of Jon Wilkes makes it a lively track, but the sentiment behind the lyrics and slow sections certainly qualify it as a very appealing ballad.
“Don’t Lose Hope” picks up the tempo with a fun and galvanizing song reassuring listeners to stay strong and have hope. Winter even goes as far as consoling “We are here with you, you’re not alone,” making this standout track one of the most heartfelt and important on the album. The central guitar riff Matt Carter and the rhythm guitar during the verses of former band member Duke Kitchens raises this song’s appeal and enjoyability, while Winter’s composed but stirring vocals are spot-on.
Lonely Road was a major letdown for fans who enjoyed the post-hardcore-meets-punk-rock style of the band’s debut album, but The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus have completely redeemed themselves with Am I The Enemy. From start to finish, RJA’s latest album is a phenomenal effort that balances the harder elements of the music with its appeal. From the rock anthem, “Dreams” to the serene “Dive Too Deep,” from the encouraging “Don’t Lose Hope” to the outright angst of “Choke,” there’s something here for everyone. Fans of Silverstein, The All-American Rejects, Story Of The Year, Hawthorne Heights, Yellowcard, Saosin, Secondhand Serenade, Mayday Parade, Alesana, and Taking Back Sunday will enjoy this album thanks to its combination of both heavier and lighter elements of the rock genre. It won’t be as highly regarded as Don’t You Fake It, but Am I The Enemy is a sensational record throughout and deserves recognition and praise for putting the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus back on the map.
Final Score: 8.4/10
Rank: 2nd (three total albums)
- Wake Me Up
- Am I The Enemy
- Dive Too Deep
- Where Are The Heroes
- Angel In Disguise
- Don’t Lose Hope
- Fall From Grace