Close To Home: Momentum Review

New album, new lead vocalist. It’s not a new problem for bands, especially in the post-hardcore genre, but it’s one that often permanently changes a group’s direction and overall sound. Luckily for Close To Home, the change brought about by the arrival of Andrew DeNeef on the band’s third album Momentum is nothing short of “for the better.” While former vocalist Nick Stiens brought a certain rugged aesthetic to his clean vocals, DeNeef’s singing is melodic enough to get the job done without branching into effeminately high-pitched territory (as is often the case with post-hardcore vocalists) and makes for a definite step up in the vocals department. But the improvements don’t stop there, as Close To Home has fully come into their own as a band; Momentum makes the breakdowns heavier as they head deeper into post-hardcore territory, but each and every chorus is still as catchy as possible. The pop punk influence takes a backseat at times, but these lighter sections are extremely likable. The overall quality and composition of the music is a staggering upgrade, from the fast-paced drumming and the rapid-fire guitar riffs all the way down to the pleasant addition of sweet piano melodies in the backdrop of numerous bridges. Momentum won’t turn the post-hardcore genre on its head, but it certainly marks impressive progression as Close To Home successfully overcomes the hurdle of replacing a lead singer.

Standout Tracks

“Don’t Waste Your Breath” quickly follows up a pleasant instrumental opener and provides the first glimpse at DeNeef as the band’s new vocalist. Close To Home’s lead singer immediately proves he’s up to the challenge, tackling both the screaming and clean vocals with poise and the appropriate energy needed to make this track relevant. Heavy verses filled with Travis Hartman’s furious pounding on the drums give way to one of many catchy choruses on the album, made so by DeNeef’s sinfully sweet singing. An intricately layered bridge also makes an impression, built behind harmonizing background vocals, a light guitar riff and piano before a drumline beat and deep guitar riff breaks things open again.

Although there aren’t many strictly pop punk songs on Momentum, when one makes an appearance in “Pirates Belong At Sea,” it immediately grabs the listener’s attention. The upbeat mood and DeNeef’s long wails make it a phenomenal example of Close To Home’s lighter side, and although there are one or two breakdowns to keep the hardcore audience engaged, the catchy chorus make it one of the most enjoyable and easy-going tracks on the album.

Family Ties” marks the peak of Momentum, delivering its greatest and most lyrically poignant song. The hard-hitting verses give it an edge while its epic but catchy chorus only enhances the power of the lyrics behind it, as DeNeef declares “So I live my life like it’s a story to tell / Don’t try to stand in my way / Cuz I can make a bet that you’ll fail / But I’ll push on and on / Till every doubt is gone / Nothing’s gonna stand in my way / I control my own fate.” These defiantly hopeful proclamations are enhanced even further guest Kyle Pavone of We Came As Romans belts them out (which, along with a guest appearance from David Stephens, shows this band is going places).

The Verdict

Close To Home’s major-label debut Never Back Down was a decent album, but Stiens mediocre vocals held them back and made the band ultimately forgettable. With increased showmanship and a new lead vocalist at the helm, Momentum marks a triumphant new beginning for the band that deserves recognition for being a refreshing dose of post-hardcore goodness. From the intriguing guitar riffs and cathartic moment of “Hanging Onto Nothing” to the high intensity of “Modern Warfare,” Close To Home delivers a phenomenal third album worth listening to all the way through. The guitars and drums take the spotlight, but the subtle touches of piano during the bridges and the band’s overall attention to detail makes Momentum an album to be reckoned with. Fans of A Day To Remember, Four Year Strong, The Color Morale, Everyone Dies In Utah, A Bullet For Pretty Boy and For All Those Sleeping should find something to enjoy here with this exciting band as they get a fresh start behind DeNeef’s melodic voice and a new emphasis on perfecting the post-hardcore recipe.

Final Score: 8/10

Rank: 1st (three total albums)

Track List

  1. Make It Count
  2. Don’t Waste Your Breath
  3. Pirates Belong At Sea
  4. Hanging Onto Nothing
  5. Family Ties
  6. Backstabbers Need Not Apply
  7. Sleepless In Cincinnati
  8. Young & Stupid
  9. Fake It Til You Make It
  10. Modern Warfare
  11. Nights Like Tonight

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