With a such a small audience, Us & Them might be one of the more talented bands you’ve never heard of. Similar to Count Your Blessings, the terrific and regrettably underexposed group that borne this new and heavier act, Us & Them may never garner the attention their music warrants, but the select few fortunate enough to give them a listen know this band’s future is worth monitoring. Former backup vocalist Michael Miller and guitarist Antonio Rucci of Count Your Blessings take on expanded roles in their new project, as Miller handles lead vocals and Rucci supplies fervent, in-your-face riffs to go with the heavier feel of Adventures Into The Dark. Gone are the light and catchy pop punk jingles that made Like Gum In Your Hair so much fun, but in their place (for the most part) are more serious and substantial alternative rock tunes. These range from relatively easygoing and upbeat songs to more intense tracks that give Miller the freedom to scream, delivering a sense of passion and urgency. Although its incredibly short run time of 29 minutes limits its lasting impact, Adventures Into The Dark is a solid debut for a relatively unknown group that deserves more recognition for carrying the torch of Like Gum In Your Hair in a new and heavier direction.
Although Us & Them’s one and only music video is for “Living A Lie,” if ever Adventures Into the Dark had a single-worthy track, it would be “A Lost Cause.” This song combines the catchy riffs and recognizably pleasant vocals of Count Your Blessings with the new, heavier style, as the scratchy whine of Rucci and Josh Green’s guitar hooks lend to the enjoyably erratic drumming of Matthew Thorsen. Miller gives his best vocal performance of the album here, as his melodious wailing during each memorable chorus adds drama to go with the intensity of a few impassioned screams.
“A Lost Cause” is Us & Them’s best overall song, but the laid-back and equally single-worthy “The Careless” is a close second because of its suave riffs and a groovy little bass line from Scott Bailey. Miller squeezes in a few screams during a brief breakdown, but the majority of this song is characterized by his heartfelt and pitch-perfect crooning. This track is closer to the pop punk tone of Count Your Blessings, but also blends the heavier nature of Us & Them for a lighter and optimistic song, evidenced by Miller’s declarations during each refrain: “I never felt better till I felt nothing at all / This is where it’s okay to stumble, okay to fall.”
“Drifter” is one of the more unique tracks on the album, mixing some of the heaviest sections of drumming and guitar-chugging with synthesizers, some electronic distortion of Miller’s vocals and classic rock ‘n’ roll guitar riffs. Following the intense “Living A Lie,” this track holds its own as an engaging and welcome addition to the album.
Count Your Blessings’ disbandment was unfortunate but understandable given their lack of a large fan base. Us & Them doesn’t quite live up to the high quality of entertainment and all-around appeal of CYB, but Adventures Into The Dark is a promising start for this young and developing group. Miller has no problems stepping into the spotlight as lead vocalist and the heavier sound of Us & Them’s music is sure to attract fans of bands like Matchbook Romance I Am Abomination, Amber Pacific, City Lights, New Found Glory, Blink-182, Go Radio and, of course, Count Your Blessings. Although the album’s first half is significantly stronger than its latter section, those first five songs do a terrific job of showing exactly what Us & Them has to offer. Adventures Into The Dark is a quick but satisfying debut, and despite its flaws, Miller describes the band’s future well on the album’s closer “Peace Not Greed” as he stresses “We were meant to push on.”
Final Score: 7/10
Rank: 1st (one total album)
- Adventures Into The Dark
- A Lost Cause
- Days Of Distraction
- Secrets Never Fail
- The Careless
- Living A Lie
- Stop Pretending (The World Isn’t Ending)
- Peace Not Greed