When bands undergo a major personnel upheaval like Woe, Is Me did, it’s easy to understand why the quality of music would take a turn for the worse. Such is the case with Genesi[s], an album that faces an identity crisis much akin to the band’s struggles in settling on a lineup. Newcomer Hance Alligood shows that he can belt out clean vocals with the best of them, but his overly melodious and poppy choruses seem out of place at times considering Doriano Magliano’s first performance as Woe, Is Me’s unclean vocalist. With scratchy, gruff unclean vocals that are edgy at their best and hard to listen to at their worst, the breakdowns of Genesi[s] fail to capture the listener’s attention like Number[s] did. Slow, repetitive guitar-chugging and pounding drums that are sure to get the heaviest moshers’ heads bobbing fill the album, but seem forced unoriginal because of their lack of variety or skill. And when paired up with nearly bipolar, catchy choruses that could fit in on a pop punk album, Genesi[s] feels like it’s all over the map. It’s not the worst take on post-hardcore you’ll see this year, but this band is clearly struggling to find itself with so many personnel switches.
This happens frequently throughout the album, but in listening to “A Story To Tell,” you’d swear you were listening to A Day To Remember once you get past the epic trademark Woe, Is Me strings. With unrefined screams, shouted background vocals and a poppy chorus filled with melodic clean vocals, this song serves as the first true glimpse of what this new lineup can do. Alligood shines when he gets the chance to show off his voice, which is a hybrid eerily reminiscent of Ronnie Winter of The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Kyle Pavone of We Came As Romans and Kellin Quinn of Sleeping With Sirens. Austin Thornton’s booming drums, Andrew Paiano and Kevin Hanson’s guitar and Brian Medley’s all attack the ears in precise and steady unison to serve as heavy breakdowns, making this a quality look at what to expect from this new lineup at their best.
However, the best song of the album is without a doubt “The Walking Dead,” which features a guest appearance from Memphis May Fire’s Matty Mullins. The brutal breakdowns and catchy choruses are all present, but what makes this song stand out are its attention to detail: subtle touches like the background sirens and dramatic strings give it an edge further enforced by the pleasingly aggressive lyrics: “So now it’s our turn to speak, you’ll have no choice but to hear us out / When we tell them about the truth and how you tried to sell us out / So just look out for yourself, it seems to be your pastime / So here’s your ticket to hell, it seems you missed it last time.”
Featuring the repetitive breakdowns of guitar-chugging and steady drumming that are most likely feeling overdone at this point, “I Came, I Saw, I Conquered” does have a few neat tricks to liven things up, including a very nifty little breakdown transition comprised of a gun cocking and firing (a la Memphis May Fire). The epic strings return and follow an overly light section of screaming, but this is one of the few sections where Magliano’s throaty bellows are not only bearable, but somewhat engaging.
This newest album has its bright spots, but they don’t quite make up for the large amount of mediocrity that fills the rest of the time. At times, it’s even hard to tell whether this is Woe, Is Me or a weak version of A Day To Remember or Close To Home . The breakdowns aren’t as intelligently brutal, the choruses aren’t as engaging and the clever additions of strings that created drama the first time around aren’t quite as captivating anymore. Genesi[s] largely settles for a lot of repetitive guitar chugging and extended but uninteresting breakdowns, making for a very average followup. And between the unenjoyable unclean vocals and frequent F-bombs dropped within mundane lyrics, the band really doesn’t deliver on the promise shown by Number[s]. With both the post-hardcore elements and the catchy choruses slacking in all respects, Woe, Is Me will have a long way to go in order to win back disappointed fans the next time around. Fans of Attack Attack!, A Day To Remember, Close To Home, Asking Alexandria, Of Mice & Men, Blessthefall, We Came As Romans, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and Sleeping With Sirens may find something to enjoy here, but should expect more from a band that can surely improve from here.
Final Score: 5/10
Rank: 2nd (two total albums)
- A Story To Tell
- With Our Friend[s] Behind Us (Feat. Caleb Shomo)
- Nothing Left To Lose
- The Walking Dead (Feat. Matty Mullins)
- I Came, I Saw, I Conquered
- Call It Like You See It
- I’ve Told You Once
- Family First
- Nothing Left To Lose (Acoustic)
Breaking from their screamo past, My Chemical Romance breaches new territory with their groundbreaking third album, The Black Parade. Like Green Day’s American Idiot, The Black Parade is a rock opera mashup of the band’s edgier roots and the classic rock elements of the 1970s, sounding like a hybrid of Queen, David Bowie and MCR’s older screamo style. Its blazing guitar riffs and prominent drumming give each song this unique verve, while lead singer Gerard Way is superb throughout, conveying raw angst when the mood darkens and fervent emotion when the more introspective tone calls for it. Way’s charismatic flair and striking personality makes him the only singer capable of pulling this album off, and with an overarching premise of a cancer patient’s journey after death that sways from a tale of darkness and anger to reflection and redemption, The Black Parade truly impresses as a uniquely cohesive rock ‘n’ roll entry that still manages to present a wide amount of variety. While the unrefined screamo sound of Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge may be missed by some fans, My Chemical Romance’s incredible new album draws on the classic rock roots of the genre and still brings their own typical emo influences, easily establishing this entry as the band’s definitive sound.
Broad in its scope and execution, “Welcome To The Black Parade” embodies the spirit and plot of The Black Parade, emphatically delivering a grand tale that is a pure spectacle to behold as it unfolds. Switching from a melancholy and slow introduction of piano and buildup drumming from Bob Bryar, this standout track swells and busts the tempo wide open with exhilarating guitar hooks and frantic drums that gives it a lively and fun vibe. Ray Toro and Frank Iero’s upbeat guitar riffs match Way’s uniquely shrill vocals to make this complex rock anthem and all its tempo changes all the more enjoyable and memorable.
Serving as one of the album’s more emotional and introspective pieces, the bluesy rock ballad “I Don’t Love You” adds variety and depth to an already impressive lineup. Mikey Way’s groovy bass line adds to the bluesy rock feel, while Gerard Way dominates the proceedings with gloomily impassioned vocal fluctuations. The background vocals and guitar-chugging lend to the melancholy tone as well, making this ballad an enjoyable display of the band’s versatility.
“Teenagers” is not as memorable as “Welcome To The Black Parade,” but it certainly is the most fun and functions well as the album’s feel-good, fist-pumping arena rock anthem. The quirky additions in the background add to the catchy chorus as resonating guitar riffs and splashy drums pave the way for Way to cry out, “They say that teenagers scare the living s**t out of me / They could care less as long as someone’ll bleed / So darken your clothes or strike a violent pose / Maybe they’ll leave you alone but not me.”
With aggressive delights like “Famous Last Words” and “The Sharpest Lives” to complement sentimental rockers like “Disenchanted” and “Cancer,” My Chemical Romance delivers their most cohesive and complete album yet. Harnessing the combined rock spirit of Queen, Bowie, Pink Floyd, the Beatles and The Smashing Pumpkins, My Chemical Romance has never sounded better than this classic rock ‘n’ roll sound. The screamo influences are still present, but don’t overpower this classic rock sound, making The Black Parade a simultaneously fresh and familiar experience. Fans of Green Day, The Used, Fall Out Boy, Panic! At The Disco, Escape The Fate, 30 Seconds To Mars, Rise Against, AFI, Queen and David Bowie should be right at home with this album, which soundly proves that sometimes breaking outside the mold is more than worth it in the rock genre.
Final Score: 9.3/10
Rank: 2nd (four total albums)
- The End.
- This Is How I Disappear
- The Sharpest Lives
- Welcome To The Black Parade
- I Don’t Love You
- House Of Wolves
- Famous Last Words
Following the band’s worst album yet, Taking Back Sunday’s music was in desperate need of a change. New Again wasn’t a bad album by any means, but it didn’t quite deliver the emo alternative rock fans had fallen in love with since the early days of Tell All Your Friends. Things looked bleak for awhile, until the band announced that bassist Shaun Cooper and lead guitarist John Nolan, members of Taking Back Sunday’s original lineup, were back on board for a new self-titled album. The hope was for a true return to the excellent rawness of that defining first album. Taking Back Sunday mostly lives up to that expectation, sounding like a true spiritual successor to the stellar original. However, there are a few duds along the way that bring the album down a bit as a whole. However, lead singer Adam Lazzara is as superb as ever, bringing his typical punk/emo drawl and attitude with him to support terrific drumming and buzzing guitar riffs, making the band’s fifth album a true delight at times. And in spite of a few flaws, Taking Back Sunday should have fans excited for the future for the first time since Tell All Your Friends.
Although this album is a spiritual successor to Tell All Your Friends, that doesn’t mean Taking Back Sunday has nothing new to offer, which is emphatically proven by the raging rocker “El Paso.” Easily one of the heaviest songs the band has ever written, Lazzara’s raspy and throaty vocals mesh well with Mark O’Connell’s booming drums and the soulful riffs of Nolan and Eddie Reyes. Cooper’s groovy bass hook is also noteworthy, adding a lighter and cooler touch to the song’s edgy nature. Capturing the untamable spirit of rock is no easy feat, but this heavy headbanger is nothing less than an alternative rock gem.
However, no song on Taking Back Sunday is superior to “Faith (When I Let You Down),” an extremely catchy and enjoyable tune that could easily fit in anywhere on Tell All Your Friends. Featuring gentler verses of keyboards, humming guitars, light drumming and Lazzara’s soft and electronically distorted vocals, this song kicks into overdrive for each urgent and sincere chorus filled with guitar-chugging, pounding drums and Lazzara’s clairvoyant singing. The use of 30 Seconds To Mars-esque background harmonizing vocals adds a nice touch to each bridge, but Lazzara’s passionate words during each chorus steal the show as he wails, “When I let you down, look past your doubt / Just please don’t loose your faith in me.”
With its relaxing guitar riffs and Lazzara’s soft vocals, “This Is All Now” also starts off on a more reserved groove, but the chorus once again steps up the tempo for another wonderful kind of chorus only Taking Back Sunday and Lazzara can deliver. This song not only shows TBS still has it, but also calls to mind all the endearing memories of happily rocking out to Tell All Your Friends with its eerily similar and ultimately pleasing sound.
There are a few misses on Taking Back Sunday, such as the uninteresting “You Got Me” or the downright annoying “Money (Let It Go),” but the majority of this new album calls to mind the good old days of Tell All Your Friends. The return of the original lineup promises more Taking Back Sunday goodness to come in the future too, so this first venture, though flawed, is a very good sign of things to come. With upbeat tracks like “Best Places To Be A Mom” and the sentimental ballad “Call Me In The Morning,” there’s a good deal of variety to be had, even if it all just feels like little more than a spiritual successor to the band’s debut. Still, if there was ever a Taking Back Sunday album to replicate, it’s Tell All Your Friends, which makes this new album a must-listen for fans at the very least. Fans of Brand New, The Starting Line, Straylight Run, Say Anything, Motion City Soundtrack, Senses Fail, New Found Glory, Jimmy Eat World, Fall Out Boy and The Wonder Years will be able to appreciate this new outing and should eagerly anticipate what’s to come in the future.
Final Score: 7/10
Rank: 4th (five total albums)
- El Paso
- Faith (When I Let You Down)
- Best Places To Be A Mom
- Sad Savior
- Who Are You Anyway?
- Money (Let It Go)
- This Is All Now
- It Doesn’t Feel A Thing Like Falling
- Since You’re Gone
- You Got Me
- Call Me In The Morning
When Green Day first announced a trilogy of upcoming albums, there was definite reason to worry about how good they would actually be; did the band actually have that much quality material to release? Or was this just a chance to rake in as much money as possible on B-sides and half-baked tracks? Whereas ¡Uno! proved the band was still recording punk gems worthy of recognition by old and new fans alike, ¡Dos! leans more toward the latter, serving up a few enjoyable songs in the midst of quite a few duds. This album is also hurt by the limited amount of time between each release: while ¡Dos! isn’t necessarily a bad album, it feels stale and uninteresting when ¡Uno! came out just a month ago. A new dose of Green Day like this might have gone over better had the fans been forced to wait a little longer, but there’s nothing new or fresh enough here to make ¡Dos! feel like anything less than the deluxe version of ¡Uno!. Green Day continues to experiment with their musical balance between the melodies and intricacies of 21st Century Breakdown and their punk roots, but the results are largely mixed and don’t do as much to raise one’s anticipation for ¡Tre! as they should.
The constant guitar-chugging of Jason White, Mike Dirnt’s twangy bass hook and wonderfully rhythmic drumming of Tre Cool on “Stop When The Red Lights Flash” proves that Green Day still knows what it takes to make a good song, despite some of the album’s other tracks falling off a bit. The background vocals a sense of fun to each rocking chorus and bridge, while Billy Joe Armstrong delivers the type of glorious punk vocals fans have come to expect from the band. The lyrics leave a bit to be desired, but the upbeat rhythms and impressive composition make it an excellent addition to the album.
Dirnt’s groovy bass hooks usually play a prominent role in Green Day’s songs, but they rarely turn a song into a light and catchy tune like they do on “Stray Heart.” Despite the fact that this still isn’t Green Day’s A-game, the straightforward, sing-along nature of each chorus combined with easygoing riffs and a few solos thrown in makes it an entertaining and mindless listen, which might sound like criticism, but is actually praiseworthy in this song’s simple appeal.
Written after Amy Winehouse’s passing, “Amy” is a mellow acoustic track, melancholy in its lyrics but pleasantly soothing in its composition. Armstrong’s vocals aren’t anything special and the tempo feels a little too fast for a track of this type, but the sad and beautiful words ring true regardless for a memorable end to the album.
Musical eclecticism is a trait worthy of praise within the rock genre, but Green Day’s ¡Dos! pushed the limit a bit, feeling more jumbled than anything. From the Oasis-like vocals on “Wild One” to the guitar riff of “Makeout Party” that sounds strikingly similar to “East Jesus Nowhere,” it feels like the band is just making music for the sake of making music at times. And that’s before mentioning the appalling “Nightlife,” made even worse by Lady Cobra’s rapped verses. You read that right, rapped. However, there are some stellar tracks worthy of praise, such as the Wolfmother-reminiscent “Lady Cobra” and “Lazy Bones” which has some of the most enjoyable guitar riffs of the whole album and background vocals that show just how good Green Day is at crafting lighter and agreeable rockers that take the listener back to the happy days of punk rock goodness in the 90s. With a garage rock sound, fans of Foxboro Hottubs, Sum 41, Franz Ferdinand, Pinhead Gunpowder, My Chemical Romance and Oasis should be right at home. ¡Dos! won’t quite appeal to all fans the way ¡Uno! did, but it’s still a decent listen and certainly isn’t bad enough to discourage Green Day from devouring ¡Tre! a month from now.
Final Score: 7/10
Rank: 6th (eleven total albums)
- See You Tonight
- F*** Time
- Stop When The Red Lights Flash
- Lazy Bones
- Wild One
- Makeout Party
- Stray Heart
- Baby Eyes
- Lady Cobra
- Wow! That’s Loud
Although two sensationally appealing pop punk albums would follow in its wake, Get Stoked On It! was hardly a sign of good things to come for The Wonder Years. With the release of their debut album, fun is the ultimate and only objective from the outset, which the band largely achieves through amusing and often random lyrical premises and song titles. The end result is a highly enjoyable and entertaining experience, but the musical method that transports listeners there leaves a lot to be desired. The abundance of poppy synthesizers to accompany heavy guitar riffs and upbeat drumming creates a pleasant sound, but it feels overdone at times, especially when the electronic influences of Mikey Kelly’s keyboards persistently rage throughout entire songs. And while lead singer Dan “Soupy” Campbell’s rugged and unrefined vocals are sure to connect with the angst-filled pop punk kids the album is clearly targeting, they occasionally cross into unenjoyable territory. Fans of the band’s more recent albums will surely find something to enjoy from The Wonder Years’ inauspicious start, but a lot of Get Stoked On It! is inconsequential when compared to what the band’s doing now.
Between Mike Kennedy’s animated drum beat, the lively guitar riffs of Matt Brasch and Casey Cavaliere and some prominent synth rhythms, “Keystone State Dude-Core” quickly establishes the fun tone and heavier sound of Get Stoked On It! This highly entertaining leadoff also serves as an indicator of the hilarious and ridiculous kind of premises to expect the rest of the way as Campbell gives his version of truth on what it means to be young: “We’re six dudes from the Keystone State, we’re broke as f**k but we can’t complain / We haven’t showered in at least four days, this s**t’s a bust but we’ll get stoked on it.”
“Bout To Get Fruit Punched, Homie” has one of the most unique premises in the history of pop punk in addition to highly appealing synthesizers to back it up. Told from the point of view of Mr. Kool-Aid, Campbell tells an amusing and somewhat dark tale of betrayal on the part of his friend Cap’n Crunch. The concept of two childish and popular advertising cartoon characters peddling drugs and committing crimes is priceless and the serious tone of Campbell’s tragic story is too ridiculous and hardcore to not make the listener laugh, which allows the band to somehow accomplish their goal of fun without crafting anything overly complicated or masterful.
Josh Martin’s bass hook provides the underlying aggression for the other guitar riffs of “Zombies Are The New Black,” yet another entertaining but compositionally lackluster pop punk rocker. The heavier sound of Get Stoked On It! is most apparent here with some unclean vocals that don’t really enhance the quality of the song and feel a bit force, but the catchy, synth-ridden chorus makes up for it.
With its pop punk hooks and synthesizer-heavy setlist, Get Stoked On It! entertains at times but falls short of impressing anyone not paying attention to its clever and humorous songwriting. Campbell’s harsh vocals, constant guitar-chugging and overzealous synth rhythms will attract a fair share of pop punk fans, but the combination feels overused by the time this debut’s run its course. Fans of Motion City Soundtrack, Four Year Strong, Set Your Goals, Fireworks, Man Overboard, Veara and The Starting Line should find something to enjoy here, but The Wonder Years’ artistic progression in later albums should be much appreciated after giving Get Stoked On It! a spin.
Final Score: 6/10
Rank: 3rd (three total albums)
- Keystone State Dude-Core
- Bout To Get Fruit Punched, Homie
- Buzz Aldrin: Poster Boy For Second Place
- Let’s Moshercise!!!
- What If We [Swam] Into Nothing?
- Racing Trains
- Zombies Are The New Black
- We Were Giants
- My Geraldine Lies Over The Delaware
- Dude, What Is A Land Pirate?
- I Fell In Love With A Ninja Master
- When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong
The raw screamo energy unleashed through the whine of electric guitars, the pounding of drums and unrefined melody of the vocals on A Change Of Pace’s sensational debut album makes it a hard-hitting and memorable entry worthy of fans’ attention. And where An Offer You Can’t Refuse falls short in its lack of polish or artistic maturity, the rocking verses, catchy choruses and intelligent songwriting say anything but, especially considering the album was written while several members of the band were still in high school. From its explosive and dark leadoff “Loose Lips Sink Ships” to its upbeat and pop punk-sounding closer, An Offer You Can’t Refuse established A Change Of Pace as a band with musical eclecticism and a bright future on the horizon.
Following the killer opener, “Death Do Us Part” offers another heavy song, but this time with a much catchier chorus and less screaming as the album’s best song. Lead singer Torry Jasper’s aesthetically pleasing vocals fluctuate well between pitches and are phenomenal when set to an infectious backdrop of surging, resonating electric guitar riffs from Adam Rogers and Dan Parker, a deep and groovy bass hook from Johnny Abdullah and a rhythmic drum beat from Jonathan Kelly. And while the subject matter of this song’s lyrics isn’t quite sophisticated, the memorable imagery of each enjoyably raucous chorus is undeniable: “I stole your heart, ripped it out and smashed it on this floor / You have no need for such a useless thing, broken forever more.”
Providing the heaviest song of the album, “Know One Knows” puts the pedal to the metal and doesn’t let up with constant guitar-chugging, booming drums and Jasper’s alternation between throaty screams and distorted background clean vocals. The chorus lets Jasper cut loose even more with anguished wails and screams, but is just catchy enough to keep more casual listeners tuned in. But despite its likable chorus, “Know One Knows” gives an engaging and dramatic look at A Change Of Pace’s post-hardcore side that is sure to please more hardcore fans.
While most of their songs feature a flurry of activity for the verses and catchy choruses, “A Farewell To Friendship” shows A Change Of Pace’s musical versatility with an acoustic ballad that Jasper owns with vocals that are composed when they need to be and strained when his emotion can no longer be contained. The acoustic guitar sets the mood but the addition of string instruments gives it a more sophisticated and refined sound and make it a nice change in tempo for the album.
An Offer You Can’t Refuse has its flaws, but in spite of a few novice moments, A Change Of Pace impresses with a truly absorbing debut. Jasper’s balance between harsh screams and high-pitched singing is extraordinary to behold, even if his vocals are a little rough around the edges at times. And while scaling guitar riffs and fervent drum rhythms are present throughout, the style changes from post-hardcore to pop punk to alternative rock and emo, often within the same song, making the album an incredibly eclectic and all-encompassing experience. Fans of The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Hawthorne Heights, Hit The Lights, Sugarcult, Amber Pacific, The Starting Line, Holiday Parade and Just Surrender should find something to enjoy here, but A Change Of Pace’s appeal extends beyond the boundaries of one single genre. Monitoring this band’s musical progression could be well worth it if they continue to mature and craft new and entertaining music in the future.
Final Score: 7/10
Rank: 2nd (two total albums)
- Loose Lips Sink Ships
- Death Do Us Part
- Every Second
- Asleep At The Wheel
- Know One Knows
- Home Is Where The Heart Is
- A Farewell To Friendship
- Goodbye For Now
- Queen Of Hearts