Best of 2016 Playlist

August 15, 2016

The Amity Affliction - "This Could Be Heartbreak" Review

The Amity Affliction delivers an extremely experimental album, that is sure to divide fans on the new sound. Not ones to completely desert old fans, they don't shut themselves to a new audience either. TAA offer something new that will go down as one of the most memorable releases of the year. For better or worse, that's up to the listener. 

To buy their album on iTunes click the following (link). 

The album finds a way to mix emo, alt. rock influences from bands like Saosin and Taking Back Sunday with TAA's signature hardcore. The result sounds very post hardcore meets alt. rock (think recent The Color Morale meets Paramore). It works on some tracks, and doesn't on others. While the sound will no doubt leave a good number of fans divided on the new direction, this does appear to be the natural progression for the band. 

Not to draw another comparison to Bring Me The Horizon, but lots of metal bands from that era (late 00s to early 10s) have moved from traditional metalcore into fusions of metal and mainstream rock. At the very least, this album doesn't sound forced or made in studio. The lyrics and vocals come across genuine and raw enough. Joel Birch has stated that their next album will focus on story telling, and not contain his more personal lyrics. If the band stay true to Birch's word, then this album is titled correctly. This could be heartbreak for some fans, if the band pursues this more melodic style. 

The positives to their new sound? The strong use of piano, orchestration, rock oriented guitars, and the slight improvement of Ahren Stringer's vocals. He still relies on auto tune too much, especially compared to other clean vocalists who have been performing as long as he has, but the effects have been dialed down a notch for this album. Particularly on "All Fucked Up", where we hear some of the rawest vocals from Stringer. 

The aforementioned track strips the band much further down than in any other track. It's the closest thing to acoustic you might hear from TAA. The light acoustic guitar layered with Stringer's soft spoken vocals and the airy effects in the background earn this song a solid 8.5 on an album with songs more often than not scoring 7s. The latter half of the album is showcases the band's ability to write intelligent songs. Not overly technical, nor are the songs weighed down by metal cliches. 

As for Birch's vocals, most of the time he just gives the same sort of delivery listener's have become accustomed. Kind of sluggish, guttural, and notable void of energy. Perhaps the biggest sin he commits on the record arises during the moments when he tries to be Oli Sykes and do "half screams". No. A huge fucking NO. Birch's voice simply isn't suited for that sort of half scream, half sing (and on another note dude can't fucking sing). Stick to the deeper metalcore screaming everyone is used to. Points for trying, but ultimately Birch trips of his own feet and looks like an idiot. 

The other weaker moments of the album, and there are quite a few, they come from the band's decision to stick to the sound and the producer they used for "Let The Ocean Take Me". Will Putney maintains the same theme and overall sound as the previous release, but the band does little to provide variation or diversity. One could compare this to Architects' "All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us". They also used the same producer they worked with on their previous album, and moved ahead with the same style of metal. 

But in the case of Architects, they at least managed to improve on the existing sound by incorporating new elements, and new themes. TAA fall short by writing more of the same self-help, depression and anxiety songs. No one's saying they shouldn't sing about those kinds of things. But the band have done it for so long, and are sticking to the same blueprint, listening to their music isn't interesting anymore. It's just mind-numbing music that is nice to listen to, and doesn't offer anything new. 

Perhaps the only song that offers something truly new and unexpected is album closer "Blood in My Mouth". The band go heavy on the effects and production for the final song on the album. It comes off like a bad attempt to pluck fans of We Came as Roman's old electronicore sound. The slow boring beat and chugs mixed with the erratic electronics is interesting. Undercut with Birch's sluggish unclean vocals and Stringer's squeaky-clean vocals, the song suffers. Had TAA made this an upbeat, fast paced closer, they might have had another hit on their hands. But slowing things down, and stretching the song out for 5 whole minutes was a big misstep. 

Summary -
The album manages to show the band are maturing and continuing to grow as they pursue new musical interests. That being said, the album struggles to standout from any of TAA's previous releases. Not to say the album is a total failure, it isn't. But "This Could Be Heartbreak" does fall short of expectations. Not a single reference to the ocean, that alone knocks the album down a few points. 

The band is turning into that lunch you eat every fucking day. You like eating it, but it's starting to get stale. You need to shake things up, either by trying something completely different (the polar opposite of what you're eating now), or add some sauce to the existing meal. 

Recommended for fans of In Hearts Wake, Storm the Sky and The Color Morale

Favorite Tracks -

"I Bring The Weather With Me" by far. Close seconds include the title track, "Nightmare", "Some Friends", "Note to Self" and "All Fucked Up". 

Average Rating - 7.5/10

      Rating Breakdown -