Lately, I’ve seen some rather mixed reviews of This Or The Apocalypse‘s new album, Dead Years. Some of them have been over-the-top. To be honest, I can understand where both the negative and positive reflections about the album are coming from. No, I’m not a fanboy, but I really have dug this band for three main reasons: (1) Their live performance, (2) Haunt What’s Left, (3) the devotion they have to what they do. It’s a real shame that it’s almost impossible nowadays to maintain a living from making and playing music, but that’s a sacrifice TOTA seem willing to make.
First off, there is something that I’ll throw out there; Haunt What’s Left is one of my favorite albums of all time, for various reasons. So that leads me to ask this question, “How do you really follow an album like that?”
I’m not sure that TOTA can necessarily “follow” Haunt What”s Left, and it appears that they realized that. Dead Years is that realization. Before we start ripping apart the album and critiquing every last detail our ears can pick up and our eyes can see, lets reflect on this thought; “We should enjoy an album for what it is, not what we wanted it to be or what it “should” be.”
Dead Years didn’t fulfill every last craving, aspiration, or expectation I had for it. (Albums rarely do that.) There were some shortcomings, but there were also some successes. In fact, this album is a lot stronger then some of our rather snobbish members of the metal-community give it credit it for. I’m sorry but Veil Of Maya is that way, Born Of Osiris is the other way, and I’m not quite sure as to which way Killswitch Engage is. Remember, what I said about enjoying an album for what it is? Oh, Metalsucks isway down that way. This is overall a very good album.
Of course, I do have some “complaints.” The cleans in Dead Years seemed to have degraded a bit with the exception of Gaunt And Fierce which has probably the strongest chorus, both in catchiness and execution, that TOTA has ever made. Two songs in particular that are on the subpar side with cleans are You Own No One But You and In Wolves, which is a shame considering how good the songs are. The songs also seem to have a bit less of a well-executed technical nature that Haunt What’s Left and Monuments were filled with. (Note that I don’t really know what I’m talking about in comparison to someone who actually plays music. I know this for a fact, so let me just throw out my fallibility there.) They are however still there in enough abundance in songs like Hell Praiser, Americans, and Hate The Ones You Love being evidence of TOTA’s bottomless technical talent.
Let me expound on that “technical talent” for a short bit. TOTA, in my mind, distinguish themselves with their technical riffage specifically because of where it is placed in their songs, how is is composed, and that fact that you can’t specifically see those riffs coming. I love that. Being techincal just because you can bores me; I’d prefer for technical “riffage” to have an actual purpose, but I digress. Dead Years throws out riffs that match up with something The Human Abstract would produce on a regular basis. Monuments has proven this aspect of their technical ability to the fullest, so a lack of technical ability would be a damnable lie.
I mention this because I don’t want TOTA to be labeled as one of those “chug bass-drop and break-down bands” mixed with some metal riffs style band that seem to dominate most metal today associated musically with anything “core.” There are certainly more breakdowns and bass-drops on this album, but this actually reflects the general lyrical theme of the album instead of said breakdowns and bass-drops just being thrown in there so that kids have an easier time in knowing when to do spin-kicks in the pit. In fact the element TOTA seem to have added to this album is the kind of “bounce” feel that Texas In July so successfully brings to the table.
Notice this album is well… a lot angrier than their previous two. Not only did the more “chuggy” nature of the album reflect that, but the grittiness of the screaming in this album manages to perfectly demonstrate that. Is it impressive when vocals actually relay the meaning and feelings of a particular lyric? I won’t lie, I’ve always been a big fan of Ricky’s particular vocal style, because let’s be honest; screaming has alot more of an impact when you can actually understand some of it. (Though I’m still very partial toward Matt Heafy’s screaming in Ascendancy. It is just so raw and powerful.) The grittiness of his vocals in particular coincide well with the overall theme of the album; frustration with lack of attention and care for the problems plaguing society. It is actually nice to see an album with lyrics about something other then breakups, bitches, killing people, and all the other entertaining possible lyrical choices out there. In fact, I am thoroughly enjoying the albums content about the societal problems that exist and the struggles people face. To make things even better, TOTA doesn’t pull a Greenday where they advocate us to be progressive statists or encourage anti-government sentiment depending on if the current president fits their ideological stances.
Anyone notice there were actually a few Fbombs thrown in to some of these songs to further emphasize the frustrations TOTA is presenting? I should admit right now that swearing in music usually seems to degrade my enjoyment of it. Now, I’m not some 23 year old Christian miser with an Uncle Jimbo attitude of “You damn kids!” when it comes to swearing. I’m just keen on two factors regarding swearing; context and appropriate timing. Meet those two factors and then by all means; swear away! Again all I would suggest is that swearing in any context have an appropriate and emphatic purpose rather then just a commonly used adjective that makes all the older people around grimace at the younger generation. This surprises even me, but I think TOTA may have made perfect usage of profanity to emphasize the lyrics of this album. (We’ve obviously seen the other extreme end of swearing in bands like Bring Me The Horizon and Asking Alexandria. *Shudder*)
One last thing I’d like to point out about Dead Years is the last song on the album; Hard Branch To Snap. It was a perfect song to conclude the album and falls in line with the excellent concluding song, Revenant, on Haunt What’s Left. So, remember don’t hate TOTA; appreciate the incredible strength of the vocals that make this band stand out in an overcrowded metal scene. Give this album a chance, no matter if you’ve heard TOTA before or are a long time fan; it will grow on you with each listen.
I won’t provide a download link for the album out of respect for This Or The Apocalypse. I would encourage all those who enjoy what they hear to support the band directly through their merch store.