For Fans Of
Since the band first appeared on the scene back in 2008, the name Attack Attack! has become synonymous with all the best parts of music- heavily auto tuned vocals, over the top synth sections and that fun little playing stance where the whole band crouch into squatting positions also known as crabcore. At least these aspects gave the band some sort of individuality, a reason to stand out in the crowd, even if a lot of the time they were standing out for the wrong reasons.
With This Means War, Attack Attack!’s follow up to their 2010 self titled release, the band have headed in a new direction, making a few massive changes along the way. The most noticeable difference on this album is the lack of electronic sections throughout the songs, while keys and synthesizer are still quite apparent, they are (for the most part) heavily layered underneath sludgy breakdowns and chuggy guitars. Also heading into this album Attack Attack! became a four piece after rhythm guitarist and clean vocalist Johnny Franck decided he wanted to focus on his relationship with God, leaving two holes in the band’s lineup. On This Means War, lead guitarist Andrew Whiting took over complete guitar duties while lead vocalist Caleb Shomo also took on clean vocalist duties- don’t worry we will get to that part later. The final product Attack Attack! has released is by far their heaviest effort to date, but is that always a good thing?
Without even listening to the record, you may be able to gather some aspects of what this release is all about. Titled ‘This Means War’ you almost immediately get the impression that Attack Attack! is heading straight into battle, fighting their critics while reinventing their band’s image and sound. This for the most part is true. Attack Attack! in many ways have done just this; they tuned down their guitar, turned up the breakdown count, turned off their synthesizer and turned on their metalcore hats. The song titles all follow the same structure; two words, beginning with ‘the’. You could be forgiven for thinking this album might be some kind of concept record, each song possibly forming a different chapter in the journey. This, however, is not the case. Instead it seems, Attack Attack! have swapped their, somewhat, tongue-in-cheek, joke titles featured on their previous record (What Happens If I Can’t Check My Myspace When We Get There?! Or Sexual Man Chocolate for example) in a bid to seem more serious about their music. Serious, not usually a word used in the same sentence as Attack Attack! (Unless of course when used to make the sentence ‘are you serious?’)
When listening to This Means War you may suffer from de ja vu, feeling as if you have listened to this album a million times before, even if you know that you have never listened to this album at all. This is because, when stripping out all those quirky parts that made a record distinctly Attack Attack!, they have now fallen head first into the realm of generic metalcore. What you will find on this record isn’t anything new. Very quickly you will come to know exactly what to expect from every track on this album. Sludgy, chugging guitar and bass lines and furied, crashing drums blending together beneath Shomo’s raspy, guttural screams and cleanly sung, bouncy, (almost) pop-like hook laden choruses, throw in at least two breakdowns, some subtle (or at times not so subtle) synth lines and you have the basic structure for almost every track on This Means War.
As mentioned before Caleb Shomo has played a massive role on this album. Not only is he in charge of screaming and clean vocals, but he also took on the role of producer. Where the band’s two previous releases were both produced by Joey Sturgis, anyone familiar with the metalcore genre will be familiar with his work and his sound, but this time around the band decided to keep the production in house. This may have been a good direction for the band to go. For the most part, the sound is quite tight and while there are small areas that may have been missed (the apparentness of the cymbals or the murky sound of the guitar at times) for a first time producer Shomo has done quite a good job. This option also meant that the band had complete creative control over their release, and while the end product may be a sensible metalcore album, just having the ability to head in any direction you desire is a positive for any band.
Taking on the clean vocal role also meant that Shomo had to change up the way he screams. Instead of his usual deep, gritty scream, This Means War features Shomo screaming in a pitch a lot higher than usual, this decision was made to make it easier to transition into his clean vocals. For the most part his screams are okay, the higher pitched, raspy, shouted style ties in nicely with the heavier direction Attack Attack! has chosen to take this time around. While becoming monotonous and lacking any real range (besides the few moments where he strays back into his usual deeper pitch) they do their job. The surprise comes in the sound of his clean vocals. Not only are they far less auto tuned then Franck’s were, they are also highly enjoyable. The tone in his vocals is perfect for the bouncy, pop hooks that his clean vocals are used for, it is somewhat disappointing that they only feature for the choruses. The rest of the band has also improved in leaps and bounds instrumentally. Drummer Andrew Wetzel sounds extremely tight behind the kit, Andrew Whiting has done well to take on sole guitar duties and in the moments where he really picks up the pace he demonstrates that there is definitely no need for a second axe-man and John Holgado does well to keep the bass lines up to speed. Maybe Attack Attack! is becoming a band to take seriously?
Over the course of the 36 minutes the album takes to finish, you will be forgiven at times for feeling as if one track blends into the next. If for any reason you cannot listen to the album from start to finish, head straight to “The Motivation“. In just over 4 minutes the whole album is summarized, and alone it actually makes for an interesting listen. The track opens with melodic keys before heading straight into a heavy section made up of chugging, distorted instruments before Shomo’s screams layer over the top adding to the chaos. Right from the get go the track is heavy and in your face, without hearing anything else from the album it is clear that this is a new Attack Attack! The chorus then completely switches things up, beginning with rolling drums and bouncy guitars Shomo’s sugary sweet clean vocals have an instant pop sensibility about them. The rest of the chorus features one of the catchiest hooks on the album backed up by bouncy guitars and drums that would fit perfectly on a pop rock record. The track also features one of the longest and chuggiest breakdowns on the record, but in contrast to the chorus it works. The rest of the album follows the same sort of structure, just sometimes to a lesser degree.
This Means War, while a somewhat new direction for Attack Attack!, may suffer from getting lost in the over saturated and highly generic metalcore sea. The album does perfectly well at ticking all the boxes for what a metalcore album should be, but the sense of sameness and repetition may be it’s biggest downfall. However this may also be it’s saving grace. If with this album, Attack Attack! were attempting to change the way they are perceived and be taken more seriously as musicians then this album is definitely a step in the right direction for them, maybe three steps. This Means War is your fundamental metalcore album, it will fit nicely on the shelf with the rest of your Rise Records collection, enjoy.
1. The Revolution
2. The Betrayal
3. The Hopeless
4. The Reality
5. The Abduction
6. The Motivation
7. The Wretched
8. The Family
9. The Confrontation
10. The Eradication