For Fans Of
Aah. The awkward second album. Known as the ’sophomore record’ in America, and the ‘make or break for a career’ stepping stone on Planet Earth. Illinois quintet Sworn In haven’t made it easy for themselves either. 2013’s barnstorming ‘Death’s Card’ strutted in at number 184 on the Billboard 200 and saw the band touring alongside modern metal notables including Thy Art is Murder and Emmure. However, in their latest effort ‘The Lovers/The Devil’, Sworn In have taken every risk that was there to trip them up, pushed themselves musically and creatively and ultimately, have created a dark, twisted and chaotic work of art that will see the band continue to stand out from the pack.
A concept album, ‘The Lovers/ The Devil’ is the tale of a relationship that has spiralled way out of hand, resulting in physical and emotional abuse. The opening combo of ‘Sweetheart/ Sugar Lips’ set the scene perfectly. ‘Sweetheart’ begins with eerie acoustic guitar, and vocalist Tyler Denne hauntingly chanting, ‘Oh sweetheart/ this is how we both start.’ Before the listener has time to blink the band plunges into the deepest, darkest breakdown possible, creating an image of a once perfect relationship having descended into chaos.
The album, as a whole, is a reflection of something broken, something that the central character wants to have back the way it was. This sense of desperation is communicated perfectly in lead single ‘Oliolioxinfree’, with Zakary Gibson and Eugene Kamlyuk pulling out every sound effect possible from their six strings. The result is a churning, dark monster of a song, not a far cry from early Bring Me the Horizon. The same can be said for the twisting thrasher ‘Pins and Needles’, a song in which the vocal range of Denne is on full display.
Equally, ‘Pins and Needles’ also displays some of the most technical rhythms ever committed to record, with drummer Chris George giving a master-class of odd metre thrashing. What really sets Sworn In apart from the rest of the pack however is their ability to produce groovy hooks in addition to the rhythmical insanity. ‘Sugarlips’ moves from an a-tonal beat-down death metal introduction to a straight ahead pop rock chorus in a matter of seconds. The anthemic ‘I Don’t Really Love You’ also shows off the band’s appetite for both melody and brutality, with a chorus that sounds more like an epic metal fanfare in contrast to a bone crushingly heavy verse.
‘The Lovers/The Devil’ is a record that draws the listener in and forces upon them the heartbreak and anguish contained within the songs. ‘Pocket Full of Posies’, a song detailing the sexual abuse that takes place as a result of the relationship breakdown, lurches from a macabre dance to a crushingly heavy breakdown. ‘Got me feeling sweet /my little treat/ got me stuck in the fucking sheets’ shrieks Denne before moving to an eerie, falsetto laden chorus that is positively chilling. The sudden changes mark not only the dysfunctional personalities of the characters, but they cause the listener to empathise. The result is a feeling of genuine heartbreak and anger, with each hook charged with emotion.
‘The Lovers/The Devil’ is a confronting listen. It’s a story with no hope, no light and no happy ending. However, Sworn In have created a work which pulls the listener in, and rewards their attention with some of the darkest, heaviest diverse metal on the market. Forget the “dreaded” second album. ‘The Lovers/ The Devil’ is one hell of a ride.
2) Sugar Lips
3) I Don’t Really Love You
6) Pins and Needles
7) Lay With Me
8) Weeping Willow
9) Pocket Full Of Posies
13) Love Drunk