For Fans Of
One band who underwent an incredible musical growth and maturation over their career is Thrice. Thrice had the courage, the guts, and the honesty to go to their fans and, via the ever-growing music of each new record since 2000’s ‘Identity Crisis‘ say: “we’re going to keep moving forward, and you’re welcome to join us.” They went from 90s melodic punk rock to heavier hardcore, to catchy but woke early 2000’s post-hardcore, to dark and grungy alternative rock, to sublime artsy rock on the wonderfully beautiful ‘Major/Minor‘, right to the political-heavy rock of ‘To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere‘ and the dense, adventurous and metaphorical nature of 2018’s ‘Palms‘ LP. Whilst Thrice did perform many full-album anniversary gigs for 2003’s ‘The Artist In The Ambulance‘ – perhaps their most popular and well-loved release, and with very good reason – the band never disingenuously returned to that older sound on-record. Most importantly, the band always kept moving forward.
The Amity Affliction is obviously not Thrice, and in fact, most bands could only ever hope to wish themselves as being on par with that of Thrice’s output. For Amity only changed after it was already too late, after years of beating their poppy-metalcore sound to death. However, at least 2018’s ‘Misery‘ came with one silver-lining: it was finally something different. Nothing all that great, yes, but new ground was being explored by Gympie-originating group, and it was, at the absolute very least, a change of view
On ‘Everyone Loves You… Once You Leave Them‘ (out now) any forward sense of progression has become quite skewed. This album is another LP soaked in sentiments about mental health, death, depression, and the like, with Amity just giving up and letting their fans have what they wanted musically. So the Aussie four-piece now panders to an insane degree: mixing older, heavier but sorely tired key-mosh metalcore/post-hardcore with the sickeningly pop style and squeaky-clean, over-compressed Matt Squire production of their previous outing, never forgetting to layer-on-thick an abundance of keys and pianos as humanly possible for every song.
My experience with ‘Everyone Loves You… Once You Leave Them‘ was full of ups and downs, followed shortly afterward by all downs. During my first, fresh-out-of-the-gate listen, I originally thought that it was a little better than ‘Misery.’ After some deeper thought and another listen, that opinion lowered to it being merely on par with their previous effort, and now after spending more time with it and giving it more early listens to write this piece, I must conclude that it’s worse than ‘Misery.’ Ah, what a journey.
I wasn’t a fan of ‘Misery‘ – barring the genuinely emotional closer of ‘The Gifthorse‘ and the kick-ass rock synthwave-themed titular song – but this is the band dragging their sound down to the bottom of the figurative lake. Just like with the most recent material from Machine Head and Suicide Silence, there’s an air of cowardice to this record. Instead of trying to really push the boat out and having the courage to maintain an evolving conversation with their fanbase, Amity has back-pedaled to where they were two albums ago, just with the more questionable aspects of ‘Misery‘ haphazardly thrown in. Then again, core kids these days praise anything that’s heavy as automatically being good, which should tell you all you need to know about audience expectations for records such as this.
One of the biggest things about ‘Everyone Loves You…‘ for me was the push-and-pull with the choruses. Sometimes, on tracks like ‘Soak Me In Bleach‘ or ‘All My Friends Are Dead,’ Ahren Stringer’s singing refrains aren’t half bad, showing the band’s penchant for decent hooks has remained steadfast. “When the dreamer dies, so dies the dream” from the former and the whistling “ooh-oooh” chorus hook on the latter (which they re-use quite a bit) could be a hell of a lot worse. Yet it’s everything else around these moments, and how we get there, that doesn’t stick. It’s that songwriting idea of “don’t bore us, get to the chorus.” But if you’ve heard one Amity chorus of late, then you’ve heard ’em all.
‘Coffin,’ at barely two-minutes long, is some of the best Amity we’ve heard in the last eight long soulless years. The striking keys and atmospheric arrangements that swirl around Joel’s lo-fi screams, before the song lunges at you in one of the heaviest moments of the band’s career, makes for a short but solid first song. Sadly, it’s a great opening scene that’s never recaptured on the following ten. While the blast beats and faster pace of ‘All My Friends Are Dead‘ are a big energy spike, it feels hollow; sounding relatively cheap. The “ahhhhh” choral vocal samples cut it at the end of each measure in the pre-chorus build-up and that glitchy, electro bridge are the song’s strongest qualities, but outside of that, there’s really not much going for it. ‘Soak Me In Bleach‘ is just there, with loads of piano and keys glitzing it up, giving it a “key-mosh” sound when paired with the mid-tempo rock grooves. It’s like a beefed-up, scream-driven ‘Misery‘ B-side that should’ve stayed on a hard drive somewhere, and Joel shouting “ROCK!” right before the breakdown creates a visceral, itchy-cringe feeling upon me.
The over-polished keys and chug-laded slog of ‘All I Do Is Sink‘ feels like an eternity to get through despite only being 3:34 in length. (Now I know how people feel when they read my long-ass reviews.) It’s over-use of electronic hi-hats and cheesy finger snaps don’t hold water, no matter how much the band wants to have these vapid pop songs build-up to big-sounding but ultimately brief and meaningless metalcore breakdowns in order to keep a firm grasp on already-unsure listeners. Starting out (and later ending) with a quick dance beat, ‘Baltimore Rain‘ launches into some of the heavier, darker verses of the entire record, with Joel bellowing deeply over pulsating synths. But it’s lethargic “smoke ’em if you got ’em” choruses completely kill the song dead in terms of intrigue and energy. All of the tension and build-up wiped out in an instance. This is a track that if it were instead presented as a stream-of-consciousness tune without those forced choruses, I feel that something much more interesting could’ve taken shape. There’s nothing with keeping things “simple, stupid,” but not this basic.
Perhaps the big infected limb off ‘Everyone Loves You…‘ is ‘Aloneliness,’ which sees the cheaply-made Halloween ghost of ‘Misery‘ return with an unnecessary vengeance. If you thought that ‘Burn Alive‘ was bad, then strap yourselves in. Seeing the band recycling some of those finger-snaps over swinging hi-hat patterns and poppy piano chords, with a clean vocal duet between Ahren and Joel. It’s meant to be this uplifting, feel-good ballad, but when listening to it, I don’t feel good; all I feel is shame. And the hilarious, distant shout of “yeah!” that’s heard right before the palm-muted chugs enter in later on is my favourite part, but for all of the wrong reasons. Truly, the one redeeming factor about this pop-rock song dedicated to loneliness and isolation is that it’s Joel’s best singing performance to date. So credit where it’s due.
Somehow, the angsty screaming, melodic metal guitar leads and big snare hits landing on each beat for the intro of ‘Forever‘ manage to have zero impact, and the virtual strings that slide under the surrounding instrumentals near the end do very little. Though the wistful “oooh” vocal line in the first half of the song’s chorus is a fun little refrain, even if it’s an immensely played out songwriting trick by now. The whistling opening melody line of the experimental ‘Just Like Me,’ with drummer Joe Longboardi laying down a simple groove beat (despite the dog-shit snare tone) over the dual-vocal back-and-forth between Ahren and Joel is fine. But that’s all it is: fine. Admittedly, this is one of the weirder yet more interesting compositions for Amity on LP #7, what with the “da-da-da-dadada” vocals swimming over the top of other vocal layers and Swedish-metal harmonic leads. (Good to see Dan Brown keeping the guitar solos and the ‘metal’-inspired parts too.)
‘Born To Lose‘ is probably what’s going to happen when Amity keeps writing these baiting, mind-numbing metalcore songs that switch between an overwrought pop formula and breakdown-featuring passages that go nowhere. Which is the best description for this album. ‘Everyone Loves You…‘ then ends with ‘Fever Daydream‘ and ‘Catatonia,’ a closing pair that show just how over-emphasized the two main forms of this record are: songs that start with drums, keys and vocals before building up to forgettable heavier parts before the chorus closes things out (‘Fever Daydream‘) or songs that are outright safe metalcore tunes that feel and sound so plastic (‘Catatonia.’) Though perhaps it is fitting that ‘Catatonia‘ rounds out the LP, as I sure felt catatonic after it all.
Just like a small child throwing on a white sheet to pretend to be a ghost to try and scare all of the grown-ups, I don’t take this album seriously at all. ‘Everyone Loves You… Once You Leave Them’ is a hodgepodge record of what The Amity Affliction has done hitherto; pop, synths, breakdowns, metalcore, post-hardcore, and all. It’s the worst parts of ‘Misery’ frankensteined together with the weakest aspects of what their last few records before that were doing. Without a doubt, it’s backed up by a couple of semi-decent choruses, but would you say that you liked a two-hour-film when you only enjoyed less than 20 minutes of it? No, exactly, you wouldn’t. I could almost hear the seconds of my life ticking away while listening to The Amity Affliction’s seventh effort. ‘Everyone Loves You…’ is like trying to order a good Amity album off of Wish whilst drunk but then dreading mail day because you’re too worried to see what it’s really like.
All My Friends Are Dead
Soak Me In Bleach
All I Do Is Sink
Just Like Me
Born To Lose
‘Everyone Loves You…Once You Leave Them’ is out now. That album cover might be the worst cover art of 2020…