You can't fault Story of the Year
singer Dan Marsala for mincing words when
he says that the group's multi-platinum debut "Page Avenue" sounded like a
lot of albums that were out at the time. However, when he promises that the
band's latest offering "In the Wake of Determination" will be decidedly
heavier and more representative of the band's live sound, some red flags go
up. Metallica's similar promise for their "St. Anger" release serves as the
archetypal cautionary tale of when bands attempt to go heavier to the
detriment of the songwriting. Indeed, akin to the "St. Anger" sessions,
Story of the Year holed themselves up in a practice space/studio recording
the album live and with a more aggressive, less polished approach.
There is definitely a more live feel to the performances, and the guitars
have definitely have been cranked a little more in the mix. Indeed, some
songs such as "Our Time is Now" do show the Pantera influence they have
stated in interviews, with some rather catchy riffs and energy. In fact,
tonally and musically, "'Is This My Fate', He Asked Them" seems very
reminiscent of "Master of Puppets"-era Metallica. Dan's voice definitely
sounds more weathered in these cuts in sharp contrast to the previous
album's poppier sheen.
So did the experiment work? Well, yes and no. Despite the volume boost and
additional screaming, this album really does not break any new ground. It
still sounds like other albums that were released around the time of "Page
Avenue", most notably the Used and Thursday, but perhaps with more riffs
thrown in. For instance, the song "Sleep" and "A Silent Murder" (the
requisite hidden track) are thrown to satisfy those wanting the pop ballads.
The song "Stereo", while railing against radio stations playing formulaic
music with lyrics such as "We've been taught to love this robotic formula
built to please ignorant minds, uncultured masses.", does not musically
distance itself from such formulae, having a chorus radio stations would
love to play to death.
If you loved "Page Avenue" or the Used/Taking Back Sunday/Thursday, then
this album may be for you. Otherwise, I'd treat this album as a guilty
pleasure, because the lyrics, while not having much depth or subtlety, are
suited for shouting out live, and the guitar riffs are fun. The pop
formulae are still there, but it seems that this CD could be a gateway for
some listeners to check out the heavier bands which inspired the writing of
the material. It shall be interesting to hear their next album, as Pantera
similarly started off rather poppy themselves and became progressively
heavier with each release. For now, "In the Wake of Determination" will
serve as a slightly harder successor to the group's poppier past.
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