Four Wall Blackmail put this band on the map. Their invigorating blend of post-hardcore and Thursday worship was perfectly timed. New Medicines catapulted this band to the top of the new wave screamo genre. The maturation of their earlier sound combined with a more refined songwriting ability allowed the band to create an undeniably forceful release. Vices will be the album that paints a picture of a band persevering through adversity and coming out on the other side stronger than ever before. This album, without a doubt, shows the band coming together to create their most mature release to date and, at the same time, shows that they're not concerned with riding along on the wave of the popular genre of the day.
Strip away what you previously knew about this band. This isn't a screamo release. This isn't a scene-centric CD. This isn't a cliché ridden album. This isn't like their last two efforts. What this album is, is a straight ahead, solid, rock record. I'm sure that to many fans this is the worst news in the world, but to those of you can look beyond a band's looks and past, those of you who simply enjoy good music, this is as solid of a release as you will find in the rock arena.
The biggest change that people will notice is the lack of screaming. This really shouldn't feel like that big of a change, however, as it is easy to see the natural progression of the band from their inception to the current day in regards to this piece of the band. Their first record was raw and emotional, with a moderately heavy focus on screaming. Their sophomore effort had considerably less screaming as the focus was more on using it to augment passages of songs as opposed to being the focal point, with there even being a couple of songs that were found on New Medicines sans screaming. With the complete removal of screaming, the band is now able to focus more on creating cohesive songs that have more musical depth. Besides, Brandon Rike has one of the more infectious and striking voices in modern rock, so why take away from his vocals by overlaying them with extraneous yelling?
Musically, there is a stronger consistency in the songs on this album. Whereas in the past there was a strong distinction between the band's softer, intricate moments and their heavier, quicker songs, Vices has a smooth consistency that is rarely broken. Yes, there are definitely slower and quicker songs, but the flow between them feels natural. The only slight misstep the band may have taken is overloading the second half of the disc with slower numbers. Within the first seven songs there is only one down tempo number, "In Coma", whereas in the second half you have "Paralytic", "Animals", and "Copy of a Copy" sporting slower and more mellowed tempos.
One criticism that is sure to crop up is the length of the album at 50 minutes over the 14 tracks laid down. Really, this isn't much of a criticism as there are no wasted tracks, no boring interludes, and no true filler. Each song differs enough from any other on the album, as well as explores different territory than the band's past releases, that you don't get the feeling of being bored.
Once you dig into the release, you'll see that the band has managed to soar beyond the expectations set upon them. Take, for example, what could be argued as being the best track on the CD -- "In Coma". Taking on a slower pace with guitar tones similar to previous songs "Glass in the Trees" and "The Dream Club Murders", the band creates an introspective verse structure that leads into an emotional and strong chorus, yet tender enough to not feel like it was forced. All the while Rike croons what is some of his most mature and deep lyrics to date. It's great to see Rike able to create as open and creative lyrics as he does because when all the vocals are sung, you can't disguise bad lyrics by simply yelling them incomprehensibly.
The majority of the heavier rocking tracks on this release sees a lot of modern alternative rock influence, most notably a nod to mid-career Blindside, Obsession era Eighteen Visions, and late career Deftones mixed with the late 90's rock appeal of bands like Stone Temple Pilots and Pearl Jam. The band doesn't so much sound like the latter two groups, but the structuring of the songs and the straight forward nature of the tracks hearkens back to such bands, if only they were given a modern facelift.
Notice should also be given to the guest appearance by Chino Moreno of Deftones fame on the track "Paralytic". This is another strong song and the addition of Chino's backing vocals helps to give it that extra punch, even though the song is one of the more melodic tracks, sounding very close in feeling to something out of A Perfect Circle's catalog.
When all is said and done, this is Dead Poetic at their best. This album is not going to be what you expect if you go into it with any pre-conceived notions of what to expect. There are still elements of their sound present, but they've grown up and walked down their own path instead of following in the footsteps of what's currently trendy and popular. Classic rock, modern rock, hard rock, melodic rock, whatever you want to subclass it as, the only thing you really need to know is that this is at its core just wonderful rock music. Period.