Story Of The Year – [Album]

Friday, 12 February 2010

If there has been any constant that can be taken away from pop music, it is that each and every sub-genre always gets one good last gasp in before it goes underground to recharge the cells and burst forth renewed again at a later date. Don't think it's true? Just before punk 'died' the first time, The Clash got one more lick in with Combat Rock and simultaneously slammed the book closed on the first chapter of the story as well as leaving a document and image that would inspire a host of platinum-selling ideas ten years later. When Black Flag's My War came out in 1984 – before they turned metal and fizzled out – they left an instruction manual for bands including Manic Hispanic, Face To Face and (to a much, much lesser degree) Anti-Flag to pick up and start new fires with about ten years after it went out the first time. Now, as bands like Alexisonfire (which has already sired City and Colour, Black Lungs and Bergenfield Four, Hunter and Fucked Up), Attack In Black and Moneen along with others of their ilk arc away from the realms of emotionally charged and emotionally aggressive rock, Story Of The Year is fighting against the current with The Constant.

This time out, SOTY rocks like a band at the height of its powers and showcases its own form of newly-minted, moderately aggressive, emo/punk to illustrate how viable the form can still be, but these eleven tracks are also noticeably beefier than anything the band has done previously; right away, “The Children Sing” leads off bolstered by an army of underage voices, thus offering a gargantuan vibe and sense of universality; like we're all in this together and there's no way out.

That's not so far from wrong either. After the children go to bed, Story Of The Year dives headfirst into the biggest, most anthemic (as in, “stadium ready”) extension of punk rock the band has ever dared to tread upon which will instantly have a divisive effect on listeners; some will stand up and cheer for Ryan Phillips' and Phillip Sneed's bordering-on-hair metal and bombastic guitars that slam neatly and make the most of some redemptive chord changes, while some purists will balk – saying that this feminization and over-complication of punk is far too synthetic and contrived for its own good. Which side of the debate you fall on depends entirely on how much instrumental proficiency you're willing to allow into punk because Dan Marsola's vocals and the rhythm section supplied by Josh Willis and Adam Russell is fairly cut-and-dry. On one hand, the guitarists regularly bang out speedy and fire-breathing changes that are fantastic from a punk perspective, but the lead figures in songs like “To The Burial,” “The Dream Is Over” and “Remember A Time” have obviously been plucked straight from like and/or Hollywood metal orthodoxy (or, in the case of “Remember A Time,” Weezer) and will set more than a couple of nerves to twitching in disgust. There are actually moments here too that imply Marsola's eyebrows went up when he saw the direction the songs have taken because he tries to overcompensate a little; while his vocals have always been melodic, there are moments (like in “Holding On To You”) when he jumps one step further than normal and pantomimes the arch pop vocals of bands like Blink 182. That sort of saccharine will make a few fans turn The Constant off, but the approach also promises to interest a younger, more pop-interested audience.

So where does this album leave Story Of The Year? In a surprisingly good place for the long run, actually. As stated before, a lot of the older fixtures are trailing away from emo and screamo which will leave this album as one of the last such documents to appear. That's the sort of record that the uninitiated will pick up in ten years, start to build on and scream the praises of. In that, The Constant may prove to be the album that future fans look to in order to get an idea of where they should start.



The Constant comes out on February 16, 2010 via Epitaph Records. Pre-order it here on Amazon .

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