From First To Last

Dead Trees

Written by: TL on 10/05/2015 13:54:56

In 2004, Florida post-hardcore band From First To Last flew Sonny Moore in from California to play rhythm guitar on their debut album, but when they heard the singing of the man the world now knows as EDM phenomenon Skrillex, they instantly moved him to the frontman position. The result of their collaboration was an album named after a line from the dark high school murder-comedy "Heathers", "Dear Diary, My Teen Angst Has A Body Count", which went on to become a cornerstone in the emo/post-hardcore movement of the 00s, lifted up by phenomenal tracks like "Note To Self" and "Ride The Wings Of Pestilence".

From First To Last would only record one more album with Moore on vocals, however (2006's "Heroine"), continuing with founding guitarist Matt Good singing on "From First To Last" from 2008, before going on indefinite hiatus after 2010's "Throne To The Wolves". With band reunions being obligatory in today's industry however, the only surprising thing about the band now coming back, is that it was hard to envision Skrillex climbing down from his mountain of money to spend precious time on slumming with a rock band again. This problem was solved though, by borrowing Periphery frontman Spencer Sotelo, a self-confirmed fan of the post-hardcore bands of the 00s, and here we are back with a new album in form of "Dead Trees".

The good news is that FFTL's guitar playing trio; Good and Travis Richter on lead and rhythm and Matt Manning on the bass, have always been quite creative at coming up with both energetic and punchy riffs, as well as eerie atmospheric parts that helped the band maintain its trademark creepy sound. There's still plenty of that to go around on "Dead Trees", which is of course boosted by a modern production, with various samples, chimes and strings adding to the mood. And in a sense, Sotelo complements this well, putting in some noteworthy vocal melodies while singing expressively and with excellent diction, setting up perfectly for the fans to both rock out and hear every word.

All would be dandy then if the lyrical content on "Dead Trees" wasn't so awful. You can't even make it past the tracklist before noticing the teenage targeting of titles like "H8 Meh" or "I Solemnly Swear That I'm Up To No Good", and even one of the catchiest lines on the record belts tritely "Sometimes I'm a fucked up mess without youuuu!". Add to the fact that songs have poppy and completely unnecessary "whoa-oh" or "hey! hey" parts embedded to cater even more to the lowest common denominator. It's particularly a shame in the single "Dead Trees" which is actually a relatively enjoyable track apart from that. And at the other end of the spectrum the obvious joke track "I Don't Wanna Live In The Real World" is, likely humoristic intention aside, toe-cringingly bad, with its clowny acoustic/whistling melody and idiotic "Blah blah blah blah Miley Cyrus" lyric.

Despite its isolated moments of quality then, "Dead Trees" is a disappointingly ordinary mallcore release. Looking back to "Dear Diary", the catalyst for the band's incendiary expression back then was in Moore's unhinged attitude and in the often obscene lyrics, which often had you wondering if the band was actually that dramatic, or if there was something ironic mocking you right beyond your reach. Comparatively, Sotelo gives the band the personality of just another group of scenesters trying to sit on a high horse and mock the world without having much of actual substance to say. An attitude that only falls more flat by having the otherwise decent infusions of heaviness (the growls on here are good), contained in generic parts of the songs. So while From First To Last sneered knowingly at the music scene for a brief period ten years ago, they'll probably be happy these days if they can get kids half their age to sing along at Warped Tour.


Download: Dead Trees
For The Fans Of: The Used, D.R.U.G.S, Chiodos

Release date 27.04.2015

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