Story Of The Year

The Black Swan

Written by: PP on 15/05/2008 02:25:00

Story Of The Year seems hellbent on proving me wrong on the preconception that popular bands will inevitably turn softer over time. Starting with a stadium sized emo sound with huge choruses, the band dropped a bomb on all of its fans and critics alike with \"In The Wake Of Determination\", which was nothing less than a complete u-turn in sound. Stretching at times into hardcore punk, the record was ten times faster, heavier, and (you guessed it) better than its predecessor, and it caught many by surprise. Three years later, the band is finally back with \"The Black Swan\" and a sound that balances somewhere between the melodic debut and the hardcore follow-up.

At first, it seems like the new SOTY album is even heavier than before. \"Choose Your Fate\" opens with throaty screams, huge breakdown-ish riffs geared to create a mutilating mosh pit, and only just a couple of melodic clean vocals. Vocalist Marsala hasn\'t sounded this aggressive before, so his \"REACTIOOON!! REACTIOON!!\" screams come as a bit of a shock even to a seasoned SOTY fan, but it kicks some serious ass once you get into the song.

But as quickly as it appeared, the thought of SOTY going even heavier is mowed down by \"Wake Up\", a return to the more traditional SOTY sound with massive riffs, triple-recorded clean vocals dominating the atmosphere, and a huge chorus to top it off. Then for a while, the band throws in some gang vocals, background screams, and quirky (but colossal) riffs on \"The Antidote\" and \"Tell Me (pac)\", both of which could\'ve easily been on \"Page Avenue\". But neither stands tall in comparison to the faster tracks from \"ITWOD\".

\"Angel In The Swamp\" has easily the best chorus on \"The Black Swan\". It also showcases all elements of the SOTY sound perfectly, starting from the slow, anthemic clean vocals in the beginning, to the sudden rhythm change into a punk rock drumbeat and catchy chorus moments later. Kind of like putting together \"Until The Day I Die\" and \"Meathead\", if you like.

The title track is kind of apathetic, following the melodic sound of the debut album without ever being as good - an observation which applies to pretty much all the rest of the songs on the CD. What happened to the fiery screaming of the first track? It isn\'t revisited at all on the album. The bland semi-acoustic ballad \"Terrified\" is its polar opposite, a terribly boring song that shouldn\'t even be a b-side to \"Page Avenue\".

Luckily for SOTY, the album ends on a good note with \"Welcome To Our New War\". It\'s one of the only three or four times on the album where the band has crafted a great, instantly recognizable chorus, and merged it together with a fast punk rock drumbeat. This way, the song is infectiously catchy, and has lots of energy and kick, the lack of which is the biggest problem of \"The Black Swan\": it just feels all too tame after \"ITWOD\". Where are all the screamed punk rock songs? Or alternatively, where are songs like \"Anthem Of Our Dying Day\"? The overall impression from \"The Black Swan\" is that it tries to balance the two sound extremes we\'ve heard on their previous albums without being particularly satisfying on either one. Many songs have huge potential, which is easy to hear in the many great choruses or verse build ups, but these are either ruined by weak verses, or forced choruses respectively. Lets hope the band returns to writing simplistic, melodic hardcore punk, because based on this experiment, that\'s where the band clearly excels.


Download: Welcome To Our New War, Angel In The Swamp, Wake Up
For the fans of: Funeral For A Friend, Matchbook Romance, Armor For Sleep, Senses Fail
Listen: Myspace
Buy: iTunes

Release date 22.04.2008

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