Check out my album reviews for issue 100 of Smash Magazine, including All Time Low, Silverstein, Sparta, and The Word Alive.
All Time Low – Wake Up, Sunshine
If you’re looking for music to blast post-quarantine as you roll the windows down and cruise the again bustling streets while soaking up the warm Vegas sun, this is it. On their eighth full-length album aptly titled Wake Up, Sunshine, All Time Low makes good on their pop-punk occasionally emo reputation. Full of upbeat and catchy tunes grounded at times by forlorn lyrics, see “Trouble Is” and the addictive track “Monsters” featuring Blackbear, this album is sure to be in heavy rotation for pop punkers coast to coast. The album’s first track and single, “Some Kind of Disaster,” best exhibits the band’s Green Day, Blink-182, and New Found Glory influences. “Basement Noise” is a wonderful closer that paints a vivid picture of the four band members as ‘just stupid boys making basement noise in the basement’ as they lived together to bring this cohesive album to life. If All Time Low’s last full-length created any doubt of the band’s identity, this one solidifies their sound and proves there are only good things to come.
Silverstein – A Beautiful Place to Drown
A 180 from their last studio full-length, 2017’s absolute banger Dead Reflection, Silverstein’s A Beautiful Place to Drown may just be the band’s most polarizing album to date. While being praised by some, but rejected by others, after eight studio albums, Silverstein really was due for some experimentation on their big 20th Anniversary album. Maybe not as deep, complex, or cutting as past albums, A Beautiful Place to Drown is an overall fun listen, mixing synth and other elements into their sound without taking it too far. “Infinite” is one of the best songs of 2020 thus far with guest vocals from Underoath’s Aaron Gillespie. “Shape Shift” and “Madness” are incredibly catchy, and “Burn it Down,” featuring Caleb Shomo of Beartooth, and opening track “Bad Habits” hit hard with just the right amount of Silverstein’s signature screaming. “September 14th” feels a bit out of place with its more upbeat punk sound (even though it’s about the Vietnam draft), and “All On Me” has a saxophone solo which no rock song this decade ever should, but overall, this album is worth a play, or a thousand, depending on which side of the debate you land on.
Sparta – Trust the River
If you forgot about Sparta, it’s understandable. Their newest release, Trust the River, is the post-hardcore outfit’s first album in fourteen years. During that time, lead singer and guitarist Jim Ward has been busy releasing solo albums as well as two albums with alt-country band Sleepercar. He also reunited with his original band At The Drive-In once but skipped their second reunion tour. Sparta was always simmering in the background though, popping back up for a few years at the end of 2011 and then again at the end of 2017 with a new drummer. So, what can you expect on this album? A true, dreamy, collection of rock songs that have been influenced by all those experiences of the past fourteen years. On the spectrum between At The Drive-In and Sleepercar, Trust the River lands a bit closer to Ward’s Sleepercar sound, but still has its own distinct feel rooted in lyrical storytelling, layered instrumentals, and wide-reaching melodies. Relentless drums punctuate the background of “Cat Scream” and “Miracle,” and “Dead End Signs” incorporates a delicate piano accompaniment. If you’re looking for Ward’s distinctly clear scream though, check out the last minute+ of the album’s final track, “No One Can be Nowhere.”
The Word Alive – Monomania
If you’re a fan of Octane on Sirius XM radio, you will love this album. From the intense opening title track, “Monomania,” to the hard-hitting closer, “Death is only the End if you Assume the Story is About You,” The Word Alive has compiled a solid twelve-track genre-blending album rooted in metalcore with few low points. The album’s third single “No Way Out,” a dark song that explores alcoholism and bottoming out, has one of those choruses that just makes you want to turn up the volume and sing your lungs out, though you might be hard-pressed to match singer Telle Smith’s powerful screams at the end of each line. “Another Year in the Shadow” shifts between being a ballad and a banger, and the heart-wrenching pleading in “Numb Love (Misery II)” culminates with a spacey and vocally stellar bridge that will leave you wanting more. The only song that falls a bit short is “Thank You,” though the heaviest track on the album, it’s lyrics could have used a few less instances of the words ‘thank you’ throughout. Overall, The Word Alive’s sixth studio album is the perfect evolution of their sound and solidifies them as a multifaceted rock powerhouse.
Want more? Check out my album reviews from Smash Magazine issue 99.