Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Review: Attack Attack! - This Means War

 In the past, it hasn't been easy to speak of Ohio metalcore quartet Attack Attack! in a positive manner. Their apparently genius idea of combining (often-repetitive) breakdown filled metalcore with electronica elements including whiny synthesizers, ridiculous amounts of auto-tune in the vocals of Caleb Shomo and their "totally unique" performing which consists firstly of bouncing around aimlessly as though one is on a pogo stick during the verses and for breakdowns, the now iconic "crabcore" move which involves crouching down into a position akin to doing the splits and thus, looking like a crab whilst playing. Naturally the only positive reaction they seem to have found are from people who assume they are a joke and enjoy their music in the same way that someone may enjoy Tommy Wiseau's directorial debut (and only film) The Room. I know, I may seem a bit hypocritical since I like a bit of Asking Alexandria, Sleeping With Sirens and Woe Is Me every now and then, but Attack Attack! have taken things too far in the past and have a style that is just ridiculous.

 So with all this slander in mind and a preparation to put a negative review out there, I have instead found myself getting seriously into their third offering, This Means War. This album is very much a big step up for the band, which sees their sense of maturity, definition and overall heaviness increased to the max. With my rant on the previous paragraph in mind, the thing that makes This Means War more enjoyable is purely in the fact that the poppier elements are very much kept to a minimum. That's not to say they're not around. There are plenty of obligatory vocal-cutting sections and plenty of synthesizer backdrops to complete the songs, but they don't cause any real sense of botheration as they previously may have.
 Instead the metalcore and occasional groove metal element of their music is focused on in much greater depth with the force that the groups juddering breakdowns are delivered with greatly increased and intensified. Tracks like The Hopeless and The Confrontation are played with riffs that have the steel-plated force of Bury Your Dead and the pulsing breakdowns of The Betrayal are actually those that you wouldn't be embarrassed to be seen headbanging to.
 Even the poppier elements the band has on offer also manage to be enjoyable. The massive hooks that appear in the chorus of The Revolution and The Motivation (Seriously, what is with the series of titles beginning with "The"? Seems like the just copied the idea from Memphis May Fire's The Hollow.) manage to give the songs a greater sense of catchiness and a captivating punk fury that which the band is clearly desiring to make, even the use of auto-tune doesn't annoy in these songs. It's actually quite refreshing in it's contrast from the harsh higher pitched growls, which are effective in capturing the message of anger this album is wishing to convey. Even the electronic moments manage to be pretty cool. The synthesizer backdrops in The Betrayal and the minor dubstep arrangements of The Reality and The Confrontation are quite cool and convey an atmosphere of emotion and madness.
 However, there is room for improvement on this album. The previous criticism of the band sounding repetitive is very much prominent across this album and soon the constant repetitive breakdowns do get a bit wearing out after a while. It's what makes the poppy choruses so refreshing. Just hearing something that isn't a repeated chord pattern. The lyrical theme that the album carries of speaking from the point of view of a soldier in the war is also one that doesn't really manage to stay interesting, as they seem to spread the same ideas across each song. "Oh, Soldiers don't get enough respect, people died and we fought for you." The album is basically that repeated ten times. Not that I'm saying it's an irrelevant issue, before people start complaining, I just don't need to hear it over and over again.
 So, on the whole, while the group could do with diversifying their sound and lyrical themes a little more, there is a lot of potential and enjoyable moments across this album. It really shows that Attack Attack! are capable of making an album that doesn't cause them to get totally despised while keeping to their conventional sound. This album is a serious improvement for this band and proves that this band could potentially be... (gulps) good!

 Attack Attack!'s This Means War is out now via Rise Records. The band will tour the UK In January with The Ghost Inside, Sleeping With Sirens, Chunk? No, Captain Chunk! and Dream On, Dreamer.

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