Start the takeover.The Takeover
Almost knowing what was to come, the first words said on Four Year Strong’s full-length debut, Rise or Die Trying, are evocative of the buzz that the band is being adorned with on this release. The band has received a notable following from their insane live shows, positive word of mouth, and critical acclaim from websites (guilty as charged) before their highly-anticipated full-length even hit stores. So, does Four Year Strong’s latest rise over the hype or die as an overhyped effort in mediocrity?
Simply put, this album rocks. Describing their music as “happy hardcore,” the band is essentially a pop-punk band with hardcore elements, thus being accessible to all sorts of fans. If you like singing along to music, you’re covered. If you like screaming along to music, you’re covered. If you like banging your head to music, you’re covered. Dueling vocals, great lyrical content, synth lines…I can go on. Rise Or Die Trying has elements that will capture the attention of any fan of rock music. The band is burning up and hitting up this scene that has become theirs for the taking.
Let me see you put your hands upon the stereo/It’s spitting out a ridiculous frequency/But turn it up turn it up/Break a sweat/’Cause were just burning up and hitting up the scene that was ours to hit up.Bada Bing! Wit A Pipe!
Rise Or Die Trying is an absolute treat for the ears. The album starts with a warning siren on “The Takeover,” indicating that this album is about to take over–thrash your aural senses while leaving a smile on your face. (Talk about happy hardcore.) The album kicks off with “Prepare to Be Digitally Manipulated” and, while seeming to be a speedy punk tune immediately shifts to the hardcore with former Bury Your Dead singer Mat Bruso putting forth his vocals that let you know that Four Year Strong is not your typical pop-punk band in the vein of Cartel or Motion City Soundtrack, but pop-punk that truly exemplifies the roots of punk with the charm of pop.
Drummer Jake Massucco shines on every track with quick feet on the double bass pedals and crafting some really great fills in between the dual singing of guitarists Dan O’Connor and Alan Day. Their first single, “Heroes Get Remembered, Legends Never Die” is a standout track and the perfect representation of what this band is, especially the dual vocals into the breakdown toward the end of the song.
Try not to make it so obvious/You always make it so obvious/I’m fighting it off.Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Hell
However, it is this representation of the band that underlies the album’s main flaw–the lack of originality. Like I have said earlier, they combine a variety of elements into one package that works but it seems like all of these elements are just taken from other bands. Song titles reminiscent of those popularized by Fall Out Boy, dual vocals, and the use of a synthesizer to enhance the music are just some facets that make this release seem a bit too familiar at times from a band that has not had much time or exposure to distinguish themselves amidst their peers. The lyrics, while they employ metaphor very well on tracks like “Abandon Ship or Abandon All Hope” and take a vengeful view on sex in “Catastrophe” and “Beatdown in the Key of Happy,” are surprisingly solid though many deal with the topic of the opposite sex. The most glaring problem is that the band has essentially done the same thing for eleven tracks so there is a genuine sense of repetition by the end of the album. Although the lack of originality is the main fault of this album, the band’s ability to combine each of these parts and make it their own is no easy task, but it is one that they have excelled at.
Many will decry the slick production and mixing that have been done for this album, but I find that it is one of the album’s appeals, as it is intended to not be a full-fledged raw hardcore release but a pop-hardcore release. The clear sound makes it an easier listen than one that is muddled by murky sound quality and allows the guitar work and Josh Lyford’s synth lines to be heard easily.
Ladies and gentlemen, open up your eyes and ears and listen up.Prepare to Be Digitally Manipulated
All in all, this is an album that should not be missed. It is a true pop-punk release, a refreshing look into an increasingly stale genre. This is an album that fits with any mood one is feeling, allowing you to sing along or bang your head. Most of all, it is fun and will have a ton of staying power as a result.
Though many will inevitably shy away from this release because of the immense buildup it has received, they are doing their ears a disservice as Four Year Strong has risen above the hype and made an album worth every word of praise it has received.