It only took five minutes to prove that Marianas Trench were the real deal.
The opener to the pop-rock quartet’s sophomore effort, Masterpiece Theater, was breathtaking to say the least. “Masterpiece Theater I” presented everything to love about the genre – soaring harmonies, memorable instrumentation, and hooks to go crazy for. The band’s prime selling point took place within vocalist Josh Ramsay, who gave unreal performances on nearly every song on the album. Marianas Trench had something special going for them, and it was easy to say that their follow-up had a lot to live up to. In company with Masterpiece Theater’s incredible solidarity, it also ended up selling platinum (in Canada), with numerous platinum and gold singles to go along with it. That alone sets the bar enormously for the highly anticipated Ever After – and it’s the band’s best offering to date.
Ever After is a concept album that tells the story of a man awakening in a land run by Queen Carolina, who uses her factory to build toys that steal hearts. The man goes on a mission to find Porcelain: the missing, heartless, adopted daughter of the former king. She holds a piece of a key that opens a chest that will allow him to return home … or something like that. If it makes zero sense, don’t feel bad. Despite the story sounding like a bad Nintendo Wii game, it takes absolutely nothing away from Ever After overall. If anything, it shows the much admired ambition of Marianas Trench, and the fact that they can make an album of this brand work so well. Marianas Trench certainly aren’t unfamiliar with the concept route in general – as Masterpiece Theater was one too – and Ever Afterdemonstrates exactly how to actualize this feat. For records in this vein, it’s not only about the story, but the execution as well – and the execution here is damn near flawless.
Title track, “Ever After,” shows that Marianas Trench aren’t one to stray away from what makes them so unique, as the opener paves the way for the near hour-long record. Despite its length, it does anything but drag on, considering there isn’t a single pause throughout the entire album. This is thanks to Ramsay’s vocals – and the ending of “Ever After” is a fair warning that he plans to hold everyone’s attention and never let go. Lead single “Haven’t Had Enough” takes more of a straightforward pop stance. Its explosive chorus and synth riffs act as a bit of diversity on Ever After. Along with its fair share of ballads, “Haven’t Had Enough” is a destined chart topping single and one of a few others that plan to push the group into potential pop stars. Whether or not they’ll impact the mainstream in the United States is uncertain, but it’s the tracks like “Haven’t Had Enough,” “B Team,” and “Fallout” that make it apparent that Marianas Trench are tired of going platinum – they’re ready to hit diamond. With that said, the band does a superb job on the slower tempo tracks such as “Porcelain” and “So Soon,” with the former taking their instrumentation to new heights. The album as a whole is a clever combination of the theatrical elements taken from Masterpiece Theater, some new ones entirely, and the rock prominence heavily featured on the band’s 2006 debut, Fix Me.
”Toy Soldiers” further advances Ever After sonically as the track is uncharted territory compared to what they’ve done before. Its dance oriented nature makes for the song that will probably take a little bit to warm up to, yet isn’t different enough to disrupt the album’s seamless flow. Standouts “Desperate Measures” and “Stutter” provide a break from the dramatic ballads as they’re absolutely massive pop numbers that are huge on substance, catchiness, and production, which is a formula Marianas Trench has down to a science. “No Place Like Home” wraps up the album emphatically as it joints together every aspect featured musicianship-wise. At the end of the near-eight minute long closer, it’s clear that Ever After is a top candidate for one of the best pop-rock albums of 2011.
While Marianas Trench may commonly be spoken in the same breath as other acts with a similar sound, Ever After cements them as the obvious powerhouse. Although their sound is much different from the likes of Cartel and Fall Out Boy, those are some of the groups that could be compared to them the most. They’ve taken a misguided brand of pop-rock and twisted it into something that’s entirely their own – similar to what Cartel and Fall Out Boy have done as well. The beauty behind them is that whatever they do in the future, they’ll sure as hell make it known that they aren’t anybody else but Marianas Trench, and we couldn’t be happier.