On their seventh studio album, Order in Decline, Sum 41 wastes little time in describing the state of the world we are living in. And they do a great job of summarizing the feeling of growing up in a country where the leader seems to suck the life out of everything that we once held so dear. Sum 41 have delivered their late career masterpiece and they have never sounded better in this mixture of punk, metal, and rock that pulsates with immediacy and a strong call to action from their fan-base. The styles they have teased and tinkered with over their career come to full fruition on this record that finally realizes the band’s full potential.
Even from the first few riffs delivered on “Turning Away,” Sum 41 rock with a confident swagger found in scene mainstays such as Green Day, while still showcasing vulnerability and a human element behind their words. Deryck Whibley sings in the first powerful chorus, “I’m turning away/Because I feel like I can’t go on, while we’re living in this lie/And when all of my faith is gone, I don’t even want to try/There’s nothing that you could say, that could ever change my mind/And will all of these steps I take, it’s giving me back my life.” There’s a lot to unpack here, as we know Whibley nearly lost his battle to alcohol addiction and had a long road to recovery to fight for his life, much less his career as a touring musician in a successful band. Whibley sounds re-focused, refreshed, and doesn’t appear to want to let his new outlook on life go to waste any time soon.
Other songs such as “The New Sensation,” are some of the best work of Sum 41’s career and find the band’s chemistry at an all-time high. The confidence and swagger on this song are immediately infectious and serve as a great reminder that this band is more than capable of writing anthemic rock songs with plenty of meaning behind them. There is little ambiguity in whom the group has their sights on with lyrics such as, “Days get stranger, the pain gets greater/It’s the human nature, or am I insane?/The confrontation, the aggravation/The new sensation, well who’s to blame?” The band is fed up with the status quo and is using their platform in the strongest of ways with well-crafted, politically-driven rock songs.
“Heads Will Roll” in particular is a song that Sum 41 may not have been capable of making back in the early stages of their career where they may have lacked the restraint to let a track like this breathe a bit, and unfold gradually. The song rocks with an Against Me! type of swagger and Whibley is as captivating as he’s ever been as a front-man that is letting his vision come into focus. Whibley’s noted as the primary songwriter, producer, engineer, and mixer for the entire LP. However, the rest of the band still picks their spots on the record that has Whibley’s footprints all over it. For example, Dave Baksh’s guitar solos on songs like “Heads Will Roll” come at just the right moment, and never sound forced. The band even benefits from having a triple-headed monster of a guitar attack with rhythm guitarist Tom Thacker adding a lush layer of riffs to help Sum 41 truly deliver a larger-than-life sound that they were going for. Drummer Frank Zummo and long-time bassist Jason McCaslin round out the unit that clicks along like a well-oiled machine.
The record and band crescendo at “45 (A Matter of Time),” and leave little doubt onto what was on Whibley’s mind at the time of penning his lyrics for the album. It’s a shockwave of political punk rock that still has plenty of soul behind it. It’s easy to be pissed off in times like this, but Sum 41 still has a way of describing the pain of growing up in desperate times and situations that don’t seem to have much of a silver lining in them.
Ballads such as “Never There” break up the speedy punk rock briefly, yet serve as a healthy reminder that there is still a human element behind the band’s pain. The themes of heartbreak while living in an unhealthy political climate are felt authentically and come across as a band that has not only figured out their true direction in their sound but also fully realized their potential in songwriters.
The closing duo of “The People Vs…” and “Catching Fire” only further solidified my opinion that this record was well thought out, carefully constructed, and executed to perfection. Whibley sings on the former’s chorus, “I know a bad man when I see his face/And now we suffer as the human race/And he’s a bad man, but I’ve got faith/To end this misery/He’s got to go, he’s got to go/He’s got to go, yeah/And all I know this is no life for me,” and it becomes further evident that their frustration in the President has boiled over. The album’s closer, however, is another tender moment that reminded me of the vulnerability of past tracks such as “Pieces,” yet the maturity and restraint of the band in this song are as powerful as they have ever been. It’s never more evident that Whibley and crew are taking their new outlook on life with a higher purpose and immediacy that they may have lacked on some of their past LPs.
Overall, Sum 41 have constructed a record that will not only get multiple listens from most of their fans but also allow for those who may have written off the band during their hiatus a chance to come around and realize the magic the group has. All Killer, No Filler may have been their breakthrough album, but Order in Decline is the record that lives up to the hype of their entire career.