I have been waiting for this release for quite a long time. The previous album, The Life I Know, was quite an achievement especially for a freshmen release. It rose the bar quite high for the band and I had hoped that Gwen Stacy would be able to surpass it. Unfortunately, the sophomore album could not live up to the standards of The Life I Know. But what could possibly make such a great band go astray? While many people might point the blame at the new vocalist, Geoff, this for me was not the case. Throughout the album, he brought back the aggressive growls that Cole was so good at and made it better. In fact, I would interested to hear how he would growl through The Life I Know. The album would probably sound so much better. What killed the album for me was the melody sung by Brent.
In the previous album, the way Brent sang made the album excellent. Since I wasn't the greatest fan of Cole, the sound of Gwen Stacy for me was the singing talents of Brent. Even though his singing was rare, whenever he sang, the song got ten times better. For example, due to his vocalist expertise, songs like If We Live Right, We Can't Die Wrong, The Fear in your Eyes and Gone Fishing, See You in a Year really stood out because of his talent. However, in the sophomore release, his voice does exactly the opposite.
Now, I know that Gwen Stacy has always gone for an experimental sound and I really appreciate that. In the freshmen release, Gwen Stacy experimented with their guitars to make odd break downs and syncopated rhythms not seen in any other band. It made the band different. However, this time around, the band seemed to focus this experiment with the vocals. Brent's singing style has definitely changed and just seems out of place in almost every song. I would rather have Geoff growl throughout the entire album than have Brent ruin songs that had great potential. Usually when I listen to Gwen Stacy or any other band, I look forward to the clean vocals even if they may be scarce. It makes some diversity. But in this case, the vocals just tend to ruin the entire the greatest that Geoff creates. After listening to the album a few times I have tried to put my finger on what exactly Brent does that is so strange. And all I can say is that the melody is strange and doesn't fit with the chords that are being played. You will have to find out for yourself.
In the third song, A Dialogue, I thought that everything would be okay. Brent goes for a more poppy sound, experimenting with what most singers in band sing like. While sounding strange for Gwen Stacy, it was a change, which I always look on positively. While it did seem out of place, it worked. However, once the prelude ends, he goes back to singing off. The only song which he sings in that sounds good is "Words of the New Prophet." To me, it gives me the feel of "If We Live Right, We Can't Die Wrong." I could be wrong. But the clean vocals and the growls go well together. It is the old sound of Gwen Stacy coming back. But after that song, the clean vocals go down hill with the except of Braveheart. While the vocals are nothing special, they don't have that annoying knack of not going with anything being played. But before "Words of the New Prophet" and after, the singing is just awful. And unfortunately, there are a lot of clean vocals. It is almost an irony. In the last album, I would have killed for there to be more clean vocals. But now, since we have it, I want them to just go away.
I am sure that the album will grow on me over time (I hope), but I am really disappointed to what they have become. Gwen Stacy still has the aggressive side, if not more so because of Geoff. They did a great job in choosing a new front man. There is still that experimental syncopated style and strange guitar rhythms that make Gwen Stacy who they are.
And no, there is no Gone Fishing, See You in a Year part II. I know, it sucks. All in all, the album could have been SOOOO much better. Brent's vocals just ruined it for me, ruining song after song which Geoff does so well to create. Now, I don't want this to hinder people from buying the album, I just want everyone to realize that there has been a change and a noticeable one that might not be positive for a few people. Try listening to their three songs on their myspace: the first three songs from the album. You will see what I mean.
Songs that did stand out to me were: Profit Motive (minus the few melodies sung by Brent), Creation and How I See it, Words of the New Prophet and Devil Devil (minus the melodies sung by Brent). Again, Most of the songs have only been heard three to four times. I hope that I will end up liking more of the album.
And to Gwen Stacy, I will still be a loyal fan. I just hope the next release will be better than the freshmen and ten times better than your sophomore.