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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Dead by April: Dead by April

Year released: 2009
Official website: http://www.deadbyapril.com/
Label: Universal Records


1. Trapped [3:08]

2. Angels of Clarity [3:41]

3. Losing You [3:57]

4. What Can I Say [3:08]

5. Erased [3:26]

6. Promise Me [3:34]

7. Falling Behind [3:26]

8. Sorry For Everything [4:44]

9. In My Arms [3:25]

10. Stronger [4:00]

11. Carry Me [3:48]

12. A Promise [3:37]

12. I Made It [3:49]

Ah haven't been doing this for a while. A spate of bad karma tsunami-ed its way into my life these coupla months and pushed me down a path of desolation. This in turn brought my musical tastes to more mainstream areas of teenage emo-ness and angst. Life isn't exactly looking all that way up just yet but its definitely feeling good to be back in the business of talking metal. Still, with the influences of the recent past still fresh, we're looking at some angst-filled, pop sounding metal today.

Since the release of their first single, Losing You, this Swedish outfit have garnered enough popularity to release their self-titled debut album in May this year. Not a great deal of it is original, with 11 of the tracks being demo songs that were remastered, but they do sound more clean and professional now. But from one song to one album, I still stand by what I said earlier: they sure don't sound much like a metal band. Nor look like one, for that matter. The radio-friendly sound of their mixed post-hardcore/melodic death metal/pop style isn't quite as unique as the rising-to-fame quintet would make it out to be, but that doesn't mean they do it badly.

Lets face it though, metal critics would probably put this album down because it simply doesn't have much to offer in terms of technicality and complexity. Y'all are a freaking metal band after all, not some country singers armed with a single acoustic guitar. The guitar riffs are pretty simple, and the 'boards sound like they could be played with only one hand. And while the bass could be heavier and the drums are actually not bad, the whole thing just lacks energy and power. But if you're not specifically looking out for metal songs, they're pretty ok. Like country singers, they carry forth a kinda simple beauty in their music, which is really more accessible to the masses than say, deathcore. The popularity factor is further enhanced by the fact that despite lead guitarist Johan supporting Jimmie's growls and screams, the harsh vocals seem pretty tame and downplayed while the pleasant (albeit unconventionally high-pitched) clean singing gets a lot of the spotlight, with some songs like the opening track "Trapped" and "Sorry For Everything" featuring exclusively clean vocals. Perfect formula for pop chart-hitters I'd say.

Some of the half-heavy songs are really pretty cool, like "Erased" or "A Promise", and might be useful in trying to introduce new listeners to heavier metal works. I felt that the remastered version of "Losing You" really lost me though, which is a pity because the earlier version featured in the single had more raw energy that really contributed better to this song's atmosphere. As a whole though, there are certain serious limitations to the album. The lyrical theme plays up well to my sad ol' woe-is-me self but from an objective point of view, pure emotional angst is shallow and hardly introspective. Nobody's setting Kamelot-style philosophical musings as a benchmark but there really can be more intelligent stuff than normal teenage ails. More critically, there seems to be a need for Dead by April to do some study in poetry or something to learn about diction, rhythm and rhyming structures to their songwriting. The singing can sound awkward at times because the rhythm is erratic between differing number of words in each line and the fact that some of the lines don't even remotely rhyme makes for some rather weird results that can completely destroy even the most compelling vocal hooks. If the songs had better flow, the smooth singing could really carry off better.

Its October already, y'all ain't Dead by April!
Left to right, Pontus (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Marcus (bass), Jimmie (vocals), Alex (drums), Johan (lead guitar, backing vocals)

Ultimately, catchy and sheer pop-sounding melodies are what power this album's music and opinions of its style will surely revolve around the listener's take on Dead by April's concept of metal "that refuses to be locked in to standards and preconceptions". Make no mistake, it sounds agreeable. And with some work in songwriting, it can get even better. The bottomline is that they look punk, they sound a bit punkish and if you're ok with that for a metal band, then there's not much stopping you from liking this album.

Below is Dead by April's second music video for "Angles of Clarity". Their first one is "Losing You", which you can read about and watch here.

Verdict: 7/10

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