Throughout 2014, we’re going to be looking back on some of the best albums that were released 10 years ago and discussing their legacy. Feel free to share your thoughts and memories in the replies. Enjoy!
Catalyst was many things, chief among them being the last ‘classic’ album for New Found Glory. It was the first release by the band to toy with their sound, crafting the bridge between the signature pop punk energy of their first few albums with the softer tone of the follow up record, Coming Home.
For all of its experimentation into slower songs, it included some of their heaviest melodies coupled with a higher production value. Where the new exploration in songwriting took slight missteps in the flow of the album, what remains is one of NFG’s classic albums that still sounds just as good a decade later and influenced their songwriting all the way into the present.
The production and writing for Catalyst was able to straddle the thin border between keeping the style and sound that their fans grew to love while perfecting the polish that their songwriting needed to feel more layered than ever. Ultimately, it’s this layered sound of punk that has carried over with them for every album since. While it’s not a departure by any means from Sticks and Stones or the self-titled album, Catalyst is the first release that saw their songwriting at its greatest potential and swinging from all angles.
The grungy chord progression opening to “It’s All Downhill From Here” is crisp and thick, hard enough to bite into the scene and bouncy enough to retain the pop forged in earlier works. Just that sound in and of itself is weighted so heavily, you can still hear it stylized on the newer releases, such as Not Without a Fight and Radiosurgery.
One of my earliest memories of this album was the fact that it ground to a halt with the sudden addition of slower and quieter songs placed amongst the loud ripping guitars. Though this only tested on a few songs to fairly mixed results, it just seemed so out of place for a NFG record. “I Don’t Wanna Know” is the first time anyone saw the band take a step back with more acoustic based melodies, a layer of swishing violins and singer Jordan Pundik not belting our lyrics as loudly as he could.
The songs weren’t bad, just out of place. New Found Glory was known for coming out guns blazing and forcing you to jump with the energy that blared through the stereo. When that flow of power was suddenly interrupted by a ballad, it just felt forced and unnecessary. Looking back at it now, I appreciate the songs more, but they’re still not the best that the band has to offer. But these experiments helped build the foundation to allow for blend light and loud music, such as the brilliant cover of “Kiss Me” from From the Screen to Your Stereo Pt II.
Ultimately, this experimentation in style wouldn’t lead to too much. It set the groundwork for the next release, Coming Home two years later with much more somber songwriting and matured sense of lyricism. However, much like the rest of their discography after Coming Home, Catalyst is mostly high energy punk rock. Most of the songs are hard, fast and legendary among NFG’s discography.
Staples “Intro” and “It’s All Downhill From Here” are chief among the anthems that are unquestionably necessary for any and all live shows. “Truth of My Youth” is a classic song that feels like it was ripped straight out of Sticks and Stones. The melody is alarmingly simple and stretches over the rapid drumming and bass. The guitars find quick solos that hide themselves in the choruses and try not to steal the show.
“At Least I’m Known For Something” is a gem hidden near the end of the album, with a slow build up of chugging guitars and lightning quick drumming, becoming quicker and louder for twenty seconds. The entire set up just builds and builds until the vocals finally appear. It’s only fitting that a song this strong and deliberately loud helps close out the album, as it would be five years, until 2009’s Not Without a Fight that NFG would write a song as strong or as hard.
Catalyst isn’t the album that NFG are most remembered for, but it’s one that fans of the band can’t live without. A decade later, the hits on the album are so good that they’d still impress if they were new today. The few forays into more acoustic based songs don’t particularly disappoint, but ultimately were an experimentation stylistically that the band eventually dropped almost altogether. It was the last ‘proper’ sounding NFG album for years though, until the Tip of the Iceberg EP brought the energy back in full form as a rough punk album.
NFG still retain many of the elements perfected on Catalyst as the backbone to their current writing style: loud, fast punk wrapped around a simple melody that will never leave your brain. As the fourth incredibly memorable album in a row (Nothing Gold Can Stay was incredible, admit it), Catalyst is proof that a band doesn’t need to completely reinvent themselves in order to grow and mature. The smallest tweaks and tests can make all the difference and still maintain the legacy of songwriting that fans demand.
by Kyle Schultz
Kyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and yells at the rain on occasion. He also wants to play you in FIFA.