Review: The Early November – Imbue

the_early_november

I remember reading years ago that The Early November chose their name because, much like the weather at that time of year in the northeast, they couldn’t choose what type of music they wanted to settle on or play. The result is that the band has become an entity that can and will play any style or genre of music, able to change their sound almost at will.

It makes them extremely diverse and provides an ever changing dynamic. It makes each release new and exciting, with remnants of the last few albums spread throughout just enough to let you know that TEN are still, essentially, the same band. We all know how Ace Enders likes to change his songwriting from album to album, project to project. But finally, I think we know how The Early November were always meant to sound.

Imbue is the most sonically coerce album TEN have ever released. Each album is great, and each has their own identity, and I could have been talked into any of them being the band’s best depending on my mood at the time. Imbue is something else entirely. This is the band, 15 years in, having gone through the adolescent stages of touring, taking a hiatus to live life, and then forging ahead on the other side of reuniting and building a whole new identity.

To describe Imbue as dark would be incorrect; it’s an orchestrated version of Ace Enders that we’ve never seen before. The pop sound from the last few TEN albums and the more recent I Can Make A Mess is missing. The obligatory and much anticipated acoustic ballad is noticeably absent. Instead, you’ll find unique choruses that only the most confident of indie bands would attempt. The guitars rage, sizzle and coo. Each song is atmospheric and unexpected. For a band groomed in the pop punk scene, putting out a pure rock record could have been a death sentence; instead it’s become a crowning achievement.

Musically, it’s hard to recognize this as TEN at the helm. It’s earthier and moodier, the self-proclaimed comparisons the band have made to Brand New circa The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me don’t go unnoticed. Each song builds off of the last, the stylistic choices holding true to the very end. The guitars are refrained from exploding and keep a smooth control over the sound that makes each note deliberate and weighted. “Better That Way” ricochets between soft strums to walls of fuzzed guitar and the spider-like plink of restrained guitar strings.

“Magnolia” sounds much more like a traditional TEN song, with the crisp waves of power chords and tremendous drums leading into a hypnotic chorus. “Boxing Timelines” is more relaxed, with melodies snatching the spotlight with tight finger work on the fret. Jeff Kummer’s drumming dances a fine line between time keeper and nearly backup vocals to the chorus. Bill Lugg’s guitarwork on “Cyanide” is utterly hypnotic.

“Nothing Lasts Forever” is the stand out punk song that sounds like a spiritual successor to “Every Night’s Another Story” in terms of aggression, though, the message is much more positive. The final song, and technically a bonus track, is the first remake TEN have done of a song from a previous album with a full band version of “Digital Age” that has Sergio Anello’s bass plodding a haunting melody that gives the song meaning and strength that the original acoustic song lacked. Also, Joseph Marro. He’s just awesome and it’s a bit harder to tell when he’s on guitar, but his keyboards are just delicious.

Ace Enders has literally never sounded better. He’s severely stepped up his vocal abilities since the return of I Can Make A Mess and The Early November over the last few years, and although I thought that ICMAM’s Growing In was his best vocal performance, Imbue easily bests it. The transition between soft croons and larynx shredding shouting is nonexistent at best. He races across his range and pushes his limits in a way that I can only compare to Patrick Stump on the most recent Fall Out Boy releases.

Lyrically, not much has changed, but it is Ace Enders at the top of his game. The songs aren’t necessarily about relationships as much as they have been in the past, but rather they focus on the darker inner workings of oneself and overcoming your own demons. “Magnolia” has Enders singing, “Well I have issues I could never talk about /And words I can never hear myself say / And the songs I can never let myself sing / Trying to find out how to justify feeling this way / I remember wishing I could talk like others did / Watching the conversations be their way out or in / To where they were going seemed so much better than / Well I could always open my mouth / Just not let the words come out / I just held my breath”.

Perhaps the most damning lyrics Enders has ever written, and possibly the most direct attack on the negative outlook within the scene, and society in general, during “The Negatives” he sings, “Cause you’re addicted to feeling sorry for yourself / A needle wove a thread between your body and guilt / You made a blanket of your scars / And you just wanna feel warm”.

As I’ve said before, I Can Make A Mess’s last album had such good pop songs, I almost couldn’t believe that some of them weren’t saved for TEN’s next record. Now I know why. If this sound is where The Early November finally decide to stay, I’m okay with that. Seasons change, but they eventually settle somewhere reliable and definite.

5/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle 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 loves The Early November. To see them rise this high artistically in their musical career is nothing short of an honor.

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Comments

  1. you know how I actually came to know of The Early November? this was high school, maybe 2000? before they were signed perhaps? they were scouting Jersey gigs, sent my friends band an email looking to do a show.

    that show never happened unfortunately, but the rest is history. (:

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