Review: A Day to Remember – Bad Vibrations

a-day-to-remember-2016

A Day to Remember have been a band that I’ve spent a couple of years trying to figure out. Their brand of hardcore punk is majestic, on level nearly unsurpassed by their peers in regards to pure musicianship. But on the other side of the spectrum, although Jeremy McKinnon’s screaming is more or less second to Davy Havok’s, it’s his clean vocals that truly enthral me (I’m a sucker for pop).

I love A Day to Remember, but what has kept me from being a die-hard fan is how tilted their albums seem to sound. While the clean vocals and hardcore sound amazing, it has always felt at odds to me. Where What Separates Me From You felt too poppy, Homesick and parts of Common Courtesy felt too heavy to compliment the vocals. Although all of their albums have been fantastic, Bad Vibrations is the most cohesive album A Day to Remember have put out for half of a decade.

You can buy Bad Vibrations on iTunes.

You can buy Bad Vibrations on iTunes.

Sonically, this is A Day to Remember at their best. The guitars play off of their best elements – straddling the line of pop punk and metal. There are an incredible amount of breakdowns and hard riffs that seems to mesh well with the poppier songs like “Naivety”. Although Bad Vibrations seems to have fewer singles ready to launch from their holster, they have never sounded better.

This is a hard album. If you’ve ever thought that A Day to Remember had grown soft, Bad Vibrations will readjust you in the best way. Guitarists Kevin Skaff and Neil Westfall really take liberty to explore, from hard breakdowns (“Reassemble”) to classic pop punk (“Naivety”) to a loving mixture between the two (“Justified”). Bassist Joshua Woodard absolutely shred across the board (“Exposed”), as does drummer Alex Shelnutt (see the entire album. He’s amazing.)

Lyrically, Bad Vibrations keeps the tone of past ADTR albums – a solid mix of uplifting anthems and depressing soliloquies. McKinnon’s vocals adjust for literally every song presented on the album. The last few albums have made McKinnon another hardcore vocalist who has fallen victim to clean and uplifting vocals (“We Got This”), but Bad Vibrations has redeemed him in the eyes of ‘purists’ by reintroducing enough hardcore songs to make the pop songs sound out of place.

Bad Vibrations attempts to straddle the line between self-hating and uplifting messages. Some songs on the album relish how dark life can get before hinting at a light at the end of the tunnel. “Exposed” relishes the guttural guitar riffs of the early 2000’s nu-metal fad as McKinnon screams in a poignant modern political catharsis, “I won’t accept your fear / Another stagnant year / I’m pro-Amerian but anti-politician / They’ll trade you a voice for an illusion of choice / Truth hits like a goddamn premonition.”.

Lead single “Paranoia” is the best middle-ground between genres, as it transitions between harsh guitar riffs to a melodic chorus haunted with vocals croaking on the edge of screaming, but holding the temperance of restraint, clouded with backing vocals. The song sounds like a harder version of a Rise Against song. “I’m like a time bomb, ticking in your head / Paranoia, clouding your judgement / And no matter what you do about it, about it, about it, I’m still in your head”.

However, the stand out track is “Bullfight”. A solid mix of everything A Day to Remember have stood to accomplish throughout their career, the song is a sing-a-long as much as it is a melancholy screaming anthem of finding pride in being an outcast. “Everybody sees your head hung low, they don’t ask, they don’t wanna know us / I’ll be the one, I’ll be your spark / I’ll be your light led through the darkness / I get, I get, I get so misunderstood”.

Bad Vibrations isn’t an album of uplifting songs that A Day to Remember have been teasing for the last couple of albums. A couple of those songs have leaked through, but this is a rough album meant for fans of the band who have stood the test of time for half of a decade, not knowing which way the band would drift – towards pop or hardcore. The answer, simply, is that the band embraces all facets of themselves and are able to dive fully into any genre they feel works for them.

Bad Vibrations may not be perfect, but it’s the most cohesive album A Day to Remember have released in a long time and provides multiple anthems for whichever genre you lean toward. The one thing that is certain: A Day to Remember do not toe any single line. Whatever your preference in ADTR’s style, Bad Vibrations strikes a balance musically that find the best of most any genre.

4/5

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 missed most of A Day to Remember’s set opening for Blink 182 because of goddamned rush hour traffic. Boooooo.

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