Review: Frank Iero and The Violent Futures – Barriers

Frank Iero’s passion for rock music shines through his solo work more than the heavy mood would have you believe. Barriers, Iero’s third solo album, celebrates rock music. The album is moody and constantly blitzing with wild energy. He sounds raw—similar to some of the best emo releases of the mid-2000s. Barriers sounds like a lost masterpiece from a decade earlier, but isn’t dated in the least. Iero doesn’t have to work too hard to craft his own identity from past work with My Chemical Romance and Leathermouth. Barriers is an album that overcomes every obstacle to stand tall on its own, possibly as Iero’s best solo release.

You can buy or stream Barriers on Apple Music.

Each new interpretation of his solo career has refined his sound and not shied away from the gloom that helped define him as a musician. The guitars are fuzzed, but still release a hard melody. Iero’s writing channels the best aspects of rock and focuses it down to a grungy tip. It allows the album to be a cohesive collection while adding a massive variety to the sound.

Opener, “A New Day’s Coming” mixes blues and a gospel-heavy keyboard with heavy, raw guitars. The chorus of “Fever Dream” rages with simple power chords, reminiscent of classic-era Green Day. Meanwhile, “Moto-Pop” rages with metal inspiration from Black Sabbath. Iero and fellow guitarist Evan Nestor are clearly relishing their ability to play whatever they want.

Bassist Matt Armstrong (Murder By Death) provides a hard, dark mood throughout the album (“Medicine Square Garden”). Keyboardist and backing vocalist Kayleigh Goldsworthy adds just enough to crank the effect of Iero’s demons throughout the album. She hides like an angel or a demon haunting Iero’s highs and lows (“Six Feet Down Under”). Former Thursday drummer Tucker Rue adds an energy to the album that keeps the music charged even in more somber moments (“No Love”).

Where Iero impresses the most is in his vocals. The wild change in singing styles throughout the album keep each line engaging. The preference to get the emotion out, even if it means falling flat, lends a haunting urgency to each line. Clean, lazy singing on “A New Day’s Coming” is inspiring. Slurred, charged shouting during “Young and Doomed” channels a blend of AFI’s Davy Havok’s eccentricity and Thursday’s Geoff Rickly’s angst. Meanwhile, singing through gritted teeth, grunge whispers and hedonistic shouting, “Fever Dream” is wave after wave of unfiltered energy thrown at the microphone.

Barriers is a thick album. There’s certainly an argument that it could have benefitted from being a couple tracks shorter. However, Iero’s passion for music shines through each track. Although it’s hard not to compare him to a few legendary bands he was a key part of, Iero has forged a solo career defined by the freedom to lay waste to expectation. Barriers is Iero at his best—doubling down on a genre he helped forge and paying homage to rock music from every region of the genre.

4/5

Photo credit: Mitchell Wojcik

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 stepped in a puddle this morning. Now he is known as “Dumb ol’ Wet Foot.”

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Review: Frnkiero andthe Cellabration – Stomachaches

 

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It turns out that the musical prowess of My Chemical Romance wasn’t a fluke. After the dismemberment of the group, the individual members have worked on their own solo material. As the first proper release from any of them, Frank Iero’s debut solo album is damn near perfect.

Frnkiero andthe Cellabration’s Stomachaches is rough, loud, expertly crafted and a reminder of just how much of a hole was left in the scene after MCR called it quits. Iero’s writing is dark, energetic and so far above the norm for the punk scene it’s impossible to imagine that there aren’t more striving to follow in his footsteps.

Stomachaches is truly a solo record; Iero recorded every aspect of it himself save for the drumming. Without the pressure of constantly living up to the standards of the last MCR record, it sounds like Iero is just having fun again. While the album is mostly an extraordinarily loud punk album, there are hints of influence from a crazy amount of bands tossed in.

The songs are simple, but layered. The guitars are insanely loud, boosted by reverb and the grunge of fuzzy power chords, but are so intricate that it sounds like a classic MCR record. They keep you guessing, as the verses aren’t muted, and then just explode on the chorus. This record is meant to be deafening, and I love it.

Iero’s bass lines are just as simple, but turned up so that no matter how loud the guitars and drums are, the bass is never drowned out. Instead, it often breaks through the layers of sound to be the stand out instrument.

“Weighted” spends its first minute as a simple ‘Scott Pilgrim’ styled bass line before the massive chorus of guitars riding the bass and steady drumming like a cranked up version of The Strokes. The inclusion of small electronic beats speeds the tempo along during the slowest part of the song. “Tragician” is an impenetrable wall of sound that at first glance seems to be incoherent fuzzed powerchords, but quickly dissolve to a berating bass and cherubic keyboards. Although most of the songs are in the same vein stylistically, they never sound the same.

MCR’s touring drummer Jarrod Alexander absolutely kills it. Although the beats are often straightforward, the power he uses to smash the kit is astounding. It sounds like he’s trying to tear the damn thing to pieces. The beats and tempo are constantly in flux and often change throughout a single song.

The emphasis of the album is obviously the music. For what it’s worth, Iero is a decent singer, but his voice is so quiet, tuned down and filtered that it makes it almost impossible to hear. I literally wasn’t able to understand any of the lyrics until I read them while listening. It’s obvious that his years with Gerard Way influenced him, as he jumps from near whispers to screaming track by track. More often than not though, he sounds like a mixture of Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst and the more somber moments of Brand New’s Jesse Lacey.

He sounds good against the mood of the music, but the issue is that it’s just so loud that he is drowned in it. A bit more production here would have been more satisfying, as would a bit less of the ‘coffee can’ filter, but it’s not terribly distracting. The downside though is that you truly do miss out on his lyrics unless you’re intently focused and most likely reading along to them.

Lyrically the album is quite sad. It’s classic punk/ emo lyricism without really pushing any boundaries. That’s not taking anything away from it, the songs are powerful enough to warrant the lyricism negative mood and self deprecation. On “Neverenders”, he sings, “I don’t believe in anything. I’m so sick of everything. Everybody’s got something to say and they wonder why you run away. They’re trying to steal your innocence and fill your head with their ignorance. The truth is I’m just fucking existing.”

The counter balance to this is the self awareness that justifies the attitude. The quiet and somber “Stage 4 Fear of Trying” has Iero singing, “I’ve held my doubts so close to my heart that these frames have trapped all my better days. There they stay frozen and unscathed. Though I’ve traveled far, I’ve been back to the start and I found some scars in places I have never shown to anyone. I don’t know why it took so long to get back home.”

Stomachaches is as explosive a debut for Frnkiero andthe Cellabration as anyone could ask for. The album is a powerhouse that can only be played at top volume. The songwriting is at first glance surprisingly simple, but a step back reveals just how much work went into every part. Although the vocals get lost pretty quickly, the album isn’t about that; it’s the intent of the music. Frank Iero is one of the best songwriters in the scene, and it’s not long into the album you’ll realize just how much you missed him.

4.5/5

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 yells at the rain on occasion. He also wants to play you in FIFA.