Review: Acceptance – Colliding by Design

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Well, the moment we’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived. Acceptance’s premature departure in 2006 not only left a gaping hole in the hearts of their fans, but also created one of the biggest “what ifs” in scene history. Now, more than a decade removed from the release of the band’s lone album, Phantoms, Acceptance returns.

Perhaps the greatest challenge Acceptance faces with the release of Colliding by Design is one of expectations. When someone’s only frame of reference for your band is the music you created 12 years ago, how do you reintroduce yourself after so much has changed? Colliding by Design is not Phantoms Part 2. In fact, you may be well off to leave your presumptions about Acceptance at the door before entering.

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You can buy Colliding by Design on iTunes.

Regardless of the sonic evolution, one thing is clear: our hunch that Acceptance was truly a great band has been proven true. Colliding by Design is wonderful and different – we just never got the chance to hear a decade’s worth of music that would have come in between.

So let’s talk about the music. Colliding by Design is a wonderfully written and produced pop rock album. Where it differs from Phantoms is in influence and execution. That debut was chock full of obvious aggressive melody, whereas Design is much more patient and varied. The same 80s influence that has powered bands like The 1975 into the spotlight is evident, but buried delicately into the mix.

The album’s first single and opening track, “Diagram of a Simple Man”, serves as a clean starting point for fans, finding a middle ground between recent Coldplay and old Acceptance. A clear nod to the members’ confusing time apart, Jason Vena breaks through the speakers during the chorus with his signature croon, belting, “We live in black and white / We dream in color”.

There are certainly moments on Collide where we get short glimpses of the ghost of Acceptance past, including the wonderfully straight forward pop rock track “Fire and Rain” and even recent single “Haunted”, with its explosive chorus and pounding percussion, courtesy of original drummer Garrett Lunceford.

Truly, though, the album’s best moments come when the band sounds brand new. The record’s title track is a shining example of what Acceptance sounds like in the year 2017, with a deep 80s vibe and a silky smooth chorus courtesy of Vena: “Let’s kiss before you go away / Two burning stars chasing the day / There’s a look in your eye, you want to stay / So let’s kiss before you go away”.

Likewise, “Sunset” catapults itself into contention for title of the band’s best song with a perfect blend of pounding drums, polished guitar riffs and swelling synthesizers. A track that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the Drive soundtrack, “Sunset” seems every bit the logical evolution for the band, with Vena harkening his past lyrical deliveries with sultry lines like, “She looks at me with a wicked smile / I look to her, I’m gonna stay awhile”.

Throughout the record, guitarist Christian McAlhaney continues to make his case as one of the most unsung musicians in the scene. The songwriting chops he honed during his time away with Anberlin are felt heavily on Colliding by Design, especially on tracks like “When I Was Cursed”, which sounds like it could have belonged on the next Anberlin album. Likewise, producer Aaron Sprinkle, who has experience working with both Acceptance and Anberlin, shines brightly here, pulling the right strings at just the right moment to capture the band’s growth.

It would be unfair at this point to not point out that Colliding by Design has its flaws. Like the pins and needles that come with standing up after a long rest, the members of Acceptance are still early in their reunion and are surely working muscles that haven’t seen use in years.

Recorded in chunks, with ideas being sent back and forth throughout the process, the album sometimes suffers from a disconnect between songs and flows uneven at times. Even so, there’s an overarching theme to the record that helps hold it all together – a clear love the band has for one another and an eagerness to learn what it means to be Acceptance again.

We are fortunate to have new music from a band that we never truly expected to return. We are also fortunate that a band of such talent saw fit to create something new and honest instead of trying to replicate the past. Phantoms was a perfect album for its time, but any attempt to recreate such a time capsule would undoubtedly resulted is disappointment. The very existence of Colliding by Design speaks to hope in the present and in the future.

4/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

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Acceptance Releases Sampler with Two New Songs

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Just over a year after the band’s surprising reunion and some scattered performances, Acceptance has released a collection of new music for the first time since their 2005 full-length debut. You can download a sampler via NoiseTrade that features two new songs that have never been available for purchase, along with three acoustic versions of tracks from Phantoms.

What are you waiting for? Go download the sampler right now!

What are your thoughts on the new songs? Is more Acceptance acceptance music on the way? Share your thoughts in the replies.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Reflecting On: Acceptance – Phantoms

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During 2015, 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!

“She’s a liar / It comes to this / All we had till now is gone / And I’m the other / Piece to this”

With those eerily unsettling opening words over a simple keyboard line, Jason Vena introduced us to one of the most heralded, intriguing, enigmatic releases in the history of the scene. Aptly titled, Phantoms hung hauntingly alone for ten long years, serving as a lingering reminder of what could have been.

It’s true: Acceptance struck gold in 2005 and crafted a masterpiece with their only studio album. However, part of what has added to the mystique over the years is the idea that there was so much ground left uncovered. By disbanding one short year after the album’s release, the Seattle rock act left a lot on the table and created one of the biggest “what ifs?” in recent rock history.

Phantoms’ acclaim has grown through the years, contrary to logic. Although the album went largely unnoticed at the time of its release, it has gained a furious following over the past decade. Maybe it’s the album’s seemingly timeless accessibility; maybe it’s the intoxicating vocal delivery of Vena; maybe it’s the proverbial hype train; maybe it’s something else completely.

Part of the allure of Phantoms is that it defies classification. It’s too neat to be punk, too edgy to be pop, too contained to be emo. It’s a rock record that goes down easy, but doesn’t pull any emotional punches. It’s well rounded and complete. From the opening notes of “Take Cover” to the triumphant finish of “Glory/Us”, Phantoms demands your attention. There is no filler.

Christian McAlhaney and Kaylan Cloud’s guitar riffs on songs like “So Contagious” and “This Conversation is Over” sound just as full of fire as they did all those years ago. Vena’s slick choruses on “Over You” and “In the Cold” are still just as perfect as they were the first time we heard them. In its seeming timelessness, Phantoms is the album you wish your favorite band would write.

As a whole, Phantoms isn’t about a girl – but it could be. It’s not about a faith journey – but it could be. It’s not a coming-of-age story of finding yourself – but it could be. You get the point. Phantoms has the unique ability shared by so many great albums to speak to listeners across an array of backgrounds and circumstances.

For years, we assumed that this was the final collection of songs we would ever receive from Acceptance. The band walked away in frustration after their major label experience left them cold and disappointed; each member going their own direction. Any hint of a reunion lived only in fans’ minds. Even when Anberlin disbanded last year, freeing McAlhaney to potentially reunite the band, it seemed implausible.

Yet here we are, a decade removed, and the official return of Acceptance is upon us. Not only is the band together for a batch of reunion dates, they’re already working on new songs. We asked for this. We’re about to find out if we really wanted it.

It’s hard to top something held in such high esteem as Phantoms is, even for a collection of musicians as talented as those in Acceptance. There’s something about time and place that heighten the feelings of nostalgia and keep us longing for the days “back when.” We write these ten-year reflections, in part, because we still love these records. But we also write them because we distinctly remember the way they made us feel when we first heard them.

Perhaps it’s likely that whatever new music comes will not satiate our expectations. How could it? Even if Acceptance fails to capture the magic that made Phantoms such a treasure, we would do well to remember how lucky we are to have this opportunity at all.

I, for one, am happy to pay good money to hear Jason Vena sing again, no matter the outcome. If for even a split second I’m taken back to the way I felt when I first heard those opening moments of “Take Cover”, the experience will be more than worth it. Acceptance doesn’t need to write Phantoms again. Let’s just enjoy whatever comes while still holding dear what we already have. This isn’t a second chance – it’s icing on an already delicious cake.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Is Acceptance Releasing New Music in 2015?

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Just a few weeks after it was announced that Acceptance would be reuniting to perform at this year’s Skate and Surf Festival, it now appears that there may be much more in store. Guitarist Christian McAlhaney has posted an Instagram photo, hinting that more performances, and maybe even new music, may be in store. See the full text below:

Before I joined Anberlin, I was in a band from Seattle called Acceptance. That band is reuniting this year for the first time in almost 10 years. We’ll be playing some shows throughout the year and hopefully releasing some new music. Keep up with us @acceptanceband. Pooooooorty! #acceptance

Feeling excited? Us too! Share your thoughts on this update in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck