Review: State Champs – Living Proof

The worst thing about Living Proof, the new album from State Champs, is that it was written in 2018 and not 2004. This is an album that is full-blown pop punk in every way, wearing the genre proudly on its sleeve. Every single song is a potential single, expertly crafted to play on repeat in your head, even when you’re not listening to them.

Had this been released last decade, this is an album that could compete for the fame of Sum 41 or early Fall Out Boy. However, in 2018, it struggles to find an identity of its own. Instead, the album feels like an amalgamation of the best parts of every pop punk band in the last two decades combined to create one super album primed to dominate your summer.

You can buy Living Proof on Apple Music.

I’m not terribly familiar with State Champs, but after my first playthrough of Living Proof, I immediately went back to listen to their earlier albums. I’m in love with the band, and won’t be making the mistake of sitting on them again. Living Proof is one those rare albums designed to be a hit. Every song is radio ready and hypnotically enchanting. The production is crystal clear and does its best to propel the energy of the music.

Guitarists Tyler Szalkowski and Tony Diaz are a perfect duo, wrapping melody and sharp power chords in smart ways. There is a massive amount of pop on this album, but the energy and mayhem behind it is gorgeous and rests somewhere between the punk aesthetic of New Found Glory (“Criminal”) and the pop of All Time Low (“Safe Haven”). Bassist Ryan Graham is thankfully turned up to be heard clearly in every song and adds a noticeable backbone that other bands could only hope for (“Cut Through the Static”). Drummer Evan Ambrosio may be the hidden MVP of the album, as his wall of percussion constantly stole my attention at odd times with thunderous beats (“Mine Is Gold”). Vocalist Derek DiSanio pushes himself to great lengths throughout the record. He finds a great balance between crisp notes and letting his voice struggle to hit the high notes, adding an urgency and envious power.

The best and worst feature of Living Proof is that it is so enamored in pop punk that it fails to carve it’s own path. In fact, comparing the album to All Time Low circa 2010 is almost impossible not to do. The record sounds like a b-side collection of singles ATL forgot to release. This problem could be remedied if the songs had more substance to them, but each line is forged from classic pop punk archetypes. Vague lines about relationships permeate throughout.

The nice thing is that the lyrics fit perfectly together and make you want to shout them as loud as you can. However, there is no weight behind them, such as “Safe Haven” as DiSanio sings, “Congratulations, I’m a wreck again / Messed around, feeling down, thought it was all pretend / I’m realizing I’ve got time to kill so / give me a remedy to lift me up / Until it all falls back just like you said”. There are vague ideas of hope, such as when he sings, “And I feel when you’re looking at me / that you’re far from happy / If only we could wait for the truth / When you know it’s not so dramatic / Let’s cut through the static and be the living, the living proof”.

Living Proof is an album that will absolutely enchant half of its listeners and possibly turn off others hoping for something more than pop punk basics. But that shouldn’t take anything away from what State Champs have accomplished­ – a masterful pop punk album that relishes in every aspect of the genre. This album will potentially dominate the summer season and could potentially revive mainstream interest in the genre if it received the attention it deserves. After this album, I simply can’t wait to see them live at the first possible opportunity.

3.5/5

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 accidentally splattered a girl with gym sweat as she fled from a spider hanging on its web today. Not his fault, but no one was happy about the encounter. Especially the spider. It was crushed by a train and mocked mercilessly by a crowd.

Advertisements

Review: Four Year Strong – Go Down in History EP

 

four-year-strong

Three years. It’s been three long years since Four Year Strong have released any type of new music. Three years since their incredibly disappointing In Some Way, Shape, or Form album. I honestly thought the band might be dead in the water, or at the very least, about to put out one last mediocre farewell album.

What I didn’t expect is a completely reenergized band playing at their full potential. Go Down in History is not only arguably the finest release by the band thus far in their career, but a reminder to never, ever, count a band down and out.

Go Down in History is a powerhouse from start to finish. It’s loud, aggressive and addictive. While the EP has a theme of loud poppy hardcore, each song is distinct and remarkably memorable. This is a band playing at the height of their ability; if your neck isn’t sore by the end of the EP, you weren’t listening right.

The way that the guitars play against each other is as impressive as the riffs and breakdowns strewn throughout each song. The production is spot on, allowing each instrument to sound raw and crisp without feeling overdone. The result is a sound that feels like a mix of the metalcore edge of Chiodos and the pop punk of New Found Glory (“What’s in the Box?”).

Each song is technical and intricately written to make sure that each second is a surprise for the listener. Guitarists Alan Day and Dan O’Connor’s guitars are nothing short of incredible. While they are the true stars of the EP, they manage to not over-shine the other instruments. Joe Weiss’s bass plays an impressive backing to the songs, managing to smash against the angst of the guitars. Jake Massucco’s drumming is absolutely superb; he not only keeps time to the incredibly quick guitars, but keeps a manic beat that is constantly able to distract you from the incredible guitar work (“Go Down in History”).

Lyrically, the album maintains the theme that this frantic type of music should: fight back against the world. Whether it’s intentional or not, the EP seems to scream out at anyone who thought the band had lost their edge. The opening lines of “What’s in the Box?” say all that needs to be said of the theme, “It’s time to set the record straight, That hopefully you don’t just fade out. Doing what you have to to survive, I’ve been waiting far too long to give up all hope that my heart is strong enough to stay alive”. Each song is a rallying cry to stand against adversity and fight back from the edge.

Against the thrashing power chords of “Living Proof Of a Stubborn Youth”, Day and O’Connor sing, “Hold on to the day, Before it gets too far away, I’m losing faith in all my past mistakes, We’re living proof of a stubborn youth, and I’m waiting for the resurrection.” I could basically write down any lyric from any song and you’d get the gist, but each song is uniquely catchy and intricate. The gang vocals of “Go Down in History” deserve to have a room of jumping kids shouting them from the pit.

My biggest complaint is that this is just an EP and not a full album; I’d kill for just a few more songs. There is literally no variety on the EP, each song is ready to knock you down, if not by the crashing guitars, then by the shouting vocals. If this is your bag, you’re in for a real treat. If you were hoping for a bit of variance among the songs, too damn bad.

Go Down in History is a comeback among comebacks. Four Year Strong have literally never sounded better amongst the best songs of their discography. After not really thinking about the band for almost three years, I am begging for more. While it isn’t a complete album, it’s one of the best EP’s released in recent memory. Three years is a long time to wait for anything new, but Go Down in History was worth every single second.

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.