Had quite some hype and high hopes for the next release of one of my favorite Italian bands in the last bunch of years. In the pre-release interview the band stated something among the lines of “the time for fireworks and impressive chops is ended, time to move on to some more serious, simple, actual songwriting”.
That being said I told myself “well ok, it’s always better to do what you think it’s right than to try to put out almost the same album forever, let’s wait and see”. Then I listened to “A Means…” and, quite a big disappointment there. When I think great songwriting, I think progressive rock. And I also think that abandoning the will to show off, and-or embracing any sort of minimalism on the other hand, shouldn’t be an excuse for lack of ideas, ever.
While the predecessor, Are You Kidding Me? No, was the band’s evolution towards an intricate yet catchy sort of mathcore, the bastard child of SOAD, Dillinger, Protest and Sikth as well as probably my favorite record of 2014 and had enough depth and stratification for me to keep it on rotation for a year straight, “Means” was just a “what you hear is what you get” experience. And what I heard wasn’t much either. Sub-par performances, nothing much un-expectable, nothing much forward-thinking, no tasty melodies, solos or even vocal lines (Mr. Colavolpe what happened to your creativity?).
The mixing also doesn’t do much justice to the music and all tracks are basically grasping for air, just that tiny bit beyond full intelligibility. Still, one gets used to it.
Even thinking in “regular song form” terms, there wasn’t much for my ears to crave on. I don’t mean I’m missing their schizophrenic parts…well maybe I do, but music doesn’t have to be cerebral at any cost. Still, it has to be worthy of the listener’s time. It’s just that, the arrangements simply did nothing for me, apart from a couple enjoyable grooves and above all I didn’t feel any enthusiasm sprouting from the music, for which “Kidding” stood on the opposite term. Sometimes the thought of “having to simplify complex ideas” was really tangible, as in “Don’t Stare At The Edge” which in my opinion tried to blend a straightforward radio rock tune with wacky elements, ending up with some kind of “try-hard” experiment that just felt forced and neither flesh nor fowl.
I know they jammed the tunes in rehearsals rather than having everything written and rewritten on paper this time around, so maybe this album wanted to have the rendition for a live environment eased. That would be understandable, but a question felt natural: guys, was this songwriting process really as honest as you labeled it, or was it trying to be something you’re just not?
A few original ideas are there (such as the guitar slap-popped sections, and I hear some sort of chicken picking -I guess- in places) but the overall content didn’t leave me 1\10 as inspired as “Kidding” did. I was expecting the logical step forward as every single Destrage album has been to date. I wouldn’t say this has been a step backwards, rather a step aside in some land that didn’t do as well. I’d save the song “Blah Blah” above the other tracks.
Label: Metal Blade Records
Release Date: October 21, 2016