Album Review: Sworn In – The Lovers/The Devil

Damn! We may have a contender for my 2015 album of the year here from a band I have never heard of before. I am simply loving this album. I came across the track “I Don’t Really Love You” on a metal blog (honestly don’t remember which one at the moment) about a week or so before this album came out and immediately pre-ordered it after hearing that track. It just floored me with its epic and massive scope coupled with its unrestrained insanity. And let me tell you now, this entire album does not disappoint. It has a few flaws that I will talk about later, but nothing that kills it.

Let me start off by talking about what carries the whole album here – raw emotion. There is no measured sorrow or deep seated pain plumbing the depths of the human soul on this album. If you want that (which is fine and not in any way bad!) I would suggest the most recent 36 Crazyfists album. No, here we have blunt force emotional trauma flung around with the full force of youthful abandon. Not even flung, really, so much as exploded like a bomb. Its wild swings are evident from the first note to the last on this album. It permeates every single aspect.

I get a lot of early Korn and Slipknot vibes from this album, and please don’t let that turn you off, let me explain first! It’s not really the songwriting, but the intensity and grimy-ness of albums like Life is Peachy and Slipknot’s eponymous debut. The guitar tones sound like barley contained masses of distorted, angsty sludge ready to turn into a complete mess every other second. They even throw some Orgy style shriek and warble leads into the mix, along with a healthy dose of Meshuggah and Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, to the aforementioned foundation of young-guys-that-listened-to-nu-metal. Seriously, just let all those guitar styles mingle in your head for a second. They make it work and do so brilliantly.

And the comparisons to those two albums don’t stop with the production, they extend to the vocal performance as well. Holy crap, vocalist Tyler Dennen just lets himself go on every single section of every one of these tracks. Its truly a sound to behold.   You can hear him struggling for breath, you can hear him nearly breaking down, his entire emotional being is right up front and on full display. I remember the first time I heard Life Is Peachy and Jonathan Davis just losing it during the middle of “Good God,” or the part where he starts crying during “Kill You.”   This whole album is like that. Tyler is just out there with everything he has. Its awesome. And not only the emotion, but the experimentation is great as well – that creepy vocoder during “Love Drunk”, the do-do-do’s in “Pocket Full of Posies”- the list just goes on. I will say on a bit of a critical note, though, that some of the lyrical content is pretty juvenile. Its honest, and I respect that, but it’s also not very poignant. I mean, I guess that is part of why it works, but it is a small negative.

Form a songwriting standpoint; I love the fact that this is an album and not simply a collection of songs trying to get airplay. It all flows from one to the next and I am very thankful (and pleasantly surprised) that a younger band still cares enough about their art to do this. This album actually gets into Meshuggah – Catch 33 territory with the arrangements and flow, which is no small feat. This album is very much worth listening to front to back, and I wholeheartedly recommend doing so. In fact, I can’t really picture just listening to individual songs out of context. So scratch that last remark, I don’t “recommend” it, I insist on it.

OK, I’m going to address my major problem with this album in a call out right now:

God dammit Will Putney, you are ruining your fantastic production and engineering skills with your horrendously over-compressed mastering! You can hear on the quieter parts of the albums you have done that you are an amazing recording and mix engineer, and then you go and overcook the mix in the mastering stage to try and chase that unforgiving mistress named Volume. I can freaking hear this album overloading the compressors and bottoming out on every single song, and the drums are basically reduced to tiny little clicks and pats! If you would just back off a couple DB on the volume scale to let your albums breathe (I’ve noticed this with your other work as well) they would be infinitely better for it as well as a much better showcase of your talents. Just imagine how much more epic this album could have been if it had been mastered with a little bit more in the way of dynamics. Seriously, either do that or let someone else master your stuff. You are better than this.

Rant over

All right, time to wrap it up. If you like heavy, crazy ass music about breakups, go buy this album. If you are looking to experiment a little with what you listen to, and you are not afraid of heavy music, go pick it up. Its definitely not for metal-heads who only dig “real” metal, but if you are more open about the kind of stuff you listen to, at least pull up some songs on Youtube and check them out, you won’t’ be disappointed. As for me, I freakin’ love this album and its going to be on rotation for me for years to come.

Album Review: Sworn In – The Lovers/The Devil

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