Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Inhale Exhale - I Swear... CD Review

Inhale/Exhale’s debut album, The Lost, The Sick, The Sacred, flew under most people’s radar, which is a real shame since it was a solid, if slightly generic, metalcore album. They struck a nice balance between a southern metal swagger and full ahead metalcore aggression. I realize that the previous sentence could describe a multitude of bands who have released albums in the last few years, so take it as you will, but Inhale/Exhale stood out amongst the oceans of mediocrity in 2006.

Two years later we now have the band bringing us their sophomore effort, I Swear… With this album we find the band moving away from the southern tinges of their debut to embrace a more standard melodic metalcore approach. At times there are even hints of Saosin-like songwriting to be heard, especially during some of the choruses. “The Words that We have Chosen” is a perfect example of this, having choruses that are picture perfect copies of the nu-emo template interspersed between some post-hardcore verses.

I mention the Saosin comparison not to rag on the band, but to point out the shift into some territory that doesn’t necessarily fit with the rest of their sound, especially the remnants of their southern metalcore roots that crop up throughout the album, albeit rarely. Oddly enough, it would have probably suited the band best to completely move into the melodic nu-emo / post-hardcore / pick-your-favorite-esoteric-subgenre territory, much like what Destroy the Runner did with their sophomore album. Instead of keeping pieces of their past to somehow fool their established fans into tenuously hanging on, they should have embraced full-bore their sonic shift. They could have easily put out an album in the same vein as latter career Dead Poetic or late Eighteen Visions and probably done it pretty well. Instead they tried to mix and match old and new coming out with a middling mish-mash of both.

On their debut album the screaming style employed by Andy Levy was adequate and fit the music, but here we have Ryland Raus forcing his scream and sounding strained. With such solid melodic vocals it’s jarring to hear the screams when they come in because they manage to wreck many of the songs, even when they are only sparingly used. With the change in vocalists, the band would have been better off sticking to Raus’ strengths instead of trying to shoehorn him into doing something that doesn’t feel natural for him. It just doesn't work.

Once you can get past the simply horrible screamed vocals you’ll be able to see that this band still has a lot of potential. There are some clichéd moments that feel a little ripped off or added to the album simply to appeal to the scene kids, but for the most part these guys are solid musicians and, if they can just all get on the same page and play to what they each do best, they can really do something great. For the time being, however, they’ve given us a very flawed album in I Swear…, but there is definitely hope for them to pull it all together in a future release.

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