Friday, October 07, 2011

For Today - Breaker Album Review

I received a lot of flack for this review. I'd been highly critical of the band in the past and considering that, in my opinion, they had not really progressed much since their formation, my criticisms did not wane. It's interesting to see how polarizing any Christian hardcore or metalcore band can be. I suppose it's that way with any Christian or religious subject, but there is so much blind defense of bad religious metalcore bands that it sort of baffles me. And I know that many bands exploit being "Christian" in order to gain exposure and make money because of this, regardless of talent. I stand by this album and band being completely generic and, in many cases, just downright bad. This was originally published on August 18, 2010.

Frankly, I’m pretty surprised that For Today has made it to a third album. Considering that their debut from two years ago, Ekklesia, was about as unlistenable as a metalcore album can get and their follow up, Portraits, was only slightly better (which means it was still predominantly terrible), all signs pointed to the band fading away. They didn't, though, and with Breaker we see For Today changing their sound slightly, but unfortunately not really becoming that much more engaging. For every small improvement they made, they had an equally notable negative change.

To start, this album has some horrible flow. Of the 12 tracks on the album you have 3 poetry readings that are from one written work, but broken up throughout the album. I’m not sure what the point of this was, but it leaves you with only 9 actual songs, one of them being the culmination of the poetry readings into a very blasé album closer that sounds like a collaboration between Amy Grant and Sleeping Giant in full-on “I love God and so should you and I’m going to overtly tell you why” mode. Maybe the band was running short on material, which I could see as plausible since most of what is here is formulaic and basic, leading me into discussing the biggest issue this album has--a lack of anything interesting.

On their sophomore album, For Today tried to expand upon their very basic metalcore sound to include some quasi-technical moments, which was admirable and helped them sound less generic. However, on Breaker For Today have tossed aside any aspirations to be technical and instead focused extra hard on trying to be the next August Burns Red or War of Ages. They’ve taken their original, bland metalcore sound and dumped in numerous bass drops, also-ran breakdowns, and a thickening of their guitar tones. This makes them sound “heavier” and will have anyone who is not very judicious about what type of metalcore they listen to stomping along, but it also dumbs down the majority of their songs.

There are a couple of instances where the band tries to do something a bit interesting, but they aren’t enough to salvage the album. “White Flag” makes use of some melodic group vocals in the chorus, which actually provides a nice counterbalance to the breakdown loaded verses. Because of this approach, this track is actually one of the stronger songs on the album and gives a glimpse of what the band can do when they’re not stuck in a rut. “Arm the Masses” has the band collectively picking up the pace towards the end with the vocals being spat out nearly rap-ish like in an angry flutter. This may not be the best idea as it gives the band a somewhat rap-nu-metal sound, but it shows the band stretching, which they desperately need to do. Finally, you have “Phoenix” which starts off with a very straight ahead, solid hardcore passage before the band falls back into metalcore breakdowns. However, the hardcore motif does come back up here and there throughout the remainder of the song.

I want to believe that For Today have a solid album in them somewhere since they’ve shown some glimmers of hope on Breaker, but I’m also wary that they’re too easily drawn to sticking with what they know, which is generic metalcore. They are making incremental steps towards breaking out of their self-imposed boundaries, but if they are this slight every album, it may be another 4 or 5 albums before the band really breaks out. I don’t think that even the most forgiving metalcore addict has that much patience, though.

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