Inkling desires for a change in style have pushed As It is to a much grittier approach, one that borders the post-hardcore genre. Falling away from the jukebox happy 50’s style release ‘Okay’, As It Is are taking us back further in time, to a time of ‘The Great Depression’.
Interestingly, the 12-track album is split into four sections, ‘Denial’, ‘Anger’, ‘Bargaining’ and ‘Acceptance’. While not apparent at first, the tracks do relate to their corresponding sections, despite not entirely adding any extra flair to the album. ‘The Two Tongues (Screaming Salvation)’ not only creates a deeply eerie opening, but also strikes the conflict of two sides, Wife or Death, good vs bad. Not only does the track incorporate vocals from lead guitarist Ben Langford-Biss, but also conceptualises the idea of the albums protagonist ‘The Poet’s’ struggle. On the other hand, ‘The Stigma (Boys Don’t Cry)’ is a full honest approach to the stigma of male mental health. The sarcastically styled satire of the track approaches anger in a different view, one that mocks the stigma that ‘Boys Don’t Cry’. This is where the bands previoua pop-punk approach comes in, bringing a catchy chorus keeping the satirical message cyclical in attempts send a message.
However, the lack of Langford-Biss’ gritty vocal input does give a very personalised theme to the tracks and with the outspoken nuance of speak out, but never be listened to being cycled so constantly, it’s the incredibly impacting lyricism presented that adds the final kick. ‘The Haunting’ causes a forcefully impacting image. If the echoing chorus lyric ‘You dream to die’ isn’t forceful enough, the saddening expression of your sister staring at your grave truly forces the listener to first hand to the message, something also expressed in the closing track of the album. ‘The End’ was written according to Langford-Biss ‘In the case of Chester [Bennington] who was so open in both his lyrics and away from music, often people aren’t really listening’. Yet, it is perhaps the powerful spoken word ending that leaves the biggest impact. The creation of the image of ‘crimson arms’ and a ‘broken neck’ to ‘tell me you made this choice’ is paired with the intensive painful emotion heard through Walters vocals, something that doesn’t always come through in music, but try shows a vulnerability willing to be exposed to send a message.
Yet, through the gritty raw kicks As It Is bring to the album, the band do know how to bring a softer sensitive side to their music. Through the inherently powerful messages of how mental health awareness shouldn’t be stigmatised, ‘The Truth I’ll Never Tell’ instead shows a more sensitive personal view, that behind such an inherent desire comes the true feelings behind it. It is here that lyrically, this track has more underlying than what would appear at a surface level listen. That’s the beauty and severity of the lyricism of almost the tracks on this album, the depth lies when you truly wish to listen. Musically, ‘The Fire, The Dark’ brings a personalised sensitivity through its simplistically styled backing and heavy bassline courtesy of Ali Testo, incorporating high melodic notes, similar to that of a lullaby, as a contrast to the deeper verses.
Simplicity however, doesn’t always help portray a message, this is where ‘The Question, The Answer’ perhaps falls. At first the acoustically styled opening portrays a questioning topic in lyricism, presented in a simplistic, yet, less interesting way. The issue occurs from the chorus, becoming overlayered and overcomplex with backing vocals, strings, melodic undertones and other unnecessary additions thrown in that don’t necessarily strengthen the track, especially towards its end. On the other hand, it is a lack of interesting additions that bring down the tracks. ‘The Handwritten Letter’, while probably having the most pop-punk style of the album, doesn’t bring anything to push it out among other tracks. Not to say these tracks aren’t good, but it is hard to stop them slipping into line of fillers ammount a hierarchy of strong singles and other tracks.
‘The Great Depression’ theme in itself is a microcosm for the huge issue of mental health and As It Is have a very strong album on their hands with a very strong message. If this is the new approach the band are taking, we could be in for a real diversion away from their original sound.