Genre: Metalcore/Pop Punk
Producer: Bill Stevenson, Jason Livermore
Release Date: September 2, 2016
Called “the heaviest pop-punk band in the world”, the Florida collective A Day to Remember is one those few choice bands that could be pointed to when you need to tell a genreist metalhead that not all metalcore is automatically terrible. Combining borderline petulant and self-absorbed lyrics with the shotgun marriage of pop-punk and metalcore sounds like a winning combination about as much as party punch and hand sanitizer, but the vitriol and the sincerity of the band’s performance makes it work.
Unfortunately, this only applies to the band when it sticks to the formula, and that formula is a dangerous tightrope: veering too much into either direction makes the performance either too poppy or too heavy, neither of which A Day to Remember has the chops to pull off. And that balancing issue is the greatest downfall of their sixth studio album, the aptly titled Bad Vibrations. Apart from aggressive “Paranoia” and the slowly building ballad “Forgive and Forget”, barely any track hits the golden mean.
The two halves complete each other: without the pop mentality metalcore tracks like “Exposed” and “Reassemble” are all bark and no bite, like a toothless, old tree. Jeremy McKinnon’s raspy singing is fine, but the heavier growling sounds incredibly strenuous and just makes the listener wonder how many times his bandmates mistakenly applied the Heimlich maneuver at him during the recordings. In the other end of the spectrum the songwriting isn’t sharp enough to provide melodic hooks required to make the pop-punk tracks like “Negative Space” or “We Got This” interesting or memorable. They lack edge.
Sometimes the lack of balance can be seen within an individual song: “Same About You” goes from Jimmy Eat World to Pantera with no middle ground, appearing a grotesque, hollow imitation of the band’s usual style. In addition to roughly five extra vowels he pronounces in the word itself, on “Naivety” there’s unintentional comedy provided by the ‘bitter old man’ way the 30-year old McKinnon laments about his loss of idealism. Only the title track manages to convey any meaningful message, chronicling the singer’s battle with depression.
Overall Bad Vibrations is just a disappointment. A Day to Remember has managed to use their formula to pump out decent albums in the past. Here, it feels the band has either lost the sense of what made them good in the first place, or just exhausted their rather limited range. Either way, Bad Vibrations is something the listener will feel too.