Letting go is always hard but It can be almost impossible in the digital age. Time once was when it was too difficult or expensive to keep up with once loved bands whose sound had diverged from what once made them captivating or from whom you’d simply grown apart. Now, with how ubiquitous and accessible music has become online, there’s no reason not to check in on an old flame to see what they’re up to with each new release. Sometimes it leads to pleasant surprises. Yet, disillusioned listeners can often find themselves trapped in a cycle of disappointment from which they have no real motivation to disengage.
The latter has largely been my relationship with The Amity Affliction. I’ve professed my adoration for the Brisbane metalcore outfit’s now severely overlooked debut, Severed Ties (2008), on Heavy Blog before. However, the band were also foundational in my growth as a music listener as an example of how bands don’t necessarily live up to, nor are they at all beholden to, the trajectory fans envision for them. As The Amity Affliction have grown into one of Australia’s biggest heavy music exports (perhaps second, behind only Parkway Drive), they’ve largely eschewed the elements of the their sound that drew me to them in the first place, while replacing them with all of the worst elements and trends of modern pop music. The deviation has been especially true of their previous two records, This Could Be Heartbreak (2016) and Misery (2018), both of which, despite being incredibly successful with regard to the band’s popular and commercial appeal, were—it has to be said—downright embarrassing from an artistic and musical standpoint. Following the brief respite of 2014’s Let the Ocean Take Me, it seemed like it might finally be time to go our separate ways.
…Then “All My Friends Are Dead” came out and dragged me back in all over again. And I’m glad it did.
Not only is the lead single from the band’s seventh album, Everyone Loves You …Once You Leave Them, hark back to the heavier and more aggressive sound fans largely haven’t been treated to since “I Hate Heartly” but it might also be the heaviest song they’ve ever put out. Period. The song starts with a blast beat. A blast beat! On an Amity Affliction song! This welcome addition comes courtesy of ex-Defeater drummer Joe Longobardi, who joined the band on their last touring cycle. Yet, while it’s tempting to chalk the band’s newfound vitality up to Lonobardi’s influence alone, the rest of the band appear equally (re)invigorated. Harsh vocalist Joel Birch, whose contributions have been more and more minimized across the band’s recent output, with bassist/clean vocalist Ahren Stringer taking proverbial centre stage. It’s as if The Amity affliction remembered they’re a metal band again. It’s also one of the tightest compositions the band have pulled off in the post Severed Ties/Youngbloods (2010) era. That the song’s debut on Australian radio was accompanied by an interview in which the band’s members talked bout being inspired by Cradle of Filth of all bands when writing their new record (it’s amazing what being burried on a Bring Me the Horizon track will do for you these days) was equally exiting, and I’m happy to report that the rest of the album largely lives up to its shining example.
Everybody Loves You …Once You Leave Them is book-ended by some of the heaviest and best material of The amity Affliction’s career. The record opens with a classic metalcore breakdown/intro track, “Coffin”, which takes some serious cues from mid-period Parkway Drive and sees Birch even throw in a Killswitch Engage/Thy Art is Murder-style “ee-yugh” for good measure. Following the blast-beat assault (again, something I never thought I’d be writing in an Amity Affliction review) of “All My Friends are Dead”, come two more conventional later-period Amity Affliction tracks: “Soak Me In Bleach” and “All I Do is Sink”. Again, however, both of these tracks are noticeably heavier and more focused than anything on the band’s last two (maybe even three or four) records. Even the piano-driven “Baltimore Rain” is far punchier and more convincing than other recent example of its kind, complimenting its catchy chorus with a tasteful guitar solo (full of sweet bends) at the end.
The album also closes with what might just be the best song The Amity Affliction have ever written. “Catatonia” blends some mid-period Bring Me The Horizon bounce with a soaring, melodic chorus that—while it trades on the same “stormy weather” imagery the band have long-since beat into the ground—is genuinely affecting. The majority of the Everyone Loves You‘s back end is similarly solid. Born to Lose is a hardcore stomper that sounds like a beefed up In Hearts Wake, while the upbeat and heartfelt “Forever” perhaps throws back to Severed Ties more than any post-2010 Amity Affliction track. The more traditional metalcore ballad “Fever Dream” also works surprisingly well within the album’s sequencing, and even the usually grating “electronic-a-capella” on “Just like Me” is justified in isolation. Even with how great of a climax it is, it would have been interesting to see the band take “Cataonia” as a starting-point, rather than something to build to, and see where they went from there (it works really well transitioning out of “All My Friends are Dead”, just sayin’), as Everyone Loves You‘s intermittent tracks tend to be a bit more standard and less inspired than its opening and closing salvos. Nevertheless, the rest of the album remains remarkably solid, and sometimes even outstanding, for what it is. …With one, glaring, exception.
There it is: “Alonliness”. “Alone-liness”. “A-lonliness”. For fuck’s sake. The album’s seventh track is every bit as bad as its cringe-worthy title suggests. Annoying auto-tuned refrain? Oh yeah. Awkwardly clashing with a sad piano? You betchya. All atop a layer of swing-style finger-clicking? Sure, why not. That the finger-clicking actually shows up “Just Like Me” and “All I Do is Sink”, where it is at least used sparingly, rather robs it of its novelty. Nevertheless, this single blunder—no matter how severe or ill-advised—isn’t enough to undo the rest of the album’s successes (is it?).
Save for its one serious misstep, Everyone Loves You …Once You Leave Them is the most consistent and impressive album the Amity Affliction have put out all decade. Heavier doesn’t necessarily mean better. However, by getting back in touch with their heavier side, the band have wound up revitalized while producing some of the best material of their career. Some of the same crutches the band have rested on in recent years remain—doing a shot every time they say “death” “dying” dead” or any other variations thereof, for example, is likely to put listeners in just such a state (although Birch’s mosh cry of “I am death itself inside!!” on “All I Do is Sink” is undeniably badass). Nevertheless, the album’s added aggression and general high quality remain a striking and welcome surprise, providing a pleasant reminder, not only of how good this band once were, but just how good they’re still capable of being. If your history with the band is anything like my own, then it might be time to let them back into your heart, before they’re gone forever.
Everyone Loves You …Once You Leave Them is out Friday, 21 February, on Pure Noise Records.