A Day To Remember is one of those bands that has yet to disappoint me, and this album is certainly no exception. While some thought that Homesick was over-produced and too pop-oriented, I thought that the band had hit their stride and were smart to embrace their newfound mastery of the hook, while still writing heavy parts. This album, much like the last, has less screaming and more singing. However, I’m not sure if this album was quite as successful in balancing the two sides of A Day To Remember. This is not to say that What Separates Me From You is bad, only that I don’t think it is quite as good as Homesick, which was a great record. There is still a ton to like about this album, from some brutal breakdowns to infectious melodies, and most listeners should be pleased with what the band has done here.
The album begins like any fan of the band would want it to, with a breakdown riff and some screaming. This time around, Jeremy McKinnon’s screams sound somewhat drier (not necessarily a bad thing) than they were on previous releases, and his clean vocals are as strong as ever. “Sticks & Bricks” seems to embody the band’s promise to get both heavier and poppier with each release, as the melody to the hook “where were you when my walls came falling down?” will stay in your head for days, and the screamed “my heart is filled with hate” will be incredible to mosh to. Somewhat reminiscent of the style of “Speak Of The Devil” from For Those Who Have Heart, this is one of the most purely “A Day To Remember” songs the band has ever written.
Some have said that lead single “All I Want” is a bit too “radio” for their liking, and this makes me wonder what radio stations they listen to. The song is much darker than anything I’ve ever heard in the mainstream, and it’s an interesting sound to come from this band. Though it is a bit of a grower, it’s well-worth sticking with, since it has as good a one-liner as any A Day To Remember song in “keep your hopes up high and your head down low.” Immediately following is “It’s Complicated”, one of the most pop-oriented songs on the album, and whose title I can only imagine comes from the Facebook relationship status denotation. A bit of a detour from the traditional break-up song, this track features lyrics that would be fitting for many college relationships, as well as the first display of the voice of new guitarist and vocalist Kevin Skaff, formerly of Four Letter Lie. Though it’s a short section, it’s well suited to the band’s sound and could prove effective if ever used in a more extended fashion.
The next song, “This Is the House That Doubt Built” has an intro that brings to mind the one from “You Should Have Killed Me When You Had The Chance” off of And Their Name Was Treason, before leading into a verse with some interesting guitar parts and a catchy chorus. The second verse has a nice chugging riff, allowing for McKinnon to shine vocally. Though most of A Day To Remember’s music is driven by emotional lyrics and inflection, this is one track that really sticks out to me as having a truly honest sound.
Fans of Mortal Kombat will quickly recognize the “FIGHT!” that opens “2nd Sucks”, which became available for streaming on the Victory Records Facebook page a few weeks ago. This song showcases the heavy side of the band, as it is the first to not feature any singing, and plays out like a two-and-a-half minute mosh. The lyrics are a callback to the style present on many songs from For Those Who Have Heart, with lines like “I laid my life on the line, so I expect nothing less from you” and “set your ego to the side and just get the fuck over it.” As a promotional single, it complemented “All I Want”, and on the album, it is a nice change of pace, before leading into “Better Off This Way”, a song that displays the diverse variety of sounds the band can pull off well. The instrumentation on that track varies a lot throughout, as do the vocals. Though they do a good job of experimenting with their sound, the track isn’t quite as memorable as others on the record.
“All Signs Point to Fort Lauderdale” focuses on the feeling of not fitting in, but still manages to maintain an uplifting impression, in large part due to the instrumentation present in the choruses and bridge and McKinnon’s proclamation that “you and me we stand for something” in the bridge. “You Be Tails, I’ll Be Sonic” is another track that opens with an exhibition of Jeremy’s new scream. This song combines the heaviness of “2nd Sucks” and the darker nature of “All I Want” to great success. This song has one of the best breakdowns on the album.
Though “Out of Time” has a relatively decent chorus, there really isn’t much else about the song that stands out. Skaff takes some more vocal duties on this song and, while they aren’t bad, they just aren’t memorable. Album closer “If I Leave” really struck me as a great track the first time I heard it. The track shows some guitar instrumentation that hasn’t really been seen on any of the band’s previous work, most likely due to the addition of Skaff. The second verse stands out to me the most, with some great lyrics: “I’ve always been a man of action never let anything keep a hold of me/Can always tell when something’s missing like I knew everything except for you and me/I can’t make you want to stay you’re not that strong but it’s broken her away/I still gave it everything I guess I’ll never catch my break.” The song shows a lot of maturation, and though it is an interesting way to end the album, I think it is successful.
All in all, this is certainly a good record. I find myself wanting to listen to it again and again, and it will probably be on my year-end list. The addition of Kevin Skaff supplements the band with a few new elements, both instrumentally and vocally. McKinnon’s scream, while somewhat different than in previous work, is still very strong, and his singing continues to improve with each release. The only thing that seems to be missing from the album (aside from perhaps a few more breakdowns) is an acoustic-based track, which is a shame, since those have always been some of the strongest songs they have written. However, this is a small complaint, as the rest of the songs are rather solid. There is a lot of creativity and maturation present on this album, and I look forward to seeing how A Day To Remember progresses in the future.