So we’ve come to this. Many readers who know the type of bands I enjoy and don’t enjoy know that it wouldn’t take me long to write a review about a band like this, but this time it did take me a while to compile my thoughts, and here’s the thing – this isn’t the worst record I’ve ever heard. No, Crown The Empire aren’t going to win any awards with The Fallout, nor are they breaking any new ground. There is a certain appeal with this band though, and my mission with reviewing this record was to figure out what that appeal is. Maybe it’s that love-or-hate Joey Sturgis production, or it’s the inevitable clichés that fill this album front to back. Maybe it’s the fact that there are some worthy melodies to actually open your earholes to, but you’ve gotta dig through some surefire crap first to find them.
I’m a sucker for well-placed theatrical elements, and CTE run with the proverbial curtain for their new album’s style. Notably, this effort is hardly reminiscent of their previous EP, with “Memories of a Broken Heart” the only track that really falls into the same ballpark (it is one of the duds, not surprisingly). It’s when CTE aren’t trying to be this shallow band with these cut-and-dry songs that they succeed. For example, the intro to the record “Oh, Catastrophe” actually comes off as genuine with how clean vocalist Andy Leo’s voice shakes as he delivers a somber eulogy of a melody through a raspy whimper. It’s these moments that give them a sense of clarity. Another aspect that’s on their side is screamer David Escamilla, as his lion-esque roar brings that ferocity that their syrupy sweet melodies need to offset such a chemical overload.
So as guessed, the songs feels like they’re fighting each other inversely to prove that each aspect is more necessary than the other. You have your slew of heavy tracks (“The Fallout,” “The One You Feed,” “Menace”) that hammer on with layers upon layers of harmonically corrected vocals and glitchy chops, and of course breakdowns. You also get blindsided by some rather strange moments as well (i.e. the surf rock break in “Two’s Too Many”). For any theory enthusiasts like myself, you’ll notice their affinity for the “major chord, major chord, minor chord” format they repeat over and over in almost every song. Pretty tiring. That’s not to say this album doesn’t have any good moments though. There is an awesome build-up in “Children of Love” that leads to a pretty intense and visceral breakdown, as well as some real noteworthy and varied melodic moments in “The Fallout,” “Evidence” and “Menace” to check out.
There’s one more thing to mention though, and it’s caught every reviewer’s attention: closing track “Johnny’s Revenge.” This song is some sort of strange Panic! At The Disco tinged quirk of a circus nightmare. Complete with the true circus melody and clown-fueled laughter to back it up, I must give them props on their originality with this one. There are some interesting and rather different moments to find on The Fallout, and this song is a good example of one.
Ultimately, this is a post-hardcore band that’s trying to fuse the theatrics of any Broadway musical, with the crushing riffage and breakdowns of today’s hardcore scene, to the pop sensibilities of today’s top 40 (I did shiver, saying the words “top 40”). They pretty much play it safe, but throw enough left-fielders out there to give them a sense of identity among the Rise Records all-star cast and please their fan base. This is not an album I’ll be picking up again, but I’ll reiterate one of my earlier mentioned statements: this is not the worst album I’ve ever heard. Definitely not something I’d ever imagine myself saying.