I always get excited when established bands announce plans to release EPs, because they give bands a chance to do some experimenting and try out ideas and styles that they wouldn’t be comfortable with putting on a full length (for example, The Devil Wears Prada’s Zombie EP). To my dismay, For Today did no such thing with Prevailer. In fact, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the band recorded these songs at the same time as their previous release, Immortal. Not only do they all follow the exact same formula, but even the instrument tones and vocals sound exactly as they did last time around. If you aren’t a fan of For Today thus far, Prevailer certainly won’t change your mind.
The band recently said on a Facebook post, “The EP is, musically, the most progressive, well-written music For Today has ever released.” I hate to disagree, but this just isn’t true. With 2010’s Breaker, it was obvious that For Today finally caught on to the popular metalcore formula as they integrated an absurd usage of bass drops and breakdowns into their songs. Ever since that release, their music has become more simplified and predictable with each record. I was deeply saddened by the lack of technicality and originality on Prevailer – but to be honest, I should have expected it. This band has made it clear time and time again that music is merely a medium for them to convey their message of hope in Jesus Christ. This seems to be more true than ever, as they tend to focus much less on musicality and much more on making sure that every biblically inspired lyric is heard.
Since I keep mentioning the general lack of musical creativity, I should probably explain myself. First of all, the breakdowns are as boring as ever. Some of them even sound very similar to breakdowns found in their previous release, which tells me that the guys just got lazy. The only slightly inventive breakdown makes its appearance on the track “Open Heaven,” a rather boring song title in itself. The band has a bad habit of writing overly drawn-out intros, which go immediately into predictable breakdowns. When used so frequently, breakdowns severely lose their impact and intensity.
Second, where did all of the crazy sweeping go?! If there was ever one thing that made For Today stand out in the crowd, it was their guitarists who could shred relentlessly. For whatever reason, they decided to tone it down this time and hide their talent from the public eye. One of the stronger points on the EP is the chorus in “Crown of Thorns.” In addition to alternating clean and screaming vocals, the guitars do some fast, intricate harmonizing. Other than that, there really isn’t much impressive guitar work.
The lyrical construction also takes a noticeable step back in Prevailer. Besides using all too familiar words and phrases (“every nation,” “born to die,” and “bow down”), the lyrics are more cliché than ever; as the music stops and gives way to low growls, always proceeded by a bass drop, I can almost expect to hear lines like “This is war” and “Rise up.” It becomes harder and harder to distinguish one song from the next because these things just make them all blend together.
Surprisingly, I would have to argue that the strongest track on the EP is the acoustic rendition of Immortal’s “Fearless.” While this record definitely showcases guitarist Ryan Leitru’s clean vocal abilities to a new extent, “Fearless (Acoustic)” proves that he is completely comfortable in the spotlight. It was also pretty cool to hear lyrics from two albums back make their way into the end of this song – if you’re a fan of Breaker, you just may find chills running down your spine when you hear the words “Take your flame, ignite the world” being sung over optimistic acoustic guitars.
Overall, this release isn’t as bad as I may have made it out to be. Most fans of For Today will probably love Prevailer just as much as Immortal and Breaker, if not more. But for somebody who is becoming increasingly harder to impress, these new songs just aren’t growing on me. Prevailer is a fun, yet uninspired record that doesn’t suggest that For Today is planning on changing things up anytime soon.