It seems like 2015 is the year of albums being released by bands who have replaced their lead singer after years of performing together. Oklahoma-based rock band Hinder seems to be following the same trend with their newest album, When The Smoke Clears, the first album without Austin Winkler as lead singer. Marshal Dutton (formerly of Drankmore and Faxtion) was originally called in as a temporary replacement for the band’s tour supporting their 4th album Welcome To The Freakshow and has since taken over the position of lead singer.
From beginning to end, it’s apparent that When The Smoke Clears is going to be slightly different than the past albums that Hinder has put out over the years. Starting from the haunting-lullaby-turned-rock-song “Rather Hate Than Hurt” (as well as “Intoxicated” and “Wasted Life”), heavy guitars and percussion become pretty prevalent of their standard style. However, a majority of the album actually consists of country characteristics (like if they replaced the electric guitars with a banjo) and is somewhat blindsiding to longtime fans. Ironically, the band opted to go with Dutton as lead vocalist instead of their original choice Nolan Neal because the latter was “too country” for their image, so it’s funny how they still ended up sounding country despite that. Ending track “I Need Another Drink” has a feel similar to Nickelback‘s “This Afternoon,” except that instead of being that ‘one-of-these-is-not-like-the-other’ song it ultimately solidifies that their original lead singer is no longer a part of the creative aspect.
Although this new Hinder is not what we may be used to, When The Smoke Clears still has some redeeming qualities in the form of a series of angsty, emotion-heavy breakup tracks. It’s a given that rock bands can usually reel in their listener with a sad, ‘I-Hate-You’ song, but the band did something extremely ambitious with theirs and quite honestly could’ve made or broken the album – they placed them one right after the other. The first in the heartbreak trilogy, “Dead To Me,” is definitely the angriest of them all lyrically with references of putting so much hope into this person only to be completely let down (“I thought you’d do me until we die/but I guess I was mistaken” and “you had me thinking you were heaven sent/but you were gone once the money was spent”). The ballad also plays into that idea of how it hurts more to tell someone that they’re dead to you than to hate them (“I won’t regret you/I’ll just forget you/you’re dead to me”), but the real ‘whoa, that was harsh’ moment comes with the line “you’re not even worth the time to say goodbye.”
Following tracks “Foolish Eyes” and “Nothing Left To Lose” play into that ‘feeling-used-and-abused’ character but in differing ways. The former takes on a more reminiscent (similar to that of “Lips of an Angel” and “Better Than Me”) and honest tone (“I’m still getting used to having no one to talk to”), while the later is certainly more wrathful and gives up a glimpse into his personal vendetta with the one who turned him into a “hopeless, broken down and bruised” shell of a man.
New singer Dutton definitely had some big shoes to fill and unfortunately fell a little short on the expectation factor. Was he the worst option for a replacement? Absolutely not! But When The Smoke Clears sounds more like an almost vocally identical version of the new Three Days Grace album with an obvious lean toward classic rock, slight country undertones, and less sexiness in subject matter. While Hinder has played around with incorporating new things into their music over the years, their current sound is certainly different than what was established with their original singer. It will be interesting to see how the rest of their career moves forward.