There were many times during my listening to this record where I kept checking the data of my iTunes to see if it was the same album or band. Perhaps I left my tracks on shuffle by accident. Madness is not a k turn, but a completely left turn to the previous post-hardcore laden tunes of Sleeping With Sirens. Switching from Rise Records to Epitaph and working with producer John Feldman, who has artists on his resume such as The Used and All Time Low, the fourth album from SWS encompasses a sound that is even more inviting than their 2013 effort, Feel. We heard hints of this evolution before, but this is the album where it comes full circle. There’s usually an album in a band’s catalog that welcomes them to a bigger audience if they do it right and Madness may have that potential.
The first thing you may notice is the overall pacing of the album. It’s a quick 38-minute listen that keeps you on your toes because there are many tempo changes when you least expect it. Within the first tracks, you go from the furious and aggressive guitar of “Kick Me” to the acoustic and antithetic “Save Me A Spark”. Most of the tracks on Madness feel like an anthem to the voices of disenchanted youth. Lead vocalist Kellin Quinn is able to convey his lyrics that may sound like they are personal, but any person can draw their own meaning. Common themes throughout the album are wanting to break free of the daily rut of being misunderstood and forgotten.
“Fly” is a bonafide hit to the point where I hope the band commits to making this a single. Lead guitarist Jack Fowler and new rhythm guitarist Nick Martin combine with bassist Justin Hills for a funky, head-knodding tune. Quinn’s vocals, especially during the chorus, bring it home, and you see the potential for the band to cross over to grandiose territory.
Older fans may be inclined to “We Like It Loud”, which is indicative of the title. Quinn goes for a more aggressive tone with screams as drummer Gabe Barham sets the tone with relentless percussion. It’s almost as if this particular track is a nod to the old days before you go into the last part of the record. The last few tracks could be definitely considered power ballads. “November” highlights Quinn with strings and piano whereas “Madness” is an acoustic track that sums up the theme of the album. “Sometimes it’s a battle/at times it’s a war/Sometimes we all lose strength/please don’t lose your faith”.
I sense that there is going to be a bit of resentment from older fans regarding Madness because the band has moved away from their previous sound so much. It’s hard to deny that this album won’t have you singing along to the well-written battle cries and lighters in the air through the ballads. The only issue would be that the album does not have a steady flow to it. Before you can get into full rock mode, a ballad is thrown in there to clear the dance floor. But change is good – especially if you have a clear view of where your going. Madness may propel Sleeping With Sirens to heights that their previous post-hardcore sound wouldn’t have.