Canadian punk rockers Sum 41 have had their fair share of highs and lows in the release of their influential debut album All Killer No Filler. With original band members leaving and returning and the slow decline of front man Deryck Whibley’s health, it was unsure if there would be another album released after 2011’s Screaming Bloody Murder. Luckily for longtime fans, a majority of the original lineup returned for their comeback show at the 2015 Alternative Press Music Awards and the dream of having a new album was just in our reach. Excitement only grew with the announcement that they would be playing all of the 2016 Van’s Warped Tour dates, which meant the long awaited comeback single would be released shortly before.
Sum 41 came swinging out of the gate with full force and definitely didn’t hold back on their first released single in years. “Fake My Own Death” infused their familiar blend of alt-punk-metal instrumentation that they have given us in previous albums with radio friendly vocals. In my personal opinion, it was probably the best comeback single that I’ve heard in a long time (sorry Blink-182). They weren’t afraid to get in your face with its instrumentation (did you hear that epic drum sequence before the bridge?!) and sometimes that’s what you’ve got to do to make sure everyone knows that you’re back and better than ever. This lead single set the bar on a musicality scale for what the rest of 13 Voices would be. They continue this trend in third released headband worthy single “God Save Us All (Death To POP),” which focuses on the topic of adversity in the music industry as a rock artist.
On a lyrical standpoint, it’s easy to tell that a majority of 13 Voices primarily revolves around the theme of battling addiction. The idea was planted in the listeners’ ears with second released single “War”. Lyrically the strongest out of the three singles, Deryck chronicles his life as a survivor and proves to us that he’s working getting his life in order (“with all that I’ve done, it’s too late/I can’t take back all that I have become”). Many questions are asked throughout the song (“So what am I fighting for?”, “How did I get so far behind the rest?”, and “Why am I so inclined to forget?”) in order to show what goes on in the mind of someone trying their hardest to fight their demons. In a way, the track can almost be a continuation of Chuck‘s “Pieces” in terms of how strongly it’s being shown that he wants to step forth from the darkness of his life in the lines of the chorus. For those that deal with many different types of struggles, sometimes life becomes a “War” in and of itself and this song is a musical representation of Deryck’s “War”.
The recovering journey is discussed in many forms throughout 13 Voices, including its title track that brings up notions dealing with self-frustration with how easy it is to fall and struggling to pick yourself up from it. Beginning track “A Murder Of Crows (You’re All Dead To Me)” begins with theatrical, somewhat orchestral instrumentation before awakening the listeners ears with heavy drums and bass and going into calling out those who think they are all high and mighty because they’ve seen you fall. 13 Voices also discusses the efforts that are being taken to fight the urges of addiction (“There Will Be Blood”, “Breaking The Chain”) and the toll it can take on your mind and body (“Goddamn I’m Dead Again”) all to the sound of higher to mid tempo paced Sum 41 instrumental fashion. In the headbang inducing, Guitar Hero worthy “The Fall and the Rise”, addiction is personified and the song is used as a way of voicing motivation for making an important life change. Ending track “Twisted By Design” leaves us with looking into the mind of someone going through traumatic experiences and witnessing them just being tired of keeping themselves in a dark hole because of it. In a way, it’s a bittersweet track that shines a light of hope that something or someone will bring you out from being completely consumed by darkness – in the case for Deryck, music.
13 Voices came in at the appropriate amount of time without longtime fans wondering “What’s taking so long?” While slightly toned down on the instrumentation side, they stay true to their musicality and used the album to not only excite their longtime fans, but also gave them a chance to gain new listeners. 13 Voices is a cohesive collection of lyrically honest tracks that are open are the struggles, pressures and frustrations (both personal and as a band) that they have faced in the past few years – probably even their entire career. The only thing that I want to say is this, “You’ve been on a 5 year hiatus and Deryck almost died on us and you’re only giving us 10 songs?!?” Mini rant over. Welcome back Sum 41!
Sum 41's comeback album gives listeners a look into the life of a recovering addict.