When studying Greek mythology last year in school, I became especially obsessed with the phoenix. A phoenix being a bird that, after death, hatches from an egg into new life, essentially represents a “rebirth” into humanity. More or less, it parallels the overcoming of struggles. Thus, the title of The Classic Crime’s new album could represent a “rebirth” with their departure from Tooth & Nail Records, their recent Kickstarter efforts, and the self-releasing of their newest album. Even though on the surface the title Phoenix aptly represents the band’s dropping off the label map and rising with their current independent status, beneath all of that is a darker, more dramatic and more personal album than any of their previous releases. In fact, it’s such a mature, depthful, and visceral effort that Phoenix, a meaningful, metaphorical and transcending element of literature, is a great representation of its contents.
The “phoenix” metaphor really comes through when hearing this album for itself and deciphering its message. Its moody, chilling vibes are nearly overwhelming, conveying a sense of inevitable brokenness, but also fixating on mending it. The Classic Crime experiment a bit with their sound, but cling to their punk-tinged rock roots that made me love The Silver Cord so much – that is, even if the intensity is turned down a few notches.
Individually, some tracks seem stronger than others, but as a whole, Phoenix tends to be a very effectual ride. One of the strongest songs off the record is track three, “Young Again.” Off the bat, this song has a nice groove and comes off as a highly enjoyable, hook-injected rock song. But after repeat listens, something about this song feels so much more depthful and intimate than just a typical rock song. It could be the smoothly-incorporated piano, the directional drag of the two guitars, or even the heart-on-sleeve, anthemic vocal effort of Matt MacDonald, who preaches every lyric with a sense of emotional distress smacking you in the face.
“Young Again” may seem a bit deceiving at first. Starting the song off are some succulent acoustic riffs, pulling you close to the interior of the song. But as it continues on, everything is blown out of proportion – musical molds, lost ambitions, and reckless direction are all dismissed. This song is a beauty; every little element, every little scrap of this song kindles the fire of Phoenix with steady consciousness. Track six, “The Precipice,” is a firm example of the huge strides in both progression and maturity that Phoenix flaunts. Laden with strings and speeding into bigger and bigger melodies as the song evolves, this track perfectly expresses the type of spiritual and musical vision that’s often lacking in music. A song of struggle, it’s sad but brutally honest.
I could keep going, but there’s so much to delve into that I would be talking for quite a while. If you let it, this record will control you with its steadfast, music-meets-real-life affair. Even with a less powerful sound, Phoenix seems to dodge all of the shallowness of modern rock. The album’s diversity may not quite be in check, but the emotional attachment is intensified with more strings, piano, and acoustic guitar featured throughout this album. Expect nothing but substance, because Phoenix is pure from the heart.
I don’t want to get too ahead of myself and say that this is The Classic Crime’s shining star yet, because something about the dynamic, crunchy The Silver Cord will always keep it the band’s most outstanding, cherished effort. However, the progression that the band performs on this record – especially considering how weak their previous release was – is truly remarkable. I didn’t really expect much out of these guys since they went independent, but the album that results from their split with Tooth & Nail Records is incredibly solid. Phoenix represents the sturdy mix of heart, mind, and soul that many contemporary artists tend to overlook. I’m not sure how it will hold up over time, but as of now, this album leaves quite an impression.