Craig Mabbitt is a name that instills either a feeling of apathy, hate or love. I am one of those people that really don’t like Mabbitt. First, from watching interviews of him, I have gathered that he is not winning any awards for a being a nice guy. Second, he took Escape the Fate in a direction that ruined the band for me. Third, I just don’t think he is a good vocalist. With that being said, I was sceptical when I heard that his side project The Dead Rabbitts was due to release their debut album. Despite this, I opted to approach the album with an open mind and put aside my dislike of Mabbitt.
I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. The Dead Rabbitts is a band that plays straight into the post-hardcore genre with a slightly heavier edge than a lot of the post-hardcore bands around today. Alex Torres, of Alesana fame, supplies his talents on guitars and creates incredibly technical guitar riffs which create an overwhelming wall of sonic anger coupled with the heavily distorted bass riffs from Escape the Fate bassist TJ Bell. Chris Julian provides ferocious drum work which adds a very metal-core feel to the overall sound of the album. The production touch of Caleb Shomo is evident on the album from the synth tones that duck and weave between the heavier instrumentals. Maybe not the best choice at times yet it gives the album a denser and loftier feel to it. It seems to tie everything together.
The critical flaw comes in with Mabbitt’s singing. He is a very talented clean vocalist and sounds amazing when his melodic voice is curling itself around the breakdowns and the chugging guitar riffs with their synth undertones. The problem is with his unclean vocals. He attempts to scream and growl and fails miserably. It’d be okay if it was only in a few songs but it is sadly in every song that he attempts to scream. It is incredibly off-putting as there he seems to insist on acting as if he can scream. It becomes quite amusing when he is up-staged by Shomo on “Make Me Believe” when he makes a guest vocalist appearance and absolutely kills it. Shomo’s stint away from Attack Attack! And his work with Beartooth has severely improved his skill as a vocalist and he delivers a stellar vocal performance. Mabbitt however falls flat when it comes to the screamed vocals. He embarrasses himself further by throwing in those arrogant growled “ohs” on the song “Shapeshifter”. I’ll give him some credit on “Black Cloud”, where his screamed vocals actually sound good.
The question that needs to be asked is if this is anything new? The answer is no. The Dead Rabbitts do not bring a new sound to the table. If anything, they bring an over-produced post-hardcore sound that almost sounds like Attack Attack! trying not to be a heavy electronic-core band. They join the growing pool of bands that lack a breath of originality. Yes, this is an improvement compared to Escape the Fate but angry, angsty lyrics don’t make a band unique – nor do regurgitated breakdowns.