One would think that a band that has been around since 1999 would be trying to evolve or be trying something new by now. That is not the case whatsoever with the 13-year-old melodic hardcore band No Bragging Rights. Their latest album, Cycles, is far from inventive and does little to further the band’s sound. However, that doesn’t stop it from being enjoyable at points despite its many flaws. When they are at their very best they can create some intense, invigorating, and catchy punk rock, but when they are at their worst, the result is sappy and boring music.
Let’s get the bad out of the way first. The biggest issue with Cycles is that it can be very repetitive since the band does very little to branch out from their well-established melodic hardcore sound, and this leads to the album being a tedious listen at times. Nearly every track follows the same structure of going from a screamed verse to a cleanly sung chorus to a chugging breakdown to a finale that combines all of these elements. By the end of the record, it can be more than a little tiresome. Because of this, by the time the last three tracks, “Repeater,” “The Prequel” and “Ascensions” come on, the listener has not only heard the exact same song seven times before, but they have also heard the same song done better several times before.
That’s not the say that the band doesn’t do their style well, but the lack of variation definitely makes the weaker songs really stand out. “Cycles” and “Not My Salvation” are two songs that definitely illustrate this, especially since they are right next to each other in the tracklist. The former is an overproduced, breakdown-heavy and corny rant about vocalist Mike Perez’s daddy issues, and features lyrical gems like, “You couldn’t hold my hand / Because your hand was on a bottle.” On the other hand, the latter is done in almost the exact same style, but this time is executed to near perfection. The song still has similar lyrical themes of strength, but it actually succeeds by coming off as positive rather than embarrassingly straightforward. Musically, it sounds great too. The production does a good job of balancing out the singing and screaming, the vocals themselves sound really awesome, drummer Martin Alcedo gives an absolutely furious performance, and the guitars are simple but very effective as well as delightfully catchy. But while all of this creates a track that is really good, it also highlights how weak the previous track is in comparison.
But if you can get past all of those negatives, there are certainly moments to be enjoyed. Opener “The Advent of Change” is a quality introduction to No Bragging Rights’ style with great guitar tones, an invigorating riff, and some of Perez’s best vocals on the entire album. The song is also surprisingly strong from a songwriting standpoint, as the chorus is catchy while maintaining the band’s cathartic nature, and the track doesn’t follow the usual structure, which is definitely a good thing. “Hope Theory” is another example of the band at their best. This time, the instrumentation steals the show with another fantastic performance behind the kit from Alcedo and soaring guitars that really give the chorus some added melody and depth. After that, there are definitely some more standouts (especially “Appraisals and Omissions” and “Legacy”), but there’s really not a lot to say about them other than that they are done in the band’s typical style and performed at a higher level than most of the album’s other songs.
There is certainly some enjoyment to be had on this particular effort from No Bragging Rights. However, when the album’s repetitive nature combines with the fact that some songs are clearly stronger than others, it’s hard to not feel that Cycles would have been better off as a five or six-song EP rather than a full length.