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Key Tracks: "To the Burial," "Ten Years Down," "I'm Alive," "Holding On To You"
Is it 2003? Am I wearing an arm’s worth of rubber bangles while ogling the boy in khaki shorts, skate shoes and an Atticus t-shirt from across the middle school’s gymnasium? No? Then, to what am listening?
Though a change and passage of time theme races through The Constant (prominently heard in the tracks “The Ghost of You and I,” “Remember A Time” and “Time Goes On”), it is clear that SOTY have not changed over time. Fans who support SOTY will appreciate The Constant more than the casual listener, as it alludes to a sort of persistence to keep the music they love alive (“The Dream is Over”) and offers them what they have come to expect from SOTY.
With shades of Rise Against, Finch, Atreyu and Hoobastank, The Constant offers a diverse mix of songs. From a chorus of eerie children’s voices pleading “don’t take this world away from me” on the opening “The Children Sing,” to the piano ballad “Holding On To You,” to the powerful, scream-driven “Won Threw Ate,” to the anthemic sing-along that is “Ten Years Down,” to an attempt at political commentary on “To the Burial,” The Constant is ever-shifting from one style to the next.
While listening to the album, the listener may feel a serious letdown at integral parts of songs. At moments when a strong vocal or instrumentation would take a song to the next level, SOTY hold back, giving mediocre and disappointing results and an album of radio-geared songs that seem lacking.
However, when the band lets go and takes risks on tracks such as “Won Threw Ate,” the album gives glimpses of potential, only to soon go back to borrowed, safe melodies. Compared to those on the band’s 2008 release The Black Swan, the songs from The Constant seem almost like works in progress, a difference that may be because of the fast, fun recording of the album compared to the time taken on previous effort.
The members of Story of the Year have been both blessed and cursed to be forever known by their triumphant 2003 release Page Avenue. The songs from that album were great then and still resonate now, making The Constant come across as a remake lacking the heart of the original. Instead of “Holding Onto You” being a ballad in its own right, it will be seen as “not ‘Sidewalks’” just as The Constant’s first single “I’m Alive” will be “not an ‘Anthem of our Dying Day.’”
Fans who have enjoyed the band’s previous albums will most likely enjoy its latest as well. Unfortunately, for many, The Constant is an album that will be appreciated only when accompanied with a time machine. Story of the Year have stayed true to their original style, but they seem to have held back this time.
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