Floridian quintet, A Day To Remember, have made no secret of their love of pop-punk music and, for the past thirteen years, the group has blended this often-maligned genre with the heavier stylings of post-hardcore and metalcore. Not deterred by those who questioned the viability of such a musical amalgam, A Day To Remember have insistently worked at refining their peculiar blend of styles –referred to by some as “pop-mosh” – and with their sixth album, Bad Vibrations, they have produced the purest distillation of their sound yet.
Hitting play, the listener is immediately greeted by the squall of Neil Wesfall and Kevin Skaff’s guitars feeding back and Jeremy McKinnon bellowing “don’t forget that this is a choice/pick your poison/live with remorse” on the titular Bad Vibrations. With the guitars’ flirting with djent, it falls to bassist Joshua Woodard and drummer Alex Shelnutt to slide the track’s tempo and sound into more standard punk territory for the body of the song. An affinity for pop is displayed with the chorus’ backing vocals and these subtle, boy-bandish, ‘oh’s contrast well with the reasserted aggression of the minimalist bridge and outro. It is a solid opening, and sets the tone for the album.
Where Bad Vibrations carried an ambiguity around whether it was a relationship with oneself or another that was “toxic”, Paranoia makes it clear it is the negative, internal, voices that are being battled on the album. Grinding rhythms on the verses and bridge, and the hint of dissonance in the main-riff, are suitably anxiety inducing, though the full on pop of the chorus is equally adept at catching the listener’s ear as breaking the mood of the song. Bullfight introduces a degree of indie-rock to A Day To Remember’s repertoire, though the song smoothly progresses back to the group’s usual sound. While never quite living up to its apparent ambition of being a genuinely dark and heavy song, only managing to attain a superficial aural heaviness, Bullfight does showcase McKinnon’s vocal versatility as he provides long stretches of clean delivery alongside his melodic yelling, demonstrating a keen ear throughout.
An easy and enjoyable listen for 41 minutes, Bad Vibrations will serve existing A Day To Remember fans well, and is well placed to attract more to the fold, however the attraction is only skin deep. Closer examination reveals a tendency towards relying of the same structure throughout – definitely a shortcoming inherited from the pop-punk influence – and the lyrics sound like existentialism for the half-interested. With Bad Vibrations, A Day To Remember have perfected their unique sound, now they just need to push their song writing to the next level.