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Album Review: The Amity Affliction – This Could Be Heartbreak

3 min read

Queensland’s The Amity Affliction have been pretty regular with their album releases, producing an album roughly every two years since debuting with Severed Ties in 2008.  This album cycle previously delivered 2014’s Let the Ocean Take Me, which garnered both popular and critical acclaim for the boys from Gympie, drew big crowds to their shows, and ensured the follow-up effort would be met with high expectations.

The Amity Affliction - This Could Be HeartbreakAnd so The Amity Affliction have returned with their fifth studio album, This Could Be Heartbreak, an album that sees the group down to a single remaining founding member – bassist and (clean) vocalist Ahern Stringer – after Troy Brady departed the band in late 2014.  This Could Be Heartbreak doesn’t appear to have explicitly suffered due to the change in the roster, but The Amity Affliction is a band that has been quite fluid when it comes to band members and the roles they fill within the group, and long-term (unclean) vocalist, Joel Birch, still confidently fronts the ensemble.

An ongoing strength of The Amity Affliction is a good ear for a catchy hook, and the application of a pop sheen to their post-hardcore/metalcore stylings, and This Could Be Hearbreak leans heavily into that tendency, especially for its first half.  Opening track, I Bring The Weather With Me, creates a sense of theatre in its use of a lone church bell’s chime, muffled by the sound of a rain storm, in the intro, and the touch of synth, coupled with the melodic guitar line throughout the song, seems to add a touch of ‘80s pop to proceedings.  As can be seen in the video clips that accompanying the songs’ release as singles the titular, This Could Be Heartbreak, is a companion piece to I Bring The Weather With Me.

Between the two tracks The Amity Affliction demonstrate a solid grasp of pop-music composition, and at times they come across as solidly pop-punk – with all the pros and cons that descriptor carries.  Throughout the album the lyrics skirt the edges of banality, as with Nightmare which features the line “so you’re living in a nightmare/well I’m living in one too”, but manage to balance cliché with insight and poignancy, as when the previous line is followed by “trying to prevent the storm bearing down on you”.  The best example of the keen, poetical twist The Amity Affliction is capable of is the line “as our eyes become wells” from This Could Be Heartbreak – every time that line landed its emotional blow with expert precision.

These darker emotional tones run throughout the album until its conclusion, but find their best expression in the ‘popier’ tracks of the record’s first half, which is rounded out by Tearing Me Apart, O.M.G.I.M.Y. (oh my god I’m missing you), and All Fucked Up.  By the time the heavier second half rolls around the listener is emotionally fatigued, and while Fighting My Regret, Some Friends, and Wishbone show The Amity Affliction can ably push into metalcore and djent, these songs just don’t captivate, instead washing out into a wall of distorted guitar.  The Amity Affliction’s pop sensibilities are a little too heavily applied early on in This Could Be Heartbreak, and not applied enough later, resulting in an album that is slightly too unbalanced to be really good, but is also to well executed to be considered bad.