Four Year StrongPure Noise Records
By Dustin Blumhagen
Four Year Strong have a bipolar history. Ignoring their raw demo It’s Our Time, their legitimate debut album was a great example of raw pop punk blended with hardcore that helped define the group as one of the leaders of the Easycore movement. They made the odd choice to follow that up with a terrible covers album. But on Enemy of the World, the guys focused their sound to create a definitive album of modern pop punk with catchy choruses and plenty of riffs. They managed to hold their own on tours with legendary live bands like Every Time I Die and logged a lot of miles on Warped Tour. Then they released their next album, which was panned by critics and fans alike, at which point they went the way of their scene buddies Set Your Goals and disappeared for a while. Looking back at their four full length releases, it would seem that it would be appropriate to judge the music by the cover. Their odd number releases have had wild cover art, which supported the goofy song titles and great music within. Their even releases have mundane covers, which gives warning to the forgettable music within. Based upon this logic, one would assume that their self-titled album suggests a return to the fun Four Year Strong that fans love.
Once the squealing feedback of the opening track fades away, it becomes clear that this is indeed a return to form. The synths are still absent, but this only helps strength to the hardcore riffs that are the backbone of their sound. The breakdowns are tempered by the pop infused catchy choruses. The dual vocals add depth to the songs, a ragged form of harmony bringing layers to the music. There are moments of creative guitar work that push the boundaries of the genre, but they are used sparsely which adds to their effect. At times the guitars have an 80s metal tone, such as the noodling on The Sound of Your Heart. Lyrically, the thematic material is familiar. There is an underlying positivity threaded throughout, with messages of self-empowerment more effective than those of the average straight edge band. At the same time there is a simmering anger present, which is perhaps backlash against those who wrote the band off after their last full length.
The self-titled album often heralds a rebirth for a band. After the lackluster presentation from their last full length, Four Year Strong have returned with force with an album that revitalizes Easycore, adding in some new elements while staying true to the pop punk and hardcore formula. It is a powerful return to form for a great live band.