Happy hardcore heroes Four Year Strong have just dropped Enemy of the World, their second full length of blast beats and break downs. The eleven-track album treads familiar water for the Worcester, MA quintet. The riffs are heavy and the vocals are in your face. Enemy is a small step forward for the band, particularly in production value, but each song relies on a similar formula and rarely diverges from the double bass/vocal attack that made them the scene’s rising stars on Rise or Die Trying.
Familiarity and repetition are a double edged sword. On one side, you satisfy your core audience and give them what they want/expect. On the other, you become stagnant and somewhat pigeonholed. Enemy rocks. Album opener “It Must Really Suck to be Four Year Strong Right Now” is one of my favorite songs of the year. “Wasting Time (Eternal Summer)” is a nice little heavy pop song and “Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride” has a great half-time vibe to it. That being said, the cuts just seem to blend into one another. After several listens, I feel the disc has great moments, but not great songs.
Singers Alan Day and Dan O’Connor really push themselves and I’m actually quite jealous of their powerful, raspy, and melodic screams. I don’t know how they could do these songs every night live. On the album though, the vocal intensity is almost too much. Everything feels one-note, always at the top of their lungs and therefore, detracts from the the overall impact of the song and lyrics specifically. One of the “moments” I was talking about earlier happens on the first line of “One Step at a Time” when O’Connor dials his delivery back and we hear some great tone and inflection. The other songs could have certainly benefited from calculated restraint.
Two final points: Clever/funny/unrelated/ironic song titles are so 2007. FYS fall victim to this trend and I think they just need to move on. And I just don’t understand why they still try to incorporate synths. They only show up audibly on two songs, and it just feels like they’re trying to add an unnecessary ingredient to the recipe. But I get it. Josh Lyford needs something to do in the band.