Set It Off’s debut full-length, 2012’s Cinematics, should have made them superstars. It had style, it had swagger and, most importantly, it had tunes for absolute days. But for some reason, it never gained them the legions of fans that, by rights, it had every ability to. If there’s any justice in the world then, Duality should do for the Florida quintet what their debut didn’t – everything about it is bigger, more brash and just plain better.

‘Pop’ is the operative word throughout Duality. In an age where so many bands make an effort to place themselves as far away from the pop world as possible, Set It Off have wholeheartedly embraced it (the boyband-like album artwork is a heavy allusion to this), and there are hardly any points on the album where this seems to be any sort of misinformed decision. Opener The Haunting kicks things off on a suitably huge note, with Tim Burton-esque synth twinkles marry with swathes of strings over the catchier than catchy pop-rock that the band have made their oeuvre, and from then on, things continue on an equally ostentatious but entirely brilliant level. Bleak December is nowhere near as dark and brooding as its title suggests, coming across as a sort of Fall Out Boy / Justin Timberlake / Maroon 5 mashup, while Why Worry impresses with its complete lack of subtlety in its huge, brassy chorus, and N.M.E‘s cutting lyrical bites contrast remarkably with its shiny pop-punk instrumentation. It can only really be compared to what Fall Out Boy have done on their later works, erring towards the poppier side of the musical spectrum while still keeping one foot firmly in rockier territory. Except, on Duality, Set It Off have ramped Fall Out Boy’s formula as far as it can be ramped to create a sound that’s entirely their own.

There’s a definite level of eclecticism that runs through Duality as well. There’s the ultra-infectious dance-pop of Bad Guy, which differs from Ancient History‘s build-up from U2-like guitar and electronics to full-blown hair metal solo and squawking horns, with even that juxtaposing with the sweeping orchestral grandiosity of closer Miss Mysterious. The only thing that really ties the eleven tracks together is Cody Carson’s faultless vocal performance – directly reminiscent of Patrick Stump, there’s a range and flow on show here that 99% of other vocalists in the scene couldn’t even dream of, and while the screams that occasionally popped up on Cinematics are AWOL here, it offers the album a much more cohesive feel.

That’s just one of the reasons why Duality surpasses Set It Off’s debut. In fact, it surpasses it in every possible way. It’s the kind of album that most bands will wait an entire career to produce, but Set It Off have seemed to just put it out with all the ease in the world. That this album is near flawless is not the most exciting thing, though – that goes to the fact that Set It Off are still relatively early into their career, so just imagine what they could make if they improved this even more! Superstardom is calling – it’s just a matter of time before Set It Off answer.

9/10

For fans of: Panic! At The Disco, Fall Out Boy, Maroon 5

Words by Luke Nuttall

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