One of the main reasons people don’t like metalcore is because it isn’t ‘heavy’, a statement usually followed by the rattling off of acts like Asking Alexandria and Bring Me The Horizon (bands who, at their heaviest, have more to them than the majority of the scene). One band that never gets brought up, however, is The Amity Affliction, a band who have somehow been able to sustain a career by sticking to the exact same formula for over ten years, and by watering it down so much it’s questionable whether they can actually be called a metal band. Of course, not being heavy isn’t a suitable excuse on its own for disliking The Amity Affliction, but it is one of a myriad of reasons for why This Could Be Heartbreak isn’t worth the disc it’s printed on.
For a start, this is a blatant rehash of everything they’ve ever done up to this point. At this point, The Amity Affliction aren’t even trying, instead just taking the easy route of never even attempting to adventure outside of their incredibly narrow pre-determined boundaries. And this wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if the whole thing sounds good, but it just doesn’t. Guitars are continuously suffocated by production haze intended as some kind of faux-grandiosity, but end up sounding almost universally gutless and flavourless. It’s a stretch to even call This Could Be Heartbreak a metal album – the likes of Nightmare and the title track could be alright if they didn’t have their teeth mercilessly yanked from their mouths, instead replaced with audio cotton wool that does no justice to the subject matter. Because even in this polished, preened state, The Amity Affliction still insist to delve into topics like suicide and mental illness. Not only does such a laser-focus on this one specific topic grow tiresome after five albums of the same thing, but there’s nothing to this album, either musically or delivery-wise, that suggests any sort of conviction whatsoever, and it makes this album feel like the laziest, most cynical cash-grab imaginable.
This can mostly be attributed to the vocals. As a screamer, Joel Birch is fine – he’s nothing remarkable, but he’s got a bit of passion to his voice and he’s probably the most consistently strong thing about this album. No, what sends The Amity Affliction plummeting down from a sub-par band to one beyond saving is their clean vocalist Ahren Stringer. He’s got to be one of the single worst singers in metalcore – there’s no passion or cadence in his vocals, just elongated, monotone syllables that are delivered in such an obnoxious, Tom Delonge-esque accent that are some of the most limp sounds put to record this year. His contributions seem to actively suck the good out of this album – with a competent vocalist, the likes of Wishbone or I Bring The Weather With Me could at least be passable rather than the flabby, insipid bores they currently are. Then again, there are some tracks on here that are essentially lying in their own graves, like the cringeworthy O.M.G.I.M.Y, or the Stringer-led All Fucked Up, a track so sugary it makes Sleeping With Sirens sound like Bury Tomorrow.
In all actuality though, there’s no point in criticising The Amity Affliction. They’ve gotten through five albums by refusing to budge an inch and have become inexplicably popular from it; This Could Be Heartbreak is essentially just another payload being cashed in. And that, in a nutshell, appears to be The Amity Affliction’s musical ethos – to put in the least effort possible for the greatest payoff. But that really doesn’t fly, because This Could Be Heartbreak is an absolute disgrace, an album that could easily pass as cathartic if there was the tiniest shred of effort or conviction put in. Instead, this is another bog-standard offering from a band whose entire career has centred around being dull as sand, and pandering to a crowd who believes this is where solace can be found, but instead providing swathes of insincere bullshit that profits off its audience’s own issues. Disgusting.
For fans of: Memphis May Fire, blessthefall, Our Last Night
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘This Could Be Heartbreak’ by The Amity Affliction is out now on Roadrunner Records.