It’s no secret that A Day To Remember have been through the ringer lately. Up to a point, a question mark had been hanging over the band’s head since 2012 following the legal battle with their former record label Victory Records, and leading to doubts whether another album would ever see the light of day. The midweek self-release of Common Courtesy was definitely a reassurance then, especially seeing as it was the band’s best album to date, the most cohesive mesh of their pop-punk and metalcore influences of their entire career for an all killer, no filler body of work.
But the thing is, that album seemed more like a continuation of their sound than anything pertaining to the anger and frustration of their situation. That comes in Bad Vibrations, possibly A Day To Remember’s darkest, angriest album to date. It’s certainly not their best album, but as a progression into the next, more ‘mature’ phase of their career, Bad Vibrations is as good as it gets. Notice ‘mature’ is in inverted commas, because the Floridians have always taken a higher thematic road than the majority of their peers, but Bad Vibrations is an all-round case of growing up, thanks to much grittier production courtesy of Black Flag’s Bill Stevenson and a greater leaning towards proper punk than pop-punk. This album sees them move away from summer bangers into something much more earthy and visceral, like the pent-up rumble of Bullfight or the politically-charged Exposed. It’s definitely telling that the weakest tracks on Bad Vibrations are the ones that hark back to A Day To Remember’s older sound – Naivety‘s attempt as fusing snotty skate-punk with subtle twinkles imported directly from modern pop-rock feels quite misguided, and the arms-in-the-air positivity of We Got This, while by no means a bad song, feels more like an offshoot of Common Courtesy than anything on this album.
No, Bad Vibrations is at its most potent when A Day To Remember embrace their dirtier low end, and thankfully that seems to be the favoured setting. And while there are a handful of genuinely fantastic songs on here – just wait until Reassemble absolutely goes off live – the biggest pat on the back goes to Stevenson’s production. It adds a great deal of weight to these songs, drastically increasing both their impact and their guttural presentation. Bullfight‘s grimy breakdown could send heads caving in at the right volume, and the surging alt-rock of Justified feels like a controlled rampage, immensely powerful but reigned in enough to keep its melodic sensibility.
It’s such an exploration of heavier passages that makes Bad Vibrations really stand out in A Day To Remember’s catalogue – the likes of Paranoia and the utterly ferocious Reassemble are unlike anything they’ve ever recorded before, but still remain unequivocally recognisable. Jeremy McKinnon’s vocals are definitely the most prominent thread that’s carried though, but even then, Bad Vibrations sees a definite adaptation to a grittier sound. There’s less of a disparity between cleans and screams on Reassemble and Turn Off The Radio, and because of this, this is A Day To Remember’s first album that really has any sort of consistent flow from start to finish. Even in the power ballad finale Forgive And Forget, the band’s heavier, fuller style is used in the form of crashing bombast that sounds fantastic in such a context.
It’s a credit to A Day To Remember that, six albums into their career, they’re still progressing and finding new ways to adapt and evolve. Bad Vibrations probably represents their biggest shift to date, and the fact that it’s done with only a couple of missteps along the way shows how talented this band are. After an album like Common Courtesy, Bad Vibrations truly does feel like the beginning of a new era for A Day To Remember, one with a further refinement in sound into something much more concise and direct. If this is just testing the waters, what’s to follow is bound to be something pretty exciting indeed.
For fans of: Beartooth, Parkway Drive, Crime In Stereo
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Bad Vibrations’ by A Day To Remember is out now on Epitaph Records / ADTR Records.