Ronnie Radke’s public persona seems to dictate the direction his music takes. Over the course of his career at the helm of Falling In Reverse, he’s been idolised, vilified and redeemed, and the output of his band has follow a similar pattern, starting with the promising The Drug In Me Is You before taking a nosedive into the unfocused cesspool that was Fashionably Late, though eventually tightening the process up with Just Like You, their most straight-laced but also best release to date. It’s easy to glean from this that consistency is not Falling In Reverse’s strong suit, but say what you want about them – Lord knows plenty have done that already – they’re never boring or predictable.
So as is par for the course, Falling In Reverse’s fourth effort sees them once again taking their sound in a hitherto unexplored direction – by making an album that is boring and predictable. Coming Home arrives at a time when Radke is further out of the spotlight than ever before, and it really shows; there’s not even an ounce of the flair that at least made their previous works compelling, whatever you thought of it. It’s an album full of big, empty songs that try to be expansive and anthemic, but fail across the board to do so. It’s probably most prominent in the case of the instrumentation and production, co-opting their usual super-slick hard rock guitars, but with all the colour and cartoonish exuberance leached out, leaving their dull, monochromatic husks in their place, where it’s made abundantly clear just how much this band misses Jacky Vincent. Christian Thompson is a fine enough replacement – he gets to show off a few more nimble moments on Fuck You And All Your Friends and Straight To Hell – but where Vincent’s presence elevated the band above the derivative scene-core they were frequently bundled in with, here it feels like they’re adhering to it. What’s more, the band try to overcompensate for their shortcomings by filling in all negative space in their sound; nearly every chorus is drowned out by echoing, ponderously heavy backing vocals, and the likes of the title track and Broken cram terse electronics into any free space for no other reason than to make the mix even more full than it already is. Even I Hate Everyone, which is driven by a super-clean acoustic guitar line, is overlaid with squelching electronic pulses that serve no discernible purpose. The whole album feels cluttered as a result, save for closer The Departure with its slithering funk bassline that, for as late as it is, manages to include some actual groove and fluidity in an album that’s in desperate need of it.
What tends to be the protocol with Falling In Reverse in situations like this is to make up for it with Radke’s sometimes affable, sometimes obnoxious presence, but Coming Home flips the switch from entirely too much personality to virtually none at all. As well as the fact that any eccentricities or elasticity previously present have been reduced to cameos, the songwriting for the most part is completely unremarkable too. Admittedly there is a couple of moments where Radke’s more personal, human side shines through, like the tribute to his daughter on the title track, or the shockingly purging I Don’t Mind in which he addresses his mother’s struggles with addiction and how it’s affected him in what’s one of the best written songs in this band’s catalogue. But beyond that, Falling In Reverse seem content with pulling from the most popular choices in the Warped Tour pick ‘n’ mix, namely standing up as an outcast on Broken, firing shots at conveniently unnamed adversaries on Fuck You And All Your Friends, and the wearisome self-deprecation that comes in at least half of the tracks here.
For a band who’ve taken such pleasure in their decision to explore and cross genre boundaries in the past, something like Coming Home, especially four albums in, can’t really be anything but a disappointment. It’s a regression, but one that regresses further back than they’ve ever actually been, and actively takes Falling In Reverse into negative numbers. For as little of Fashionably Late worked, it at least had the balls to take all manner of chances in what it threw into its mix; by comparison, Coming Home is too much of a safe and uninspired listen. It won’t spur on the sort of hatred that Falling In Reverse’s material has in the past, but even that would be preferable to a nonplussed shrug.
For fans of: Escape The Fate, Thirty Seconds To Mars, Starset
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Coming Home’ by Falling In Reverse is released on 7th March on Epitaph Records.