Well, here we are again folks, back with yet another album from The Amity Affliction – what joy. Except this time it feels as though a lot more people are clued in on how little this band really have to offer, given the backlash awarded to 2018’s Misery for the poppier pivots that it made. And while it speaks mountains to how deluded this fanbase has become that a minor lightening of sound is their breaking point, at the same time it feels as though The Amity Affliction are going into this new album on nowhere near as strong footing as they have previously. Audience fracturing aside, the hype around the pre-release tracks has been muted at best and nonexistent as worst, and while the hints at reverting back to their ultra-clean, ultra-derivative pop-metalcore have been plastered all over them, that doesn’t seem to have quelled the detractors or won back many of those who’ve been alienated, at least from an outside perspective. And with a title like Everyone Loves You… Once You Leave Them – a title that, in both sentiment and typographical styling looks to have been lifted direct from the absolute most cringeworthy corner of scene Tumblr – even the mathematical boiling down of what made them a draw in the first place doesn’t look to be cauterising the rifts that stand in their wake.
But in what might just be the twist that absolutely no one saw coming, Everyone Loves You… is actually a pretty significant improvement. It’s still a monumentally flawed listen and continues The Amity Affliction’s nasty habit of dawdling down walkways that clearly have no benefit to them, but for a band who’ve been consistently drilling into the bedrock of a sound that’s had next to no payoff for them, taking a step back, retooling and having another crack at things with a fresh perspective has turned this into possibly one of their best works to date. Again, it’s not saying a lot for an album that, when compared the best of metalcore in any given year is rather stock and underdeveloped still, but context does a lot to elevate Everyone Loves You… and right now, it’s probably the strongest asset that it’s got.
Because at its core, there’s really not a lot that’s different from The Amity Affliction’s typical fare here. They’re still looking to hold fast on a sound that’s dripping with melodrama and trying to squeeze out the most turbulent emotional whirlwind that it can muster, but this time the emphasis on real catharsis can be felt as intended, not watered down by layers upon layers of production and writing stripped of any necessary teeth or muscle. Giving Joel Birch the opportunity to return to screaming more regularly is already a good sign, and for an album addressing the lapses in his own mental health in tandem with the suicide of a friend, allowing a more visceral emotional response is an obvious decision, but a strong one nonetheless. There’s clear frustration at feeling trapped in one’s own mind while still being able to acknowledge how much the world has to offer on All I Do Is Sink, and even if the band haven’t helped themselves in recent years by how they’ve presented their own narrative surrounding depression, it’s easy to sympathise with the umbrage take at using tragedy for profit on Soak Me In Bleach and Born To Lose. The injection of nuance is so key to how this all works, and even if that’s certainly not a constant as shown by the aggravating return to over-generalised pablum on All My Friends Are Dead and sentimentality that barrels headlong into mawkishness on Aloneliness and Forever, but it’s a big improvement all the same, feeling like some care has been taken in making sure the emotion lands for the first time in ages.
But then there’s the execution, the area where The Amity Affliction have historically found themselves falling the hardest, and at least with Everyone Loves You…, some credit needs to be given for the attempt if nothing else. The intention to be heavier on the likes of All My Friends Are Dead and Catatonia is there, putting Birch to the fore and bringing in the more forceful guitars and drums that do have the potential to construct some decent metalcore foundations. But this is perhaps the old habit that’s dying the hardest, as for all the improvements that have been made, production and presentation are areas where Everyone Loves You… is still crucially lagging behind. For starters, Ahren Stringer remains the clear elephant in the room as a clean vocalist with no grasp of emotion or subtly, instead robotically delivering lines as though he’s reading them off a script like on the chorus of Baltimore Rain, and being the easiest reference point when it comes to the saccharine drizzle that can make The Amity Affliction so difficult to listen to, as is the case on Aloneliness and Just Like Me. And as always, the production only seems to extent these issues, smothering layers of empty bluster that make an already-weak guitar tone feel even more limp, and holding on to a bizarre pop focus that’s never been a good look for this band, and stays that way with the tart synth twinkles of Aloneliness that make an already tepid and out-of-place pop-rock song feel even less necessary, and the louder mix balance given to the clicking beats and overpowered pianos on Just Like Me and Catatonia. At least this time the aim to make a metalcore album with more lush flair is more identifiable than on previous efforts, but it doesn’t make it any better, and the lack of any progression in that department to match what’s going on elsewhere isn’t easy to just overlook.
It’s why, despite what has been done and the kudos that The Amity Affliction deserve for applying themselves and making those changes, Everyone Loves You… is still critically lacking, and feels like a far cry from greatness all the same. A lot of the same problems that crippled past releases haven’t gone away, and while there’s more to distract from them this time around, this still feels like metalcore that’s playing it safe and is still afraid to go deeper into itself in the way that it really should. Again, the kernels of inspiration leading up to that are here, but there’s still a long way to go before The Amity Affliction can shed their previous reputation for good and become a band worth investing in for the long haul. Still, expecting them to get to this point felt like a fool’s errand not too long ago and here we are now, so at least there’s hope, and that’s something that, only a couple of years ago, had absolutely no chance of existing.
For fans of: Hands Like Houses, blessthefall, Memphis May Fire
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Everyone Loves You… Once You Leave Them’ by The Amity Affliction is out now on Pure Noise Records.