Artist: Gwen Stacy
Album: A Dialogue
Label: Solid State Records
Release Date: October 20, 2009
Review by: Michael Mayer III
- The First Words
- Profit Motive
- A Dialogue
- Creation and How I See It
- Words of the New Prophet
- Devil Devil
- A Middle Ground
- The Making Of
- The Sound of Letting Go
This is an album I was expecting a lot more from after seeing them live with the new lineup. They were heavy, had a ton of energy, and the songs were a blast to listen to. Of course, at the time I wasn’t up to speed on the lineup changes and didn’t go in expecting much. Geoff, former guitarist/backing vocalist of Once Nothing, is now screaming for Gwen Stacy. Brent is still playing bass and supplying the clean vocals which are pretty strong and effective as a contrast to Geoff’s screaming. The other two members, T.J. (drums) and Patrick (guitar) are still here doing what they do best.
The first three tracks are typical metalcore fare with occasional clean vocals used amidst breakdowns and a flurry of growling and screaming. Nothing really stands out and slaps you upside the head as memorable and that’s a shame. These guys clearly have talent but its piecing it together to create their own unique sound that’s important. The songs that are the strongest have catchy vocal melodies (‘Words of the New Prophet’) or gang chants to go along with crazy riffs.
You can hear glimmers of that in ‘Creation and How I See It’ and the next two tracks. I also like the occasionally random piano or electronic bits (‘Braveheart’) they throw into songs where everything stops and you are left wondering what just happened. These moments serve as the proverbial ‘throw a wrench the works’ of metalcore song structure. The album gets better as it goes on with the second half being the best. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get the ‘I’ll run with you’ or ‘Look to the sky to find your own’ singing parts out of my head in the ‘A Middle Ground’ and ‘The Making Of’ tracks respectively. They are undeniably catchy and likely will be a blast to hear live.
On the surface the lyrics may not seem to be anything you haven’t heard before from a band like this, but there is a common thread that binds them all to match with the album title, A Dialogue. Every song seems to have a conversation going on between two points of view which certainly keeps things interesting. Nothing is ever said upfront on who is talking but when taking things into context you can get an idea of what type of person or being would say these things and a larger picture comes into focus. At the Scream the Prayer ’09 tour, Gwen Stacy cited a few of the other bands selling t-shirts with Jesus on them and how they didn’t believe He is something to be bought or sold. Their stance on not pushing their beliefs on anyone is one that stands out here as the lyrics can have a different meaning to many.
All that aside, I’m always a sucker for strong closing tracks that are nothing like the other material on the album. ‘The Sound of Letting Go’ fits the bill here as the clean vocals are the strongest and I absolutely love the use of piano behind the chaos when it erupts later in the track. Why can’t bands do these types of things more often? We need more trumpets, saxophones, and pianos and less of that techno synth junk. I’m ready for some classical or jazz metalcore as absurd as it sounds. Well, maybe not to that extreme but hybrids could be a good thing if done right. If Gwen Stacy can channel those sounds that make them their own band they have a bright future ahead of them. As the genre inevitably fades away the only bands left standing will be those that progress and evolve with the times.
Overall: I may be disappointed a bit with A Dialogue but it’s still a solid release. Any fan of the metalcore genre should pick this up and add it to their collection even if just for the songs that are unique. Those that are a bit cliche are still done well enough to where I can’t say there’s a horrible track on the album. If you take it for what it is, a transition album from one lineup change to another, you will, at the very least, come away satisfied.
Gems of this album are: ‘Creation and How I See It’, ‘The Sound of Letting Go’, ‘The Making Of’, ‘A Middle Ground’