Canadian Hardcore Punk act Obey The Brave have returned with their fourth studio record “Balance”. Having parted ways with Epitaph Records after their 2017 offering “Mad Season”, the Montreal Canada natives have dropped to a quartet and officially only list vocalist Alex Erian (also of Despised Icon), drummer Stevie Morrotti and guitarist Terrance McAuley in their team with bassist Corey Wilson and guitarist John Campbell (formerly of Blind Witness) listed as having departed this year. Upon reflection, we gave “Mad Season” a 4/10 score which was pretty harsh. That being said, having seen them live twice since in support slots, we can say that those songs work better in the live arena.
If you were expecting a return to the bands 2012 “Young Blood” sound then you’d probably better quit reading at this point. “No Apologies” kicks off the album with a track that is probably about as close as you’re going to get at this point, Obey The Brave essentially having transcends their original Hardcore Meets Metalcore to a more Hardcore Meets Hardcore Punk sound a fair while ago. The opening track has Alex Erian offering more on the unclean side with plenty of bark and bite but keeps the catchy chorus element that has divided opinion over the last album cycle. Guitars wise, it’s a solid enough tune to get things going with plenty of classic Hardcore moments and also has a money well spent music video. Second tune in and “Die Young” takes something of a left turn. Erian offers a spoken word rap of sorts over some Hardcore punk guitars and then the big chorus with the whoas appears and it’s over the top and unnecessary. As with “Mad Season” there is more than a bit of A Day To Remember in that sound and the issue is that while the verses have a satisfying crunch, the chorus lacks edge or any form of differentiator. The cough into life of an engine and dive straight into an opening breakdown of “Cold Summer” is a excellent opportunity that injects fresh life into the album as Erian seemingly tells the tale of the label split with Epitaph Records and the decision to go the self release route with all the doubts and questions around what to do to go forward. That being said, there is plenty of use of good writing so it’s metaphor usage keeps a veil on it. Again, the chorus is something of an issue but avoids the pitfall of the previous track by keeping it shorter.
“Reality Check” has plenty of that Hardcore bounce in the riffage and a solid rap scream that will have DespisedIcon fans looking up. It’s slower breakdown section is highlighted by a familiar version of a riff that you’ll have heard before while a “Bleigh!” is probably the last thing you’d expect on a Obey The Brave track in 2019. Another tune seemingly about that label split, it slips that catchy chorus element completely and instead goes old school OTP as a sort of nostalgic throwback. Also throwing back, this time to 2000 era Metalcore for its introduction is “Smoke Signals”. There are times in the tune where you might think you’re listening to something like Blessthefall. There are a couple of interesting bridges of bassline heavy Hardcore Punk guitars and a very melodic chorus that has some surprisingly improved cleans but it’s the heavier breakdown section with accompanying rap scream that makes it. It’s such an unexpected part of an otherwise energetic but average and overplayed sound that it grows on you with repeated listens. A song about living on borrowed time “The Tide” is one about the struggles of life and needing to hustle to survive when it all comes crashing down, carrying the weight of the World on one’s shoulders. Again the cleans in the chorus are improved and as a Melodic Metalcore track it works really well.
Having gone down their native Canadian French tongue with a few tracks previously, it’s no surprise to find OTP doing it again with “Calme Le Jey” or “Quiet The Game”. A song that features all the hallmarks of the albums musical stylings, it’s a solid track that lyrically works better in their mother tongue than it would in English. The final single to get the music video treatment prior to the albums appearance was “Seeing Red” and it seems with this cut that the band have fully established their new sound and grown in confidence to make the best of it. Terrance McAuley’s guitar work is among the best on the album and the vocal balance between the verse and chorus is a marked improvement over some of the previous album and earlier cuts here. Closing on the title track “Balance” is a real fun note. The A Day To Remember chorus is in place and sounds like it may have been multilayered but the blistering pace with probably the finest kit performance from Stevie Morrotti on the album makes it work. Overall, there are a couple of points where the album falls flat, most notably earlier on, but for the most part, it’s a marked improvement on the bands previous album, showcasing some honed skills in the sound and it’s one that will grow on you while having enough to keep you coming back to it for that [6/10]