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CD Review
Story of the Year- In the Wake of Determination
by Arya Chowdhury
Staff Writer

  You can't fault Story of the Year singer Dan Marsala for mincing words when he says that the group's multi-platinum debut "Page Avenue" sounded like a lot of albums that were out at the time. However, when he promises that the band's latest offering "In the Wake of Determination" will be decidedly heavier and more representative of the band's live sound, some red flags go up. Metallica's similar promise for their "St. Anger" release serves as the archetypal cautionary tale of when bands attempt to go heavier to the detriment of the songwriting. Indeed, akin to the "St. Anger" sessions, Story of the Year holed themselves up in a practice space/studio recording the album live and with a more aggressive, less polished approach.

  There is definitely a more live feel to the performances, and the guitars have definitely have been cranked a little more in the mix. Indeed, some songs such as "Our Time is Now" do show the Pantera influence they have stated in interviews, with some rather catchy riffs and energy. In fact, tonally and musically, "'Is This My Fate', He Asked Them" seems very reminiscent of "Master of Puppets"-era Metallica. Dan's voice definitely sounds more weathered in these cuts in sharp contrast to the previous album's poppier sheen.

  So did the experiment work? Well, yes and no. Despite the volume boost and additional screaming, this album really does not break any new ground. It still sounds like other albums that were released around the time of "Page Avenue", most notably the Used and Thursday, but perhaps with more riffs thrown in. For instance, the song "Sleep" and "A Silent Murder" (the requisite hidden track) are thrown to satisfy those wanting the pop ballads.

  The song "Stereo", while railing against radio stations playing formulaic music with lyrics such as "We've been taught to love this robotic formula built to please ignorant minds, uncultured masses.", does not musically distance itself from such formulae, having a chorus radio stations would love to play to death.

  If you loved "Page Avenue" or the Used/Taking Back Sunday/Thursday, then this album may be for you. Otherwise, I'd treat this album as a guilty pleasure, because the lyrics, while not having much depth or subtlety, are suited for shouting out live, and the guitar riffs are fun. The pop formulae are still there, but it seems that this CD could be a gateway for some listeners to check out the heavier bands which inspired the writing of the material. It shall be interesting to hear their next album, as Pantera similarly started off rather poppy themselves and became progressively heavier with each release. For now, "In the Wake of Determination" will serve as a slightly harder successor to the group's poppier past.
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