Nick's Picks: Round 3Posted 06/17/2009 02:22PM by Nicholas Fritz as Nick's Picks
Welcome to the third round of Nick’s Picks.
Every few weeks I’ll be choosing a music-related topic and compiling a top-ten list for that category. Since I haven’t heard every song by every band ever, this is not a “best of” list so please keep that in mind while reading it. These articles are meant to be fun and incite discussion, so feel free to add your own lists in the comments section, as well as any other topics you’d like to see covered in the feature.
Sophomore slumps will be discussed this time around. These albums are all too common in the music world, most often stemming from a hugely successful debut album that is hard to live up to on the second effort. Some of the albums on this list are technically a band’s third or maybe even fourth release, but I omitted EPs and just focused on full lengths for the purposes of this article. Enjoy!
10.) A Static Lullaby
Album: Faso Latido
Don’t Forget to Breathe is a classic release and an awesome debut from A Static Lullaby. The album caught the attention of Sony, who then signed the band and eventually ruined their sound – at least for one album. The band clearly had dollar signs in their eyes when making Faso Latido and their fans reacted very negatively towards it. Fortunately, A Static Lullaby realized their mistake and has been releasing solid albums ever since.
9.) It Dies Today
Although it wasn’t as heavy as It Dies Today’s first EP, The Caitiff Choir was an impressive debut full length for the band. However, the prevalent singing on the album hinted at the possibility of a sophomore slump for their second full length, and Sirens fit the bill exactly. It Dies Today further dumbed down their sound to increase their mainstream appeal, which resulted in a downright boring album with only a few enjoyable songs.
8.) From Autumn to Ashes
Album: The Fiction We Live
From Autumn to Ashes was once a respectable band, with an intense live show and raw, emotional metalcore jams as seen on their demo EP. The band lost a bit of its edge after signing to Ferret, but still managed to put out a decent album with Too Bad You’re Beautiful. At the time, it was one of Ferret’s best selling albums and propelled the band into the spotlight, and a record deal with Vagrant Records. The band’s second effort was ultimately disappointing, though, but not surprising to those following their career. The music was more melodic and more focused on singing and structure, but From Autumn to Ashes didn’t seem equipped to pull off the more mainstream sound. The band never really recovered since this album and has fortunately broken up.
7.) He is Legend
Album: I Am Hollywood
He is Legend was on to something with 91025, their first full length. The band successfully mixed rock and metal in a refreshing way that made me excited for their follow-up release. Although I Am Hollywood is widely regarded to be a high quality album, I just couldn’t get into it. The band gave up many of the unique qualities they possessed on 91025 and went for more of a straight-up rock sound that didn’t seem to suit them.
6.) Norma Jean
Album: O God, The Aftermath
I thoroughly enjoyed Norma Jean’s debut, mainly because of Josh Scogin’s vocals, so when I heard he left the band, I was disappointed to say the least. Unfortunately, my concerns were merited after hearing the band’s sophomore release. Norma Jean gave up their more chaotic moments for blatant ripoffs of Botch songs, which they couldn’t pull off effectively. Add to that Cory Brandan Putnam’s weak vocals, and the whole album felt like a mess.
5.) Shai Hulud
Album: That Within Blood Ill Tempered
With a span of about six years between Hearts Once Nourished with Hope and Compassion and That Within Blood Ill Tempered, to say the band’s sophomore release was highly anticipated would be a gross understatement. It felt like Shai Hulud would never release this album but when they did, it didn’t seem worth the wait. That Within Blood Ill Tempered lacked the passion and raw feel of its predecessor, and the writing sounded forced.
4.) The Bled
Album: Found in the Flood
The Bled achieved great success with Pass the Flask, earning them a record deal with Vagrant records. For their second effort, the band experimented more with singing and focused less on the breakdowns, and it ended up being to their detriment. The music was drawn out and bland, while Munoz’s vocals did not seem ready for the responsibility of more singing. The Bled made up for it on their third album, though, Silent Treatment, which sounds like the album they were trying to make with Found in the Flood.
3.) Eighteen Visions
There were many mixed feelings surrounding Vanity after its release; most people either loved it or hated it. I was in the “hated it” category because James Hart’s vocals sounded like he had his balls cut off since Until the Ink Runs Out. His deep, brutal screams from their debut were replaced by high, whiny yells on Vanity, and it was too much for me to handle.
2.) Taking Back Sunday
Album: Where You Want to Be
I felt like I should have liked this album but I just couldn’t get into it. Even to this day, I can’t remember a single song from it, and I did listen to it quite a bit after its release – in denial that it wasn’t as good as the band’s previous release. This album lacked the passion and intensity that made Tell All Your Friends so great, and didn’t show any real progression from the band.
1.) Poison the Well
Album: Tear From the Red
Poison the Well had much to live up to after the 1999 release of The Opposite of December. Their Trustkill debut become the standard on how to effectively mix aggression with melody and helped them reach superstar status in the hardcore scene. Tear From the Red followed three years later and was widely considered a huge disappointment, with boring and unmemorable songs and abundant over production. Songs like “Botchla” and “Sticks and Stones Never Made Sense” were solid songs, though, but became overshadowed by the lesser quality tracks. I revisit this album from time to time and it has grown on me; however, it doesn’t compare to their earlier or later works.
I just want to close by saying that even though I labeled these albums as “sophomore slumps,” I still feel many of them are solid albums, especially when compared to other releases around that same time period. In many of these cases, a band went from releasing an outstanding album to releasing a good album so they still deserve positive recognition.