Early releases from The Riot Before have had an undeniable feeling that the band was primarily Brett Adams’ project. Although they have a handful of releases under their belt, the band just formed in 2006, and Rebellion shows them still growing beyond Adams’ dominant shouts and the sonic contrasts that define his songwriting. On their latest release there is a discernable fullness that previous efforts lacked.
The primary difference is the guitars, which are mixed at a higher level, thanks to producer J. Robbins. There is less focus on dynamic contrast, letting pure volume set precedent for the band’s urgent message. 2008’s Fists Buried in Pockets relied heavily on slow/fast, loud/quiet dynamics and, on Rebellion, the band continues to mine these differences. “To Live How We Believe” is a clear progression of the style, but the shifts are less stark, with a relentless rhythm section that keeps pummeling while Adams’ guitars and vocals ebb with emotion. Similarly, “The Things We Hate” begins with a few simple strums and crescendos from calm observer status to impassioned rabble-rousing. While the pointed lyrics and Adams’ peculiar emphasis on specific words and phrases will sometimes give a preachy air, the dramatic rising action hits a pinnacle of cathartic frustration and pent-up aggression that overrides the overt tone. A characteristic of Adams’ songwriting is carefully placing emphasis on words and phrases to draw attention, as in the refrain to “Good Sense of Style,” a melodic and forward-moving song where, right when the song appears ready to explode, he drops the exaggerated articulation of “but I still have my cam-er-a” as the music continues to flow smoothly. It’s not enough to interrupt the song, but it’s enough of a hiccup to hammer at his point and give the impression that it’s about the words at least as much as it’s about the music.
At their best moments, The Riot Before is a high-energy political band whose emotion offers an opportunity to drop your beer and shouting your pent-up anger away. Unfortunately, the songwriting throughout Rebellion gets a bit tedious and doesn’t vary enough to maintain its momentum. Rebellion has the band growing their sound, but it’s ultimately a bit too samey.
7.0 / 10
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