Page Avenue it is not...
In the Wake of Determination showcases a grittier, crunchier Story of the Year than 2002's Page Avenue. It's almost their shot at thrash metal. The whole album centers around a theme of rebellion, a "we're pissed off, and we're not going to take it anymore" type mentality. It's a major shift from the subject matter of Page Avenue, which seemed to center more on dealing with personal hardships and growing up. A lot of bands have an angry, anti-institution album. Shit, that was every Rage album. The problem is that it's never made quite clear what exactly SOTY are rebelling against. The whole album seems to lack direction, and it shows in the lyrical content of this collection of fight songs.
It starts off well enough, with their latest single, "We Don't Care Anymore," a call to begin the rebellion. The lyrics aren't all that great, but neither were the lyrics of "Until the Day I Die," the first single on Page Avenue. Somewhat contrived lyrical content is forgivable, so long as it still turns out to be a catchy tune with something to offer. Problem is, the lyrical content never gets any better. I'll bet you can guess the kind of cliched crap held in songs like "Take Me Back," and "Wake Up the Voiceless." The awesome opening riff of "Our Time is Now," is practically ruined by lyrical excrement:
Today will be the day to start rising up and fighting back
And from this moment on we will live our lives
With open hearts and open eyes
That's very inspiring, guys, except that I still don't know what I'm "rising up and fighting back" against. Even the song notes contain trite drivel:
"Take Me Back" Song Notes
Dan : "Lyrically it is about growing up and finding out that ignorance is bliss. Sometimes you wish you could go back and start over."
It doesn't take a degree in musicology from Harvard to figure out what you were trying to express there, guys.
There are a few interesting things going on musically on this album. The guitar work is pretty impressive across the board. Their rhythm guitarist, while not particularly inventive, is damn fast, and he makes use of that repeatedly. The drumming isn't as solid as it was on the first album, which only follows considering the thrash-like feel of most of the album. It doesn't require much skill, just speed. Something that Story of the Year did so well on Page Avenue fails to appear here: making a complex song sound simple. These songs are merely simple. Not a lot of innovation going on here. It's as if, while writing the songs, they all said, "What's the most cliched thing I could do here. Yeah, let's do that."
Wake is garnering praise for being the "real" Story of the Year, apparently because of the change of producers, from John Feldman (Jimmy Eat World) to Steve Evetts (Hatebreed). Page Avenue is a much more lyrically and sonically solid album, if it is a bit "softer." If Wake is what Story of the Year truly is, I don't want any part of it. On the other hand, if you want straightforward, hardcore-inspired songs that don't require any sort of thought to digest, check it out.
Simply put, this latest effort simply falls short.