For Fans Of
I’ve despised Falling In Reverse since their inception.
Their debut album ‘The Drug In Me Is You’ and it’s follow-up, ‘Fashionably Late’, were and still are nothing more than hot, generic, pop-metal trash that benefited greatly from solid marketing and “Team Radke” Internet hype. As for 2015’s ‘Just Like You’, it wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t great either, and I still stand by my old review of that mediocre release. In fact, the only record to feature Ronnie Radke that I’ve actually enjoyed was Escape The Fate’s damn solid debut, ‘Dying Is Your Latest Fashion’. (Even though ‘Situations’ is a god-awful song.) Then there are the many questionable things that Radke has done and been involved with over the years. Of which there is no real shortage of bullshit or controversy to find – from band beef to injuring his own fans, a hefty rape accusation that saw no actual evidence come to light and even saw Radke even suing his accuser, to a battery charge from an ex-girlfriend in which the singer pleaded no contest – meaning he admitted the facts but not his own guilt. And that’s just the most notable, public shit too!
But in separating the art from the artist (a subject I’m going to talk more about in an upcoming review hint hint), Falling In Reverse’s fourth album ‘Coming Home’ drops next week and strangle me while I cum, I actually like it! No, seriously, it’s a pretty solid album all up, and this is coming from a guy who could not have given an ounce of a shit about Falling In Reverse previously.
Now, full disclosure, I came into ‘Coming Home‘ expecting to hate it. While I try to approach everything with an open mind, their previous releases had tainted my predisposed expectations for anything new this band would since churn out. But the album’s pre-release singles really peaked my interest and when all was said and done with these 11 songs, I immediately went for another run through of ‘Coming Home‘. Before I knew it, I’d listened to the album nearly ten bloody times!
But why would I, someone who has been so vehemently against this band in the past, suddenly shift opinions and be rather invested in their latest work? Well, friends, because; A) I’m adult enough to admit when I like something; B) this is a good album; and C) this is the most consistent Falling In Reverse record in terms of musical tone, songwriting, execution, and overarching theme. ‘Coming Home‘ also contains, for me, the band’s best material yet.
Granted, that still doesn’t put it anywhere near close to being on any album of the year shortlist, and while it’s not an ‘amazing’ nor ‘revolutionary’ release, it’s a major fucking improvement nonetheless.
Radke previously told Alternative Press that the then unannounced ‘Coming Home‘ would be “a huge left turn” and that “There’s more feeling in it.” Radke was correct in those statements as there’s indeed more “feeling” present here than ever before and it’s a “huge left turn” for them because this isn’t complete and utter shit. In that same interview, he continued, saying “We’re challenging ourselves now more than we ever have in the weirdest ways possible because you would think writing the craziest solo or riffs would be the challenging part. But the challenging part is trying to stick to a theme and not go all over the place like we would normally do.” Again, the singer that you hate to love or love to hate is correct once more – this still sounds like Falling In Reverse ultimately, it’s just better now.
For on ‘Coming Home‘, the band have remained steadfast towards a more serious, honest, and moodier sound than what they’ve been known for previously. Long gone are Falling In Reverse’s attempts at corny, sickening pop hits. Painful tongue in cheek songs like ‘Good Girls Bad Guys‘, ‘Bad Girls Club‘ and ‘I’m Not A Vampire‘ are thankfully absent in favour of far more straight-faced songs, and even when the seriousness takes the occasional back seat, the impact and flow is still a big step up. The generic metalcore sound of songs like ‘Guillotine IV (The Final Chapter)‘ is nowhere to be found (with only two brief heavy found moments across the full record – the end of ‘Straight To Hell‘ and the mid-section of ‘I Don’t Mind‘.) Oh, and the cringe-worthy rapping of a track like ‘Alone‘ is all a distant memory now. Instead, it’s truly infectious, monolithic stadium-rock songs built on consistent songwriting, stronger chorus melodies, slick production backing honest performances that reign supreme here.
The first three songs – the anthemic title track, ‘Broken’ and the implied self-hating ‘Loser’ – are fine examples of this solid new precedent being set. The dynamic ups and downs and emotionally tinged tone of these three massive tunes start off ‘Coming Home’ in superb fashion, and it’s these tracks that got the hooks right into me. For the first time ever regarding Falling In Reverse. Yet all of that excitement was almost stripped away with the opening guitar riff and lyric of “this will be the last song I ever sang/about a person that I’d rather not name” that kicks off the angsty ‘Fuck You And All Your Friends’. At first, I lamented that this was going to kill the powerful tone and momentum that that first trio established by trying to be too edgy. And while it is an edgy teen-anthem song overall, when that unbelievably catchy chorus hit, it truly saved this song from entering the depths of their previous offences.
I mean, fucking wow, that may just be one of my favourite choruses of 2017!
The slower, dynamically restrained and acoustically inclined ballad of ‘I Hate Everyone’ worked well and didn’t feel shoehorned in, even though it very well could have turned out that way. The surprisingly honest and self-deprecating nature of ‘I’m Bad At Life’ is more intimate than anything they’ve done before, with the exception of ‘Brother’. ‘Hanging On’ channels some quite prominent Brand New vibes in its verses and has easily the best bridge section of the entire record, and it’s a song like ‘Hanging On‘ that shows their skilful knack for writing songs that will translate terrifically live.
Seriously, this record rivals 30 Seconds To Mars’ epic opus ‘This Is War’ in terms of grand sing-along sections and layers of gang vocals that give the songs a real sense of space, energy and life.
However, it’s when ‘Superhero’ and ‘Straight To Hell’ enter that things start to get very repetitive, and the lack of overall variation starts to show. Predictability really creeps into the song tempos, the structures, the delivery, and the instrumentation from the starting track up to these two songs, as the band finds a certain pacing and execution to adhere to very closely. Of course, I don’t ever expect a band such as Falling In Reverse to completely change genres, musically challenge too much much nor throw out too many curveballs, but as Radke stated in that AP interview, they’ve stuck to one tone and sound here. And in that regard, they’ve definitely succeeded. (Besides, a repetitive sound like this record is the best kind of repetition you could hope for, really.)
Thankfully, the final two songs don’t fall into the above issue and become the most memorable songs of the lot. The sombre, second-to-last slow burner of the dynamic ‘I Don’t Mind’ hits the album’s darkest moments musically and lyrically. Then the airy vocal sample, driving bass line and drum shuffle beat that announces ‘The Departure’ provides a solid foundation for how the song swirls and building its choruses vocal and guitar layers up and up until the climax hits, of which a fade out then concludes the album. Now, normally, I’m against fade outs as they’re typically lazy implementations, but this last chorus fade out loops back around to the fade in vocals of the opening title track, so while it may be lazy, I can appreciate the album’s structural integrity of using such a convention.
Though, some caveats I have, apart from the aforementioned repetition and that final track fade out that I can both let slide somewhat, are the album’s two deluxe edition/digital bonus tracks, ‘Right Now’ and ‘Paparazzi’. This pair is about the “media spin”, the self-consumed nature of social media these days, how Radke is “a bad boy for the tabloids”, fame, and how we all need to get a life, etcetera. Now, sure, these two aren’t on the standard album track listing, but with being sent a digital stream of this record, I was just unlucky enough to have this duo invade my ear canals. These two songs recall the sound and approach of older songs like ‘Just Like You’ (read: shite), with all of those pop-hooks in all the typical places. They both just feel like worse B-sides from the ‘Just Like You‘ album.
Some will argue that I’m being petty here (and yeah, I am), but knowing that ‘Right Now’ and ‘Paparazzi’ exist in tandem with this album – as a product, in general – sours me on this record a bit. But thankfully, they’re not full deal-breakers. After all, this is what the standard version of albums and custom playlists on Spotify or your phones are for.
As for their musicianship, Radke has got some serious pipes on him as per usual. There’s also some real grit, human edge and even some actual conviction to Radke’s voice and funnily enough, he barely screams here, unlike their past releases. His vocal output remains high, what with his shifting timbres, well-used pitchy moments, the actual vocal delivery, and the little inflections and bends he pulls out on ‘Hanging On’, ‘Loser’, ‘Straight To Hell’, and ‘Broken’. This record really shows Radke at the top of his vocal game, proving that he doesn’t have to rap or scream to get the job done.
Talking about this band’s other members for a change, Ryan Seaman’s drumming is tight and solid but never imaginative or overly complex, yet I’d argue it still works within the context of these songs as he’s playing for them, rather than against them. Bassist Zakk Sandler has some seriously chest-churning low end going on here and matched with the cinematic synths used on a handful of these tracks, it’s heavy stuff. Also, the absence of guitarist Jacky Vincent isn’t all that noticeable here, as the guitar work from Derek Jones and Christian Thompson on ‘Fuck You And All Your Friends‘, ‘I Don’t Mind‘ and ‘Straight To Hell‘ provide the solid tone, tasty solos and soaring lead work that their prior peer would have once dished out.
Now, regarding the lyrics… well, look at it this way: if Emmure loudmouth Frankie Palmeri can grow up somewhat and look inward about his past mistakes and flaws on their latest record then surely Radke can too, yes? Yeah, he sure can!
‘Coming Home‘ as a full body of work shows occasional glimpses of that personal introspection and maturity throughout its 45-minute run time. Even though the lyrics at times merely fit into the angsty teen realm (which works well, admittedly) and can be really damn cliché at times, such as “We are broken/Hoping for a change of heart/We are the chosen/Praying for a shooting star” from ‘Broken‘. Yet there’s a real sense of self-awareness to the lyrics here, namely on ‘I’m Bad At Life‘, ‘Right Now‘ and ‘Paparazzi‘ (*shudders*). But it’s the penultimate ‘I Don’t Mind‘ that gives you the full brunt of this introspection. As lines like “Who am I to cast a stone with a dollar I’ll never see?/And honestly, this honesty is getting way too hard to sing/I’d trade it all, I’d give it all back to be a decent human being” and “So drag me through the mud again and crucify my name/laugh at me right through your screen how I should be ashamed” sticking out as being the most telling, prominent lyrics of ‘Coming Home‘.
Of course, the big million dollar question here is if any of this is actually genuine? And that’s really hard to answer.
I can only speculate that the well-documented stories and controversies that have surrounded Radke and his seemingly shitty karma would definitely supply the crux and inspiration for this record’s direction and tone. Of course, this album could just be the band simply wanting to try their hand at a far more consistent theme and doing something a little differently, meaning this record’s sound and impact could all be undone by the next album. Who knows! But in the sole context of ‘Coming Home‘ and by taking it at face value – yes. Yes, this album feels genuine for the band and even though Radke may forever be this cheeky, contentious, controversy-prone bugger, I cannot ignore my fondness for ‘Coming Home‘.
So, if you’re a fan, then duh – you’ll fuckin’ love this record. But if you’re like me, and you have loathed this band’s output for the longest time, I still implore you to check it out. Because it’s actually quite good!
Back in 2015, I saw Falling In Reverse perform at the Melbourne Soundwave. I watched their full set and was just waiting for Radke to say or do something stupid. But he didn’t. The singer and his bandmates played their set very well, played all the big singles, and were actually a very tight live band. (My brother will attest to this fact to no fucking end.) In that moment, watching their set from amongst the many adoring fans that had gathered, I thought about how much I would’ve loved having a Falling In Reverse album I could really sit down and enjoy. Honestly, I never thought I’d see that day come. But low and bloody behold, here we are with ‘Coming Home’, a truly fine record from a band that I had once written off completely. (Though, going higher than a 70 would be pushing it I feel.)
Does my liking of this new release alter my opinion on this band’s career, Radke as a person and their previous three albums? Nope, no way and fuck no! (Those first three albums are still mediocre garbage that should’ve become irrelevant when MySpace died.) But look, no matter what side of the fence you stand on towards Falling In Reverse or their singer as an individual, take this reviews praise from someone who loathes this band as simply pure, objective fact that ‘Coming Home’ is a good album.
1. Coming Home
4. Fuck You And All Your Friends
5. I Hate Everyone
6. I’m A Bad At Life
7. Hanging On
9. Straight To Hell
10. I Don’t Mind
11. The Departure
12. Right Now (Bonus track – it’s shite)
13. Paparazzi (Bonus track – it’s also shite)
‘Coming Home’ is out April 7th via Epitaph Records.
Me liking the new Falling In Reverse record? This is the strangest birthday present I’ve ever received. Also, with the album cover, did that remind anyone else of Crown The Empire’s ‘Hologram’ music video or was it just me?