Four Year Strong is Four Years Late with "Go Down in History"
“So before you mess it all up, make sure like hell you don’t.” It pains me to start this review by casting some shade, but Four Year Strong did nothing but ‘mess it all up’ prior to the release of their latest EP, Down in History. After establishing a devoted fan base with the release of their two major LPs, Rise or Die Trying in 2007 and Enemy of the World in 2010, FYS struck out with their latest LP In Some Way, Shape, or Form.
Throughout Rise or Die Trying and Enemy of the World, FYS cultivated a unique sound coupling catchy choruses with hard hitting breakdowns that created a rowdy live experience. Unfortunately, with the release of In Some Way, Shape, or Form, the band abandoned their previous successes and experimented with a different direction that created a schism among their fans.
Luckily, after a three year break and a record label switch, FYS has found their groove once again with Down in History. Personally, I thought the band was going to fizzle out during the three year break, but I’m surprised and impressed that they were able to recover.
The first track on the album, “What’s In the Box” commences with a double-bass loaded entrance before bearded badasses Alan Day and Dan O’Connor take the helm with their aggressive vocals. FYS’s lyrics have always been motivational and intense; however, lyrics like “When the push comes to shove/I’ll shove it down your throat/So before you mess it all up/Make sure like hell you don’t” take it to a whole new level. This track definitely sets the overall tone of the album and asserts that FYS has hit their stride once again.
Nothing during the first half of “Living Proof of a Stubborn Youth” really captured my attention because it sounded eerily similar to the first track on the EP. However, during the second half of the song, my attention was roped in by the intense progression to close out the song. Beginning with only simple vocals and a mundane guitar riff then building to a full-band onslaught of blasting drum beats, intricate guitar work, and angst, the ending of the song keeps me on the edge of my seat.
The third song on the EP, “Tread Lightly”, was undoubtedly written to get the crowd moving. To clarify, I’m not talking about tweens jumping around to Paramore; I’m talking about bodies colliding with one another as O’Connor shouts “let’s open up this pit” and then immediately dives into the fast-paced intro. The ‘softer’ parts of the song juxtapose the overall heavy feel to the song and preface the breakdowns that sustain the listener’s interest in the song.
“Go Down in History”, hands down, is the most memorable and well-developed song on the album. Unlike the other songs, which are geared toward the punk end of the pop-punk spectrum, this song sounds much more pop-ish. It’s hard to tell for sure, but I’m pretty sure O’Connor, Day, and Weiss all contribute to the vocals on this track. It’s evident that the song strives to get the crowd jumping and singing along. It would be a perfect opener or even closer for their performances. Whenever the chorus rolls around, I find myself swinging my hands above my head and singing along.
“So You’re Saying There’s a Chance…”, for the most part, strikes me as rather redundant and lackluster. However, the middle of the song features an intense breakdown that I’m pretty sure could get a retirement home moving even a little.
Interestingly, according to Billboard, the songs on the EP were written completely on the spot during jam sessions. And—as if it’s not evident already based on the catchy choruses and fierce breakdowns littered throughout the EP—in an interview with Billboard (which can be found here along with a stream of the EP), O’Connor commented that these songs were tailored for a live audience. As a whole, this album served as a great return to form for Four Year Strong and makes me excited for their future album releases.