The Amity Affliction: This Could Be Heartbreak Review – Band goes pop, still sad about life

The Amity Affliction This Could Be Heartbreak album cover
The Amity Affliction This Could Be Heartbreak album cover

The Amity Affliction’s This Could Be Heartbreak was released today, and the album continues the arc that the band started with 2012’s Chasing Ghosts. Amity has been moving closer to pop since that album, and This Could Be Heartbreak takes the band into even further into accessible territory.

There’s still breakdowns to be found here, and frontman Joel Birch’s abrasive screams. However there’s much less focus on heaviness and more on melody and pop hooks. Bassist and clean vocalist Ahren Stringer has been increasingly holding the spotlight over the last few albums, and we hear more of his voice here than ever before. The subject matter is just as heavy as before, as Birch continues to write about his struggles with depression and anxiety.

Dark pop of All Fucked Up shows The Amity Affliction at their finest

Third single All Fucked Up is like nothing we’ve heard from the band before. We barely hear any of Birch, while Stringer carries the song. We hear some beautiful cleans at the lower end of his range, which he criminally under-uses compared to his high-pitched vocals. The instrumentation – primarily acoustic, clean electric guitar and synth – really show how far Amity has moved from metalcore. The band pull it all off though with aplomb. All Fucked Up is the best song on the album and is one of the finest tunes in their discography.

The Amity Affliction get epic with I Bring the Weather With Me

Lead single I Bring the Weather With Me is another beautiful moment on This Could Be Heartbreak.  Despite not having an keyboardist in the band since 2011, the band have pushed the synth arrangements and melodies further to the forefront. Melbourne composer Misstiq provided the arrangements for the latest album. She does an excellent job on I Bring the Weather With Me, which features stately piano lines and evocative synth parts. The song is notable for its stunning melodic guitar solo in the bridge, which was done in a single take by Dan Brown. It sounds like something out of a glam rock record and is the opposite of what you’d expect from The Amity Affliction.

Exit Troy Brady, enter guitar-slinger Dan Brown

The Amity Affliction This Could Be Heartbreak Band shot 2
Guitarist Dan Brown (left) has stepped up for This Could Be Heartbreak.

This is the first album the band have completed without founding lead guitarist Troy Brady. His absence is definitely felt. A big part of the band’s signature sound was based around his riffs and leads. Stringer and relatively recent recruit Brown wrote all the music for the album. Fans of Brown’s former project Confession will recognise his style of guitar playing in a number of the breakdowns on This Could Be Heartbreak. The bruising bridge in Fight My Regret is a good example, and the title even sounds like a Confession song.

The Amity Affliction have bucked the common trend of big name Australian heavy bands recording overseas. Instead they recorded the album primarily at Melbourne studio Holes and Corners. Will Putney flew over from New Jersey to handle production duties for the release. He’s no stranger to the band, having performed production for Let the Ocean Take Me (2014) and mixing duties for Chasing Ghosts (2012).

Putney, like his previous records with the band, puts a pop shine over the album. I’ve never really understood why Amity so consistently overproduce their albums when during their live show, they display a very different, rawer sound. With two number one albums in Australia to their name, their studio sound is clearly working for them. However the high gloss sheen over their recent albums does take some of the groove and excitement out of the listening experience. The songs are so excellent though that it’s hard to stay too sore about the production.

Diverse offerings on This Could Be Heartbreak

Second single This Could Be Heartbreak is a great heavy pop song, although it will probably sound a bit too familiar to those who know the band’s recent albums. Fifth track O.M.G.I.M.Y. opens with some moving vocals from Stringer over a piano figure. A catchy but aggressive guitar lead comes in over the main riff. A lot of the playing on the record has a more major feel to it, which is possibly another sign of the changed line-up. On O.M.G.I.M.Y it absolutely works, as it showcases everything the band is great at: Melody, catchy riffs and massive sing-along chorus.

If you’re keen for a nasty riff-fest, tune into Blood In My Mouth, which is one of the few out-and-out heavy songs on the record. The 5+ minute track still finds plenty of room for emotion and melody though. The album isn’t all killer. There’s some tracks like Nightmare and Note To Self which don’t really stand out from the band’s existing material. After 13 years in the game sometimes Amity does run a little dry on their bag of tricks.

Sonic exploration pays off for post-hardcore vets

The Amity Affliction I Bring the Weather With Me Dan BrownThe Amity Affliction (from left) Dan Brown, Ahren Stringer, Joe Birch and Ryan Burt.

This Could Be Heartbreak is not gonna take the crown off Youngbloods or Let The Ocean Take Me as Amity’s best album. However it is a strong showing from Australia’s finest. A lot of the best moments on the record come when the band are willing to stray from their established sound and bring in new elements. All Fucked Up, which is the best example of this, is a killer track and I have been spamming the repeat on that one all week. The album is perhaps a little too reliant on the singles to carry it. That doesn’t stop it from being an excellent listen though, and it’ll stay firmly on my playlist for a while yet.

On Friday The Amity Affliction kick off a sold out Australian tour, although they’ve recently added some more dates. They have a big run of North American show throughout September and October, followed by a European tour starting in late November. See the dates on their site here.

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