This may sound hard to believe, but there is very little fun in writing a bad review of a record, not least because there’s often a real feeling that you are ripping apart a group of people who have invested time, energy and money into making a product that just isn’t to your taste. However, in the case of Dead by April, there’s no such feeling. This is the most saccharine-coated, over-hyped, commercially-calculated CD I’ve heard in some time.
Kicking off with ‘Trapped’, the first 30 seconds hints at a good record, with its heavy guitar riff and stuttering electronics, but then the singing starts. To put it quite honestly, the singer has no idea what band he’s in; occasionally slipping into ‘In Flames’ mode (like the impressive first minute of track 2), vocalist Jimmy Strimmel spends most of his time attempting to emulate the pop vocals of countless boy-bands from Busted to Westlife. The result is frankly appalling, with the screaming coming across as a token bone thrown to metallers, whom this band clearly believe are too stupid to realise when they’re being conned. Sadly, the loudest sound on this record is the sound of record execs laughing to the dull thud of cash registers. Referencing every lame, clichéd nu-metal mess of the last ten years, we get Evanescence (‘Losing you’ with its piano opening), Linkin Park (pretty much the whole damned album) and BFMV (‘What can I say’) all intercut with the worst excesses of recent pop music, this CD comes across as a thoroughly cynical marketing attempt form a group of individuals hopelessly out of touch with the metal scene.
Chief songwriter Pontus Hjelm stated that this is “the most brutal parts from the metal scene mixed with the poppiest parts from the pop scene” in the press release – which should have set the alarm bells ringing, but in truth he’s wrong on both counts. Pop music, particularly modern pop, is indeed disposable nonsense, but as far as DBA are concerned, pop music means applying dated vocal effects and singing plaintively, whereas even the Sugar Babes realised that the odd memorable hook is important. As for ‘the most brutal parts of metal’, that may only be true if you hold the belief that Linkin Park are the heaviest band ever to hit the stage.
Of course no album is wholly negative; the music is frighteningly well produced and the package is competently put together, but in the end, this is music for the shopping mall or the bedroom of your fourteen year old sister. If it has a benefit, it is that it might encourage younger people to check out better international rock bands, but ultimately you can’t overlook the fact that this is soulless, dull, unmemorable claptrap from young men who have hit on the type of winning formula that is as short-lived as it is risible. When you consider the amount of high quality music that is available in almost every genre, it is a tragedy that bands such as this somehow rise to the top, no matter how briefly. DBA neither need, nor deserve your time and money. Avoid.
Dead By April – Self titled (Spinefarm, August 3rd 2009)