When your top comparisons include the names Switchfoot, Hawk Nelson, Family Force 5, and Flyleaf, it isnt likely that you are going to receive any love from mainstream press, or anyone outside of your loyal fan base for that matter. However, on its sophomore release, Monster Monster, The Almost has crafted a record that, while entirely forgettable, is fairly accessible, and a fun listen, too.
Underoath drummer Aaron Gillespie started the outfit in 2005, recording all of the instrumentation himself for the group’s 2007 debut, Southern Weather. This time around, however, the album was a collaborative effort, put together in Nashville, TN by the whole band, and it clearly helped. Monster Monster is a more polished sound that is one part Taking Back Sunday, one part The Used, and one part ear-friendly alternative rock in the form of acoustic Stone Temple Pilots and/or the Foo Fighters.
The album does have a cohesive theme of sorts, though it falls well short of what one would consider a concept album (not that thats a bad thing; who needs another lame concept album?). Gillespie penned these tunes around the theme of overcoming the monsters in ones personal life and the tunes prosper from the positive vibes. Opener Monster Monster is a full-out rock track that welcomes you to the theme like a cry for help, or perhaps one for assistance, and Gillespie yells out, What’s the use in going this alone?/It’s you and me/Let’s get out of this place.
While the album doesnt really have what would be considered a stand-out track, it still holds up well as a whole. One thing to note is how these songs tend to surprise you. No I Dont begins with a raw acoustic sound that quickly transforms into an almost-country rocker, while Hands sounds like a Cobra Starship track before quickly transforming into a well-produced song, containing an array of elements that never bury any of the other pieces. Handclaps, piano, electric and acoustic guitar, and some varied percussion all combine to make this one highlight of the album.
With that said, the slower tracks of this album really shine bright. Summer Summer is a dense tune with many layers, including an orchestral arrangement that allows for an epic feel without going entirely over the top. Hand Grenade pulls out Gillespie’s country influences, twangy guitars and all. He’s slightly whinier on this slower track, but lyrically, the song is your general girl pleaser (If you’re an ocean then I wanna jump right in/If you’re a hand grenade then I’ll pull the pin).
With a great deal of diversity on this album, as well as the immense fan boy backing of Underoath, The Almost will certainly gain a number of fans from this album. Whether they decide to stick with the Americana styles in the future will probably depend a great deal on what band members stick around in the side-project. Everyone shows some promise here, though, and that’s hardly something that can be said of their other respected acts.