Sum 41- ‘Order In Decline’ (Album Review)
Sum 41 are one of the most recognisable punk-related rock bands of all time. Their back story is famously riddled with everything from near-death experiences in war-torn countries to a certain uncomfortably public divorce, not to mention frontman Deryck Whibley’s descent into alcoholism. Never content to rest on their laurels and endlessly repeat the same formula, Sum 41 made sure that their sound and style evolved over the years, in line with their own experiences.
Change is the only constant in life, for better or worse, and it’s great to see Sum 41 on the up once more. 2016’s LP 13 Voices peaked inside the UK Top 20, sold over 150,000 copies across Europe, and was quickly followed by a traditionally extensive touring schedule. It also officially marked the return of Dave “Brownsound” Baksh, was crowdfunded successfully through PledgeMusic, and wound up being released on infamous indie label Hopeless Records.
All in all, it was a solid comeback – and now we’re about to watch Order In Decline drop into the global rock scene like a barrel of explosives. Sum 41 have always defined themselves as a “rock band”, railing against any punk-related label while integrating everything from hip-hop to metal and alt-rock into a signature sound defined by impactful performances and Whibley’s unmistakable vocals. Since releasing the thrash-heavy Chuck and adjusting to Baksh’s departure, Sum 41’s music has become somewhat less intense, but that’s all about to change once again.
After 13 Voices’ expansive arena-rock, Order In Decline feels like a natural progression, another firm step into a well-deserved, hard-earned, and positive future. Sum 41’s last record contained some sick shredding and serious riffage, and both of the above are quickly unleashed as “Turning Away” and “Out For Blood” open the floodgates. The latter track sees Baksh summon the spirit of Dragonforce’s Herman Li and Sam Totman with a ridiculously OTT (and awesome) solo, before Sum 41 dig deep for one of the heaviest outro riffs they’ve come up with yet.
Another surprising influence-on-sleeve moment lies just around the corner. It’s hard to imagine Sum 41 throwing on some Muse while crossing continents in their tour bus, but they nail the British legends’ idiosyncratic vibe on “The New Sensation” before throwing in some full-on screams that Matt Bellamy would struggle to push through. “Death In The Family” blends aggressive thrash with hardcore skate-punk, a crystal-clear chorus, and another chaotic solo spot; “Heads Will Roll” kicks into a classic old-school riff, bouncing through almost four minutes of brilliant rock ‘n’ roll with a sprinkling of Muse-like lead work toward the end; “45 (A Matter Of Time)” excoriates Donald Trump while continuing to draw on Muse’s triplet-powered sense of the epic; and “Never There” retreats to the other end of the intensity spectrum, at least in terms of distortion and pick attacks. Directed at Whibley’s father, an absentee for the vocalist’s entire life, it’s a classic bit of well-crafted rock balladry, a song built for massive crowds to sing along to at the top of their lungs, and one of this album’s most obvious highlights.
Yet more Muse-like riffs and chord progressions fill “Eat You Alive”; “The People Vs…” chugs and thrashes while Sum 41 keep things masterfully tight; and closer “Catch Fire” proves slightly divisive. On one hand, it’s a song about mental health issues, losses, and near-misses that have punctuated Deryck Whibley’s life, as well as a love song about his wife – but it’s also the only time on this album that Sum 41 resort to a long line of lyrical and structural clichés. Ending things with a standard-issue whoa-oh section that brings 30 Seconds To Mars to mind feels awkward after so many forward-thinking songs, but originality doesn’t seem to be the point at that point. In any case, Sum 41 have once again proven themselves capable of transcending the troubles that life has thrown at them over the past 23 years, and long may they continue to keep the dream alive.
LTK RATING: 9/10 (Essential Listening!)
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