March 15, 2008

CD Review: Farewell to Freeways - Definitions

If someone asked me what the next album I was reviewing was going to be and I answered: "The new one from Farewell to Freeways." I am sure I would probably receive more than a few puzzled expressions. For one, it is highly unlikely that they would have heard of them; and for second, the band name does not sound like something a metal guy like me would be listening to. Seriously, it sounds like another non-descript screamo/emo act that would be sure to boil my blood. Don't get me wrong, I don't have anything against those genres, personally, I just find the style to grate on my tastes; although, there are exceptions to every rule and feeling. The thought of another screamo/emo act was what was in my head when I pressed play. With great trepidation I put on the headphones for what was surely going to be an uphill battle. To my surprise, it was not one "those" acts, but rather it is more in line with the metalcore genre.

The album is filled with muscular riffs, melodic harmonies, and is very catchy. This quintet from Ontario, Canada, plays the line between complete heaviness and accessible melody. In my opinion, it is a line that they play very well, complete with the tools that could push them in either direction. It is interesting to listen as the two sides of the same band compete with each other, always arriving at the finish neck and neck.

It really is strange listening to a band that plays everything towards the middle, yet still comes across as an intriguing band filled with talent. On one side you have Killswitch Engage-heavy riffs with a healthy dose of growled vocals. On the other side there are keyboard melodies, clean singing in harmony, and much lighter guitar lines. It would seem that for the band to truly succeed one of those two halves would have to give ground. At least that is how the surface seems.

A big fear that I would have when engaging in this combination of similar styles is the possibility of alienating two different audiences when the goal is actually to bring them together. When you listen to them you will hear what I mean. There is always going to be the risk of the heavy side not being heavy enough and the melodic side not being melodic enough for their respective audiences. We all know how fickly audiences can be; one small misstep and you'll be back to the small clubs on the weekends while working at a department store by day. This makes what Farewell to Freeways is accomplishing here all the more special.

Definitions is a very strong debut album that plays up multiple strengths from multiple angles. I was rather surprised by how strong a release it is, especially considering those initial misguided expectations. There is a lot to like here, whichever side your tastes tends toward. In particular, pay attention to tracks "Sound Minds" (the first track is an expectation buster!), "Lemmings," "Definitions," and "Convictions" (a nice, melodic instrumental).

Bottomline. Farewell to Freeways is going to be a band to watch. This album is very strong. They have revealed themselves to be a multifaceted force that is not to be pigeonholed in a single genre. They should play well to a broad spectrum of fans while retaining artistic integrity at each turn. Do yourself a favor and give this a spin.


Track Listing:
1. Sound Minds
2. Bat Wings
3. The Desperate Age
4. Lemmings
5. Speak Your Words
6. Definitions
7. The Glory Days
8. Convictions
9. Risk It All
10. The Awakening
11. What Happens In Viper City, Stays In Viper City


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