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Courtesy of Rise Records

Attack Attack! have had their fair share of criticism from the hardcore music community. Back with their first release in 2008, “Someday Came Suddenly,” haters came out of the woodwork to make fun of their stage antics, dubbing their style of music (hardcore infused with electronic melodies and heavily auto-tuned vocals) “crabcore.” Search that on Google. You’ll see what I mean.

With “This Means War,” Attack Attack! have almost completely abandoned their old sound in favor of a more mature, heavier sound. Even though their self-titled release last year had started a move in that direction, the transition to their new sound is now fully realized with the departure of former clean vocalist and guitarist Johnny Franck. Taking his place is Caleb Shomo, former synth player, then screamer, and now the only vocalist for the band. Attack Attack! have a rather strange history, which I will not go into here.

The most noticeable change in Attack Attack!’s sound this time around is the severely reduced amount of synthesized elements present in their music. What is nice, though, is that their presence is felt more when they do appear, and they are far more well-implemented. For example, their first single, “The Motivation,” features a somewhat typical Attack Attack! dance portion of their song that contrasts with the otherwise grisly guitar licks that punch you in the face on the rest of the track.

Other tracks like “The Reality” and “The Abduction” feature Southern rock-influenced guitar melodies which are the biggest surprise on this album, considering their previous efforts were more along the vein of the Ohio hardcore music scene which Attack Attack! more or less defined with “Someday Came Suddenly.” With “The Reality,” the combination of the newly renovated guitar style with synthesized elements are infused flawlessly into each other. Leave it to Attack Attack! and the magic of Caleb Shomo (who’s 19 years old and already a producer, mind you) to be able to splice dubstep synth into a breakdown.

But it is precisely this that makes “This Means War” the refreshing breath of air that Attack Attack! needed in their music. Gone are the cheesy, electronica dance beats that infested “Someday Came Suddenly.” Instead, Shomo has woven beautiful piano melodies into almost every chorus on this album and even manages to sneak them into a couple of the heavier sections of the songs on this album.

All praise aside, it’s a bit more difficult to find the things wrong with this album. Shomo’s voice is likeable, his screaming is beefy and easy to understand (if you’re already a hardcore music buff, that is), but the age-old balance of screamed verses and clean-sung choruses is still here without too much variation between each song; the songs themselves are still good and catchy enough to where it doesn’t even matter.

In terms of the guitar work and drumming of “This Means War,” everything is pretty solid all the way around. Despite how catchy everything manages to be, I can’t help but wish that there would have been a little more variation from song to song. The same applies to the drumming, as skilled as drummer Andrew Wetzel is.

“This Means War” is a reinvention of Attack Attack!’s sound, featuring more hard-hitting guitar work and a more polished vocal performance (if such an adjective can be applied to raw screaming). The pianos and electronic elements are still there, but have a much more mature and thought-out sound to them. Old and new fans of Attack Attack! alike should appreciate this album for what the things it does right — and that’s a whole lot of things.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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