Artist: Sum 41
Album: Screaming Bloody Murder
Genre: Pop punk/rock
In many ways, it’s hard to believe Sum 41 are still around. I remember jamming to Fat Lip and In Too Deep when I was starting secondary school – and that wasn’t today or yesterday. Further, impressively, there’s still lots to love about them. Screaming Bloody Murder has the same youthful energy and defiant kick, yet there is something more mature and intangible to it, a kind of darkness informed by the turbulent few years the band have had.
“Reason to Believe” takes a straightforward formula – slow building drum beat, joined by potent guitars, and then set to quick, pouncing lyrics – and fashions a beautiful opener. It’s instantly invigorating, full of life and determination, with a gentler comedown near the end to foretell the more sentimental aspects of the record.
“Screaming Bloody Murder” takes things up a notch, with a forceful and cutting rhythm and vocals to match. The undercurrent of rage and disillusionment is one that echoes throughout the record, and the band capture it well here – driving a wedge between the feelgood soundtrack of their past and the crushing realities of the here and now. “Skumfuk” is a surprisingly melodic treatment of these emotions, in which the band play around creatively with different sounds and paces to create a nuanced and striking song. It’s in songs such as this that the album gets under your skin, as the intermittent reflections force the listener to confront the themes and feel of the tracks. When Deryck Whibley sings “Now that I see beyond the light, I know I’ll be alright,” it almost sparks a feeling of solidarity.
“Jessica Kill” sports fabulous, bass-driven verses offset by layered, pounding choruses. “What Am I To Say” takes a time out and explores matters in a slightly more sentimental fashion. Where most of the album pounds with anger, this has a grim acceptance to it – abject, stony vocals broken by a reaching chorus that aches with sadness and regret. “Holy Image of Lies” is bitter and resounding, its guitar solos venting all the spite and regret inherent in the lyrics. Halfway through, the band are joined by a swelling string section and then a piano refrain, which (surprisingly) works exceedingly well. Everything is quite deliberately bombastic and a touch melodramatic, but it’s contained ably and segues impressively into the following track, the splendid “Sick of Everyone.”
Parts of the album do sound very familiar, with melodies and beats perhaps over inspired by other songs. Yet, this suits it somehow. It’s as if mixing the comfort of the everyday with the disbelief and angst of its coming undone renders the album that much more honest and real. Crash for instance, which (as with many other songs here) may or may not be about the end of Whibley’s marriage, is heartfelt and touching, oceans of emotion disguised by one deceptively simple piano twang.
“Blood in my Eyes,” which follows, is the antithesis. Venomous, rasping, and brutal, it’s the incandescent anger to offset the forlorn sense of loss that has gone before. The vocals are stunning and the music fittingly forceful in support, with some exquisite harmonies added during the verses to balance things out a little. The breakdown has touches of “This Is How I Disappear” by My Chemical Romance to it, and it’s marvelous.
“Baby You Don’t Wanna Know” is a spunky, jazzy number, persistently upbeat and vibrant. It’s a break from the intensity of the foregoing songs, a little more stripped back, and compelling with its streetwise beat. “Exit Song” ends things on a distant, reflective note. Perhaps the last meditation on the difficulties of the time that has passed, it plays out on a shy, melancholic yet resolute guitar note.
Screaming Bloody Murder is a very impressive album, and a joy to listen to. It’s open and catchy yet the simple honesty of its subject matter and potent emotions lends it a more rounded, mature feel, which in turn ought to appeal to a diverse audience. It’s encouraging to see a band with a fairly distinctive sound take a step, however slight, in an edgier direction yet remain quite characteristically themselves. All in all, an affecting and engaging affair, which shouldn’t go overlooked.
Review written by: Grace Duffy