REVIEW: Aiden – Disguises

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Artist: Aiden
Album: Disguises
Genre: Punk/Rock
Label: Victory

Disguises marks something of a new departure for Aiden. For a long time the band have been associated with the type of insta-goth, melodramatic rent-a-mob music that lets the word “emo” go viral and gives fans of theatrics a bad name. Yet, in this, their third studio album, a clear maturity is evident – gone is the wailing and vapid walls of noise, replaced with smoothness, a firm sense of direction, and some beautifully realized songs.

“The Devil’s Eyes” is the first indication of such – it’s an arresting opener, based upon an engaging chant set to portentous spoken words. Intriguingly, there’s an underlying soundbite taken from the film “Halloween” as the band seem to set their sights firmly on the street cred that has tended to elude them thus far.

“Horror Queen” is a little disappointing in the wake of the above – lyrically, the references to sunrises and eternity are a little staid and predictable, but taken as a whole the song isn’t bad at all. The music is quite firm and ferocious and sets a keen, earnest pace. The vocals leer between pleasing and dodgy but manage to lend the right sense of occasion to the piece.

Later, in “A Portrait of the Artist,” the vocals come into their own. Wil Francis’ voice is much more muted than we’re used to – it’s flatter, a touch blander, almost a soulless sound. Yet this is not to imply there’s not heart and integrity to his performance. The vocals are what, more than anything, craft the music into something more mature and engaging. This song is short but interesting, featuring an atmospheric breakdown towards the end, albeit tarnished slightly by the random screech of police sirens.

“Shine,” however, benefits from this, as the sirens feed into the slightly urgent sensation of this song. The drums are pressing and the music meandering, though the vocals pull everything together and lend a sense of coherence to this affair. The guitar is quite striking here – it’s a little otherworldly, perhaps deliberating disengaging itself from the whole to create a sense of confusion.

“The Essence” gets immediate bonus points for multiple Christopher Hitchens soundbites. Perhaps predictably thus, it seems to be a treatise on the destructive impact of religion in one’s daily life. It is, admittedly, still a tad difficult to take Aiden seriously on matters like this, but they’ve certainly put their all into the song. There’s a powerful and resounding guitar line laden with conviction, and tonally it feels grim, grave, and almost remorseful. Francis sings “I live hysteria” during the chorus with an almost horrified realisation, and it’s in moments like this that one can discern a concerted evolution and genuine eye for detail in Disguises.

Thereafter, “Perfect Muse” sounds more like the Aiden of old. It opens with some screaming, which gives way to more intense music during the chorus. “ReEvolver” nurses some fairly admirable delusions of grandeur, mixing string samples with heartfelt vocals, and lyrically touching on addiction.

“Walk Among the Dead” samples more movie lines, this time “The Shining”. In keeping with this stricken tone, the opening is vociferous. It’s a particularly prominent example of the brilliant effect to which the group vocals are used throughout the album, as this features beautifully layered singing, a mixed chorus of voices creating resonance and potency. The lyrics veer into silliness every now and then but overall, it’s a rousing song, which is all an album really needs to be.

Closing with an Alkaline Trio cover, “Radio” is simply stunning. It’s a slow number, fueled by a beautiful piano thrill, feeling a lot more delicate and airy than the vocals would imply. The contrast in this sense is striking – there’s almost a balance between light and dark, the melody seeming faraway and disembodied somehow, while the vocals are more grimly human. All of this is totally destroyed by the later addition of a group holler and expletives, but if you overlook just that ending segment, this is gorgeous.

Indeed, Disguises is quite the surprise package in that it’s a genuinely dark, yet tremendously accessible, piece of rock. It represents a band growing, its lush atmospherics and pop culture references incorporating character into what has heretofore been straight up screamo music. The singing is magnificent, in all its attempts to revisit the simpler, monotone darkwave vocals of old, and though the album may lack a certain oomph in parts it’s a very worthwhile listen. Indulge in it before you dismiss it, and you may be pleasantly surprised!

Score: 7/10
Review written by: Grace Duffy

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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