REVIEW: Set It Off – ‘Duality’

set it off duality

Artist: Set It Off
Title: Duality
Label: Equal Vision Records
Genre: Pop-Rock

If Say Anything were to write a poppier, more symphonic record, it would probably contain the first few tracks off of Set It Off’s upcoming full-length, Duality, the follow-up to their 2012 release, Cinematics. I don’t think the industry has heard such an elaborate and theatrical pop-rock record since…well, their previous records came out.

Set It Off’s music, by nature, sends shivers down your spine at first spin. Perhaps it’s the timbre of Cody Carson’s (also famously known for his YouTube videos) powerful vocals. Perhaps, in this specific album, it’s the spooky nature of some of their melodies with the music box and the chorale of little girls in the background.

I enjoyed this Neil Avron (New Found Glory, Weezer, etc.) production a lot, though. Here’s why:

These guys showcased a lot of artistic ability throughout. Although they didn’t really pioneer the concept of “spooky symphonic rock,” they most certainly did it up, and they incorporated bits and pieces of Halloween (some less subtly than others) to each track, up to the point where they could definitely be remembered for this.

Different themes tied to horror film sound effects and talk of spooky elements, as I had mentioned above, come right out as “The Haunting” begins. That vibe gets lost midway as it transforms and goes into full punk mode until the end, where we briefly hear the eerie music box outro and into the creepy chorale that begins the very energetic “N.M.E.” One of the first singles for the record, “N.M.E.” stands for “No More Excuses,” and Carson explains that this track is about the “succubus” (see South Park episode, “The Succubus”) one of his friends used to date. He obviously wasn’t a fan of this girl.

A good portion of this record reflects Carson getting in touch with the good things in life. He explains that the song “Why Worry” was written about finally letting loose from a lot of the anxieties he grew up with. “Forever Stuck In Our Youth” slowly broke away from the ominous aura that the record began with as it speaks loudly of good memories from the band’s youth. We lose that Halloween vibe completely as the more poppy successor to “Dream Catcher” from Cinematics, “Tomorrow,” hits. This track features Jason Lancaster (formerly of Go Radio) and it contains underlying messages of hope and redemption.

A lot of angst and resentment towards past relationships bleeds through this record. “Duality,” “Bad Guy,” and “Ancient History” walk us through all of them. Another really big portion of this record is Carson finally expressing himself and getting real. Everyone likes real. You’ll find him calling people out and cursing at those same people in Duality. This is most evident in “Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing” which features William Beckett angrily singing a verse that sends a loud “fuck you” message to whoever this song was dedicated to. The track, like a lot of the other songs, features fabulous things like trumpets and clarinets.

“Sometimes, good things just end,” Carson explains, not referencing the bittersweet end of this record, but the end of what most of this record was written about. “Miss Mysterious” was a fantastic closer and it’s as extravagant and theatrical as could be. The big chorus and the big last note are the perfect ending to a big record.

They gave us Halloween in time for the holiday. They gave us punk. They gave us pop. Not too shabby.

SCORE: 8/10
Review written By Dana Reandelar)

Dana Reandelar

If not hunched over her desk writing about music, Dana can be found binge-watching old episodes of Gilmore Girls or condensing long rants to 140 characters. She also writes for Idobi Radio, and is an Off The Record podcast contributor.
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