Review || Obey The Brave - "Mad Season"

"Mad Season" dropped a few days ago and if there's one word to describe it, it has to be "DAMN!". Obey The Brave is definitely done fighting fair. Last time I saw them, guitarist Terry McAuley walked me through all the shit that went down when they were recording the album and I recall his excitement when he talked about the band trying new things and him bringing his punk rock influences into their sound. And making Alex Erian sing, of course. But let's break it down.
The album opens with "On Thin Ice", a headbanger that will immediately put the listener in the right mindset. "Drama" and "On Our Own", the second and first single respectively, steadily introduce the big choruses and the singalongs. "Mad Season" successfully flirts with the older material but with a fresher look. "97 Again" immediately caught my attention with its lovely guitar melodies and harmonies complementing Alex's screams. I really, truly, sincerely hope the song will be in their setlist. If you know OTB, you know there has to be a French song in the mix. "Les Temps Sont Durs" is just as solid as the older French tracks with an unexpected twist on the bridge and a poignant solo. Me likes. "Low Key" is your typical OTB aggressive composition; short and to the point, it bats an eye to "Short Fuse" with this recurring lyrical theme. Similarly, "Feed The Fire" and "Way It Goes" draw elements from "Salvation" and cleverly revamp and re-introduce them, solidifying the transition into this new era. "The Distance" has this upbeat chorus that will make you sing along loudly -I wouldn't mind hearing it as a new single. When "RIP" started playing, I had to doublecheck that I was still listening to the same playlist. Rap over a trademark OTB chorus. I'll pass. The album closes with "This Is It", a personal favorite. The track artfully intertwines the aggressive character of the band with a calmer singalong. And before you know it, it's over.
The album poses a very important question; how much (vocal) melody is too much melody? Alex Erian has definitely stepped out of his comfort zone and his usual style with his melodic screams and what he delivered is truly remarkable. These "big choruses and singalongs" are perfect for a live setting, and I'm very curious to see how the crowd will respond. However, on certain tracks he gives me the feeling that he's tiptoeing safely on a very similar pattern to perform, only changing tiny details here and there. 
Music-wise, the band has stepped up their game. Obey The Brave has always hinted at a more melodic side which is finally at the forefront, but without compromising the trademark OTB sound. First of all, the bass is proactively present, not a nuance lost somewhere in the back and, together with Stevie Morotti's drumming, it really molds a solid end result. Although the skeleton of the songwriting hasn't dramatically changed, this album is not filled with breakdowns and the songs are better arranged, so the listener can now focus on both guitars. That's what feels different. Furthermore, there's a brand new punk element surrounding certain songs. I understand that it may leave a bitter taste in some people's mouths since change is not particularly welcome in this genre, but I fondly believe that it was an essential step to be taken in order for the band to progress -and which also prevented them from releasing "Salvation" for the second time. 
Overall, "Mad Season" is a very youthful album. Obey The Brave never needed long and complex songs to make a point so they keep things plain and simple. The album still winks suggestively at the older releases, which is only natural, but takes a bold step forward towards a new direction. Every risk the band took has paid off; despite all their bad luck, this album is a gem and absolutely going in my yearlist.
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