Off With Their Heads

In Desolation (Epitaph)

How will Off With Their Heads acclimate to a label that has released the likes of Bad Religion, Rancid, and the Offspring—and will the larger potential audience lead to a less cynical approach? A few seconds into "Drive," the fact that singer Ryan Young is singing—actually singing—will, no doubt, raise some eyebrows. But, a few seconds later he kicks off a line of "I'm not alive/I'm just as good as dead," bringing back the intense self-loathing that defines the band. It's clear that Young hasn't changed his worldview, as he continues to lament past decisions while facing an uncertain and bleak future.

In Desolation is a steady progression after 2008's From the Bottom, in which the band expanded on their verse-chorus-verse, shout-along anthems by mixing tempos and minimizing group choruses. With In Desolation, perhaps the most pronounced growth is that Young uses his voice more descriptively—instead of leaning on the naked honesty of his first-person lyrics, he emotes via climatic refrains. That's not to say that the lyrical approach has changed. Instead, the band is taking its foundation and expanding to hit more nuances—a methodology best exemplified in "Trying to Breathe," which has a Hospitals feel, but adds more melodic range that peaks with a group chorus. Another example comes in the final track, "Clear the Air," where Young's voice wavers between melody and rage, ultimately ending in despair. Meanwhile, the lyrics have an almost-too-personal tale of internal turmoil. After all, it wouldn't be an Off With Their Heads release if it didn't leave the listener concerned for Young's well-being, even while singing along. —Loren Green

 
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