The Flatliners have become one of punk rock’s most beloved names over their 15 year career. The band originally sprung onto the scene with a demo released in 2002, but firmly planted themselves into every punk rock fan’s consciousness in 2005 with the release of their debut album, Destroy to Create. The Ontario four piece made a name for themselves by releasing unique music that fused fast paced ska with melodic hardcore. 12 years later, The Flatliners are releasing their 5th full length, Inviting Light.
Over time, the band’s music has shifted from a ska and hardcore mixture to more traditional punk rock. However, Chris Cresswell’s distinctive vocals and frantic drumwork have always ensured that the band retained their edge and relentless high energy. The band looks to have shifted their sound even more with this latest album, moving towards a more commercial friendly alternative rock sound. Unfortunately, the result from the tweaks made to the sound is a disappointing mixed bag.
The whole album has a sound that reeks of overproduction. The guitars are lacking the crusty punk distortion that the band became popular with and instead have an almost synth-like tone. Cresswell’s vocals are largely generic and watered down throughout the album. The vocalist sounds almost like someone trying to impersonate The Menzinger’s Greg Barnett or Manchester Orchestra’s Andy Hull. The band opted for simpler drum work instead of the high energy drumwork that drove the music in the past.
The LP comes off as a confusing mess that goes in several different directions, often without any reason or warning. There are jarring shifts from atmospheric and subdued instrumental sections into upbeat pop rock straight to driving punk guitar solos. While it sounds like it could work in theory, the execution here is lacking. A great example — or perhaps warning sign — is right at the onset of the album. The album starts with a doom metal-esque guitar riff that stops suddenly and then launches into a pop rock/pop punk music section.The album is lacking pace, and with some simple transitional instrumental work, like a drum fill or quick guitar/bass lick, the band’s shifts in sound throughout the album would be much more successful.
Despite these issues, there is certainly promise in the direction that The Flatliners have taken for this album. Individual parts of the album and songs are showing the potential that The Flatliners could have with this new sound. The album is littered with hints of their older material, and it is especially evident on “Nicotine Lips” and “Human Party Trick,” the two strongest tracks on the entire record. Cresswell’s vocals shine on these tracks and the music and riffs show some of the bite that existed throughout their previous work. There is some fantastic guitar work present from the very beginning on “Indoors” that works to elevate an otherwise forgettable song.
Most songs seem to hit their stride halfway through the song. A clear example of this is where “Unconditional Love” starts with a weak and simple opening, but then suddenly builds to a great soaring chorus and a fantastic bridge. But then, like the rest of the album, the song falls flat and all energy seems to drain right after the choruses and at the end of the song. Throughout the whole album, there are some fantastic builds but there are some abysmal openings and the energy of the songs is typically lost within seconds. The choruses on the song are consistently strong and carry the weight of the song in many cases, like with “Chameleon Skin”. The song goes nowhere for the majority of its 5 minute duration, but the chorus keeps it from being a complete waste of a track. It might overstay its welcome with its long length and mostly subdued sound but the rousing chorus is one of the most memorable parts of the entire album.
Inviting Light is not a terrible album. But at the same time, it’s not great or even good. The Flatliners’ latest effort falls into the category of painfully mediocre. There are some tracks that may be worth a second listen, namely “Nicotine Lips” and “Human Party Trick”, but the majority of the album falls into a boring mix of pop punk and alternative rock that is mostly forgettable. Perhaps diehard fans of pop punk, alternative rock, or Canadians bands should check out the album, but others should give the album a pass.
2 out of 5 angry ducks