Falling in Reverse potentially confirms the small epiphany I had while watching Motionless in White live at Mayhem Fest. Scary though it may seem, perhaps this is a glimpse of one possible future of heavy metal. And I hear the rage boiling at me already, that these bands don’t meet the arbitrarily established criteria of metal. Yet, I can’t ignore the fact that this wave isn’t going away, now in its fourth year (at least.) The make-up and costumes and big hair seem to be back in some form, and the kids just love it. In the end, aren’t they the ones who will define metal going forward?
This emergence in style isn’t like when the audience was snookered into the manufactured fame of a band like Limp Bizkit. These bands, be it Motionless in White or Falling in Reverse or Escape the Fate or Vampires Everywhere! or even Black Veil Brides, while all different in their own way, seem at least somewhat homegrown, thus establishing a certain level of viability.
Anyway, diatribe over. Moving on.
This record represents the second post-incarceration album from Escape the Fate co-founder and former vocalist Ronnie Radke, released from prison in 2010 and reportedly sober for the last three years. It’s a long path to redemption for Radke, who caused a certain measure of acrimony with Escape the Fate upon his probation and subsequent incarceration, not to mention his rehab and criminal record following battery charges. So let’s all hope for the best.
Hardcore. Heavy metal. Power metal. Electronic. Rock and Roll. Hip-hop. Pop Pnk. All of these share some part in “Fashionably Late,” the new record from Falling in Reverse. It’s a highly ambitious effort, one that attempts to counter the axiom saying you can’t be all things to all people.
Let’s address the most surprising element in the above list first. Hip-hop. It’s a minor shock to hear the band break down in to a recital of traditional rap, not the usual hybrid like we became so accustomed to thanks to Zack de la Rocha. The addition of this element was discussed before release by Radke in various press, but what’s perhaps most startling is that Radke isn’t awful as a lyricist and doesn’t embarrass himself. We’re not talking about Eric B or Zaakir or Ghostface Killah here, but this guy can hold a rhyme (even if the lyrics aren't especially revelatory, and they're not. He rhymes 'avocado' for chrissake.)
What makes the variety both notable and important is that Falling in Reverse’s best moments come at the abrupt intersection of two different styles. We see it multiple times, but is at its best in the junction of power metal and hardcore during “Born to Lead” and the crossover of hip-hop and hardcore during “Champion.”
“Self-Destruct Personality” features the most frequent and abrupt changes, convincingly mixing electronic beats that give way at a snap to a crushing guitar riff. It also goes a step father, seeing Radke start rapping his gruff hardcore scream and now we’re getting into uncharted territory. I haven’t even mentioned that the song is pop punk for the first half.
But if your brain isn’t scrambled enough by that, there’s more. Observe exhibit B, the strangely charming pop and humor of “Game Over,” a saccharine tune of '80s video game noise not at all like any others on the record. There’s also electronic ballads and the Andrew WK-ish “Fuck the Rest.” There are enough permutations that “Fashionably Late” is like a goddamned Mr. Potato Head – you can make any combination and off you go.
There’s a nod that has to be given to the rest of the band, since they have the courage and team mentality it takes to play the veritable smorgasbord of outside-the-box music that we hear on “Fashionably Late.” Especially since the band makes absolutely no attempt to blend the styles, just switch on and off in an instant, which requires a paradigm shift for band and listener alike.
This probably goes without saying, but it doesn’t all work. The title track, in a twist, doesn’t really embrace the nature of the rest of the record, opting instead for a one-track approach. And frankly, some of the experiments don’t come together, but that’s just a casualty of ambitious variety.
Is “Fashionably Late” a good album? Shit, I don’t know. What’s probably worse is that I don’t think I care. Good, bad or indifferent, try it out with an open mind, because you won’t hear anything else like it this year. “Fashionably Late” is like a “Final Destination” movie – it might not win awards, but son of a bitch, I was entertained. And you know what? Sometimes that’s enough.