Let’s start this with a disclaimer. The readers at AP.net have known that I haven’t been one to shy away from my opinion in the past. In fact, I’ve taken a fair amount of criticism for being too harsh on bands in the past (and too nice, it’ll never end). Those of you who are looking for me to rip FFTL to shreds can stop reading at this point, because it’s not going to happen. I don’t care what you think of this review and I don’t care what you think of me. All I know is that From First to Last has shocked me by creating a solid album that I expected to be awful. From the band’s previous work full of oversaturated clichés and ear-splitting vocals, one would never think the band could progress to this sort of level. If you haven’t given Heroine a fair listen, then you can’t judge this band. Yes, their image is absurd. Yes, many of their fans are ridiculous teenage girls with eyeliner and glam/goth outfits. But putting aside all of these factors, one must strip down FFTL and critique the actual music – and it’s good. This is a group of talented musicians who seem to have truly found their sound, with the help of acclaimed producer Ross Robinson, well known for his work with late 90’s nu-metal acts such as Korn and Slipknot. Robinson’s touch gleams off of Heroine from start to finish. Gritty as hell, full of obscenities and soaring sing-along choruses, FFTL has successfully transformed their sound.
Despite exploring their musical boundaries throughout Heroine, FFTL still manages to insert a nice amount of hooks within most of the song. While there being no clear cut singles on the record, there are several tracks that grew on me with melodies that pervade the mind and refuse to let go. On first listen of Heroine, I was unimpressed until I realized the reasoning behind the songs. Instead of offering everything they had up at once, like their previous work, there are interesting aspects buried within songs. It does take several listens to understand the direction of each song, it takes a few listens to determine strong tracks, and it takes time to see how FFTL has truly progressed. While there are still tracks that hit home instantly, like “Mothersound” and “World War Me,” more in-depth tracks like “…And We All Have a Hell” stir around thoughts of previous Ross Robinson type bands. Dirty guitars and unabashed melodies drive the majority of the CD. Whether you like it or not, FFTL has created their own unique sound at a time where everyone expected them to be anything but.
While it might seem like I have nothing but good things to say about the record, that’s not the case. Even though part of the reason the melodies are so infectious is Sonny’s voice, it’s also part of the reason the album suffers. If you listened to FFTL’s earlier work, you’d know that Sonny’s voice was unbearable at times. Although Ross Robinson and a natural evolution of a teenage boy have helped his voice mature, there’s times where it’s unnaturally airy and full of strange vibrato (“The Crows are Coming For Us.”) Lyrically, it’s unwavering from what you would expect, but the imagery could be a lot worse. The main downfall of this album is not in its songwriting or vocals; it’s in its inability to vary. Although FFTL has drastically changed their sound and created a surprisingly non-commercial sounding record, there is a severe lack of variation between songs. Some songs drag on for too long, and the second half of the album loses tons of steam. More ambitious songs like “Waltz Moore” stretch the band’s actual songwriting abilities, and choruses become obnoxious and monotonous instead of soaring, like some of the earlier songs. Heroine effectively dies after the 7th track and never snaps back to life.
Overall, Heroine is a huge step up for the band and deserves a listen. Fans of early Deftones and Korn will find this album to be hauntingly familiar, while still pleasingly modern. Though there are plenty of downfalls to this record, it’s not enough to deter the listening experience. Yes, the band’s image is awful. I fully expect a shitstorm to ensue after the posting of this review, but I don’t care, because when a band writes a solid album, they deserve recognition – regardless of their reputation in the scene. Surprised? So was I.