Conditions – Full Of War
Record Label: Good Fight Music / eOne Music
Release Date: March 26, 2013
Conditions debut full length, Fluorescent Youth, screamed of Anberlin, Saosin, and Ivoryline influences, executing that style in memorable fashion. However, while memorable, the eleven tracks played it a little safe. With Full Of War, the band definitely expands the boundary, with many tracks being much more hook/chorus driven – most likely due to the work of Brandon Paddock, as much of the production and sound of the record resembles the style of DRUGS’ record and The Used’s Vulnerable. However, they toe the line of safety at other points, creating a lack of balance between progression and stability.
“Walking Separate Ways” best echoes the change in Conditions sound, making sense why it was selected as the opener. When I first heard it, I wasn’t sure if the guys were aiming for a more straight up rock sound until the familiar chorus comes barging in the door at full force. Just as vocalist Brandon Roundtree starts to sing, “I’m caught between two lines,” Corey Thomas’ bass cranks up the volume while Ryan Tinsley’s beating drums keep the pace at top notch. Early on, it’s clear that the musicianship completes the song, giving it the extra push to really take off.
The following tracks sound familiar to what we’d expect from Conditions – they’re loud and in your face with equally impressive instrumentation as vocal presence. “Skeleton” flexes Thomas’ bass throughout the track, while the chorus further emphasizes the band’s desire to really amp up the chorus presence on this record. Single “Open Eyes” is a nice choice for a single, with the pacing of the track really setting it apart. At the start, Roundtree slowly gains speed as hasty palm mutes clear the way for the relaxed, mid-tempo chorus. You’re anticipating the lift off the whole time, so when the track takes off at the chorus, you’re bobbing your head right along.
However, while the aforementioned moments shine, the record has a few duds here and there. “Best Mistake” starts off sounding like it will be absolutely huge – I mean come on, that fuzzy bass line and synth really have something going there. However, the chorus stays on the safe side of the fence and falls victim to being too repetitive. We know how powerful Roundtree can be when he lets loose – I’m looking at you, “Every Day Is A New Life” – but instead, he never really heads toward the top of the range, and the safety really cripples the song. The soft rockers “Wonderful Lie” and later “Long Division” suffer the same fate due to being overly mid-tempo and safe. However, if any of these tracks on this album were about to get played on alt radio, it’s “Wonderful Lie” no questions asked.
All things considered, this band knows how make songs sound massive. Both “Love Elusive” and the final “Not Giving Up…Not Yet” will be huge live favorites due to the curveballs thrown during the choruses. The former alternates from a fast-anthem to normal tempo throughout the chorus, while the latter’s chant-embedded chorus knocks it right out of the park. At moments like these, I could see these guys on stage with Anberlin any day now. At the end of the day, there’ss considerably more killer than filler on Full Of War; it has some of the best songs the band has ever composed, while also housing a handful of lackluster tracks that miss the mark. I’m convinced that if Conditions press their boundaries to the limits, their next record could be a career defining one.
So far, Walking Separate Ways, Skeleton, Open Eyes & Everyday is a New Life are all awesome. Best Mistake is definitely out of character and I understand that they're experimenting with their sound on this one. But I don't feel as if it was pulled off. I had a problem with Love Elusive when I initially heard it, but following Best Mistake, it sounds much more like Conditions' sound and I really enjoyed it this time around. The chorus is much poppier than what I'm used to, but the guitar is awesome and the verses are great. Wonderful Lie could have Conditions' fans split on opinions with it's soft rock & mid tempo approach, but I like it. I feel songs like this could appeal to a greater amount of people. I agree with seeing this one on the radio Ryan.
It's weird that you say that Brandon limiting his vocal range is an issue, but praise "Love Elusive," even though the chorus of that strikes me as pretty safe. I mean, it's catchy, but the first time I heard it I thought it was going to really take off, not stay in the same area of his vocal range.
Regardless though, I agree with most of the points you made. Can't wait to give this a listen because I thought Fluorescent Youth was damn near perfect, so to hear that this is better is great news.
Personally I think they picked "Walking Separate Ways" and "Not Giving Up...Not Yet" as the perfect opener and closer respectively. I love the album as a whole, but "Best Mistake" is clearly the weakest track. After a few more listens I love every track, but that one just stood out as poor compared to the three songs that preceded it.