Bayside is a band that receives far too much unwarranted, undeserved flack within this scene. That’s partly due to their longtime (and now defunct) association with Victory Records, a label with a reputation that isn't completely off-base. That association, unfortunate as it may have been, undoubtedly helped Bayside become arguably a more popular band than any of their biggest influences (Smoking Popes, Alkaline Trio) ever were or will be. Like it or not, Victory has a large swath of fervent followers that mostly skews to the adolescent, which comprises the other prong of the hate machine: Bayside’s fanbase is young and passionate, a fact that tends to breed cases of tunnel vision among old, jaded music fans when assessing the band’s merits, of which there are many.
Even with all that said, Bayside has never tried to be something they’re not: They’re a group of veterans proficient at writing catchy rock songs with great melodies and huge choruses, and their new album Killing Time continues in that vein. It won’t set the world on fire with its creativity, but again, that’s not the intent; these 10 songs will, however, leave an indelible impression and, in all likelihood, get stuck in your head like nobody’s business.
Unlike 2008’s Shudder, Killing Time is largely a heavier, slightly more technical effort. The guitars hit harder, the riffs reside a bit farther in the low end, and the rampant soloing that populated much of the band’s earlier work is back to some extent. The rediscovered aggression is immediately apparent in the album’s first two tracks, “Already Gone” and “Sick, Sick, Sick”, both of which feature some subtly impressive riffing that only exist to serve the songs' hooks, of which there are plenty.
The instruments take something of a backseat on “Mona Lisa”, the first track on Killing Time that frontman Anthony Raneri carries with his impressive crooning. The massive hooks within this song are solely his doing, and the chorus, simple as it is, is one of the band’s best to date. “It’s Not a Bad Little War” and “Sinking and Swimming on Long Island” follow it admirably, both tracks displaying Bayside’s ability to put an enjoyable spin on what’s essentially straight-up pop-punk, with a dash of bombast thrown in for good measure.
Killing Time drops off a bit in its second half; “Seeing Sound” is a bit erratic in spots, especially in the transition from verse to chorus, and the song serves as an example of Bayside taking their newfound heaviness just a tad too far. Vocally, Raneri strains a bit in the verses of “Wrong Way”, marking a rare occurrence in which he appears out of his element (the chorus is great, though). The ballad “On Love, On Life” sticks out like a sore thumb with its piano, strings and horns, and may have been better served and appreciated as a B-side.
The album rebounds with “The New Flesh”, the standout of KT's second act. Guitarist Jack O’Shea and drummer Chris Guglielmo really get to flex their muscles here, incorporating some impressive riffs and fills that might go unnoticed by most listeners. It should have served as the album’s closer instead of the plodding, modern rock-tinged title track which, despite an above-average chorus, fails to make much of an impression.
Still, six of the 10 tracks on Killing Time range from very good to great, and the other four usually provide enough decent moments to warrant a listen. Killing Time is another solid addition to Bayside’s diverse catalogue, and shows that they’re a band worth talking about in these circles as well as the ones to which they already belong.