To all the kids who frantically type “do all the bands on A-F have to sound like Anti-Flag? Isn't one Anti-Flag bad enough?” please take the time to read the following review, because I’m tired of your lack of originality and precision.
The Vacancy are A-F Records’ bastard child. On a label generally known to be solely political based on the national success of Anti-Flag comes an emotional rock outfit with songs about girls as opposed to the G.O.P. A slew of lineup changes since last year's debut EP has caused a shift in the band's overall sound. The songs are not only more mature in content, but the musicianship is noticeably stronger amongst the current trio. Technicality-wise, the production by Chris #2 of Anti-Flag and mixing by Bill Stevenson combine for a powerful sound.
Heart Attack’s first single “In The Back Seat” is a strong opener with upbeat riffs coupled by catchy verses and choruses that would fit well on a mix CD between Alkaline Trio and Taking Back Sunday. Taking notes from “Failure By Design” from Brand New, “Anthem” is just what the title suggests, the album’s standout track pegging itself as 2005’s “Cute Without the ‘E’.” With a toe-tapping bassline and a chorus to sing along with whilst playing air drums on your steering wheel, concluding with a harmonious piano. Anti-Flag’s musical influences rage out with a clearly distinguishable bass riff in “Debutante,” while its followup “Hey There” emphasizes the modern guitar heavy rock‘n'roll the band is capable of pulling off. The remainder of the album is not nearly as strong as the first half, as much deters between filler and songs not fully utilizing their potential.
Lyrically, Ben Dietels is not as strong as contemporaries Jesse Lacey or Matt Skiba. However he is capable of writing a solid song, apparent by the jaunty rocker “Get Up! Get Out!” Some might even find fault in his vocals and it’s justified. At first they’re burly and out of place, but by the conclusion of the record Ben’s relaxed style adds an indistinguishable benefit.
While it is nowhere near perfect and there are certainly other records in the genre that are more deserving of your buck, Heart Attack is still a quality debut album. It’s a straightforward rock album on A-F Records that does not spoon feed you political jargon, but it's not as trite as the majority of records sharing the sound. For a band that was on the limp half of a teeter totter there has been quite a shift in vigor as the Vacancy have harnessed their abilities as a band and hint at significant potential in the future.