Prior to the release of Outlive, Guns Up! had always fallen into the ever growing contingent of bands that are solid live, and extremely “eh” on record. There’s only so many breakdowns and similar sounding songs one can take before wanting to find anything else to listen to, but thankfully, the band has, if nothing else, at least attempted to rectify this situation.
It’s not even that this record is much different from anything done in the past -- it isn’t, but what has been noticeably improved is their willingness to incorporate some other sounds and influences into their own songwriting approach.
This new record has some decidedly more metal elements than were found before, and while it’s not a huge departure, it’s just enough to give some of the songs the ability to differentiate from the others. There’s also been somewhat of a scale-back on breakdowns, allowing the songs a chance to rely on their own rhythms and dynamics, rather than kids just listening to wait for that. That’s not to say they’ve purged their sound of breakdowns, but songs like the title track, “Outlive,” show that the band no longer needs to structure their songs around them. The deep, heavy grooves set the rhythm, and the gang vocals towards the end really bring out some added life. Most importantly, the songs do not go on long enough to drag.
That said for the positive, it isn’t an album free of negatives. Not by a long shot. The songwriting has undoubtedly taken a turn for the better, but there’s still some work that needs to be done before these guys really write a stellar album. Dan Heleston’s vocal approach is one that doesn’t lend a whole lot of diversity to their sound, and while I wouldn’t go so far as to label it a detractor, it does make it somewhat difficult for the songs to set themselves apart. “Frozen” begins with a quick bass groove and some choppy rhythms, but before long, it settles into a groove that doesn’t change at all until the song's over, save a quick bass bridge or two and the one criminally predictable breakdown found on this album. Tracks like “Face It,” aside from offering a bit longer duration, don’t offer much in the way of diversity either.
Guns Up! Have surpassed their previous recorded material with this new full-length, but they still need some time to grow and mature. It’s heavy, and it’s...heavy, but most of the songs lack a real ‘go’ that they need to propel the record past often painful mediocrity. If they can get their records on par with their live show, they'll really be a band to watch for.