Phoenix Mourning's name is only fitting. The five-piece band out of Tampa, formerly known as the Calm, was born out of the ashes of several disbanding bands. Phoenix Mourning -- vocalist Jeremiah Ruff, guitarists Ahmed Smith and Stephen Bowman, bassist Marshall Gibson, and drummer Kerry DeWitt -- have managed to craft quite an enjoyable piece of music. While a lack of originality and comparisons to labelmates As I Lay Dying are only inevitable, the Phoenix Mourning do manage to far surpass the low exceptions set for them.
The reason that When Excuses Become Antiques is better than most every other metalcore album is because of Jeremiah Ruff's strong vocal approach and emotional lyrical honesty. Ruff, who admits to listening to mainly hip-hop, showcases a refreshing black metal shriek instead of the typical cookie-cutter screaming. His layered shouting and pacing also shows a slight influence from his hip-hop tastes. When it comes to the singing, Ruff may have the best singing voice in this entire genre. He manages to showcase a lot of emotion without being whiny. On tracks like "My Future Actress" and "Waiting for the King" Ruff simply makes the song with his layered shrieks and singing, creating a surprising sense of melody infused with a chaotic base. On the later song, the pure emotional vocal delivery by Ruff while he sings "this is something you can't miss / just close your eyes and remain motionless / and I'm sorry that I always let you down / dethrone the king and remove his crown" over an acoustic guitar delivers the knockout punch that the album needed.
"Across Twenty-Six Winters" starts off the album in an appropriate manner showcasing a mix of screaming and singing that's better than a majority of the bands out there that do this. Musically, Smith and Bowman effortlessly interchange crunchy riffs with clean melodic breaks. With lyrics such as "across twenty-six winters / I died that December night and I still can't remember," Phoenix Mourning are able to craft an emotional album without being overbearing or too depressing. "Contrast" and "Niche" are each highlighted by shifty guitars that lay way to a strong vocal delivery. The opening melodic riff on "One January Morning" is pure killer and "From Afar" manages to keep it interesting while being a mainly melodic song.
While a majority of the album is top-notch, there are still some flaws. Several of the songs in the middle stick together and at times some of the songs are too long. The album clocks in at over 50 minutes and a little bit of variety in the middle would have been nice. However, the last few songs make up for it. While originality isn't too abundant here, the acoustic guitars on "Waiting for the King" and "My Future Actress" feel refreshing and the strings that appear on "Glasskiss" were a huge surprise.
When Excuses Become Antiques won't win any awards for originality or creativity. When I first saw their press photo I was about to label them off as riding the metalcore trend waves, but upon actually listening to the album, I was blown away. While it would be nice to see them change it up from time to time musically, Ruff's vocals and the clean breaks more than make up for it. A definite surprise, but one I completely enjoyed for every second.