I happen to listen to music for a fair amount of my waking day, everyday. Unless I set aside time specifically dedicated to nothing but listening to an album it is hard to argue that I’m really giving that music my full attention. Few albums have a peculiar ability wherein they can force you to listen and focus on them and nothing else (within reason of course, just like you don’t answer the phone during…well, you get the idea). Tellingly, Today Is the Day’s sophomore release was entitled Willpower and through pure force of will it brings the listener into its raw world of pure emotional power.
With changing time signature and discordant guitar tones to classify the album’s sound as a world is apt simply because TITD’s blend of noisy metal, post-hardcore and spacey `90s indie rock (see Hum for a point of reference) is one you can actually feel the textures for an entirely sensual experience. “Willpower” gives the listener a startling transition to the record in the first few seconds when all its tensions are brought to full relief with a movie clip of a couple fighting; "I’m telling you I look at your face and I know that you’re lying." The song launches into a bass-driven structure propelled by vocalist Steve Austin's (note: this isn’t Stone Cold) raspy scream and winding guitar parts before it melts away into heavy cymbals, breathless airy vocals and dreamier guitars. In fact, the whole album is sown together via various movie quotes integrated throughout; “Promised Land” actually has movie quotes mix in with the lairs of creepy vocals and noises intead of using the clip as just an intro like most bands would think of doing.
The production, which likely has only been enhanced by a remastering job, perfectly highlights everything from the loudest squealing guitars to the tiniest hi-hat hit for a dynamic sound that isn’t the easiest thing to find in today's music scene. Most impressive perhaps is the production on the vocals, whether it is gut-wrenching yelling or soft spoken-word there is just enough distance given to vocals to give Austin’s voice a complete sense of isolation, perhaps best displayed on “Sidewinder."
While the vocal range displayed throughout the album is indeed impressive, the lyrics are delivered in a prose style that couldn’t be more removed from anything to be considered complex. Take for instance “My First Knife”: "No more we'd laugh and sing / Songs about GOD I'd sing along / I wanna crash I wanna burn / I wanna drown I wanna die." On their own these words don’t seem to be that impressive but they are delivered with such genuine pain and force that you really believe every depressing word.
I cannot comment too much on the reissue benefits of the album but I can say that the remastering job is fantastic and the bonus song added to the end is worthwhile, especially considering prior to its addition the album only contained nine songs, the longest being around five and a half minutes. Looking for a heavy album with an original diverse range of sounds that you can enjoy from opening riff to closing riff? Check this out (as a side note, Planes Mistaken for Stars were probably influenced by this album a lot so if you like them this might be a safe bet). If you just want an honest piece of music you should check this out as well, because apparently Steve Austin’s father passed away suddenly before the recording of this album and it is almost like human grieving set to tape.