Story of the Year - In the Wake of Determination (Cover Artwork)

Story of the Year

In the Wake of Determination (2005)


Laugh if you want to, but I had an epiphany of sorts concerning Story of the Year when I caught them at the Warped Tour this past summer. These guys put more heart and energy into a 30-minute set than virtually anyone else on stage that day, jumping around and running side to side, while never losing control of the massive crowd or letting their smiles slip off their faces. Even pedestrian choruses that cried out "Until the day I diiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeee" took on new forms of life when channeled with unquestionable conviction and spirit.

A little more than two years after the band's wildly popular Page Avenue full-length put Story of the Year on the map, In the Wake of Determination plays the role of the safe yet slightly progressive followup. Although the band's tales to the press about their new found musical growth are more overblow than accurate, Determination moves a few paces away from the modern screamo sound the band became to personify and lends stronger nods to the Epi/Fat sound of the mid-90s. With sizzlin' guitars that race forward in the vein of the Offspring on "Take Me Back" and the bombastic metallic crunch displayed on "Pay Your Enemy," Story of the Year do a lot more than set their listeners up for "the hook." On this album's heavier moments (and there are many, many more of them compared to Page Avenue), these guys bust out some Stretch Armstrong-like breakdowns -- tight and powerful, but not quite enough fodder for the pit dancers.

On the same coin, this puts tracks like the single "We Don't Care Anymore" and the senselessly memorable "Stereo" in precarious positions, suddenly sounding too glossy for their own good. The group's speedy tune "Meathead" has a solid melodic hardcore foundation (seriously), but the massive recording style unfortunately sucks all the life out of it. Regardless, vocalist Dan Marsala shines unconditionally on Determination, truly coming into his own among the screamo denizen. Of course, I still think he sounds like a guy who could do a spot-on Jon Bon Jovi impression, but that's just me.

If Page Avenue gave off the perspective that Story of the Year magically appeared out of thin air, armed "suprisingly" with the sound of the moment (meaning, the Used), then Determination does quite the opposite and recognizes many of the influences that previewed punk rock's ascent into the mainstream years and years ago. The differences are obviously in the details (and perhaps obscured too much by typical major label production qualities), but they're notable nonetheless. This disc is loads of fun if you allow yourself to be entertained, and it has become a reliable source of morning pep at Pastepunk HQ.