Four Year Strong - Rise or Die Trying (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Four Year Strong

Rise or Die Trying (2007)

I Surrender

I can, without reservation, say that you've heard Four Year Strong's Rise or Die Trying before. You may have heard it under the name of some other band, but rest assured, this mix of pop-punk and hardcore is not by any means novel, and on that token, it is not by any means interesting.

And it's not even just that the combination of the two genres has grown tired; that was never a good idea in the first place. If you put a gun to my head, cocked it, and told me that you'd kill me unless I could name a band that did that style well, let's just say I wouldn't even be typing this review right now. That improbable situation aside, the fact of the matter is the same with this record as it is with many similar -- drop the hardcore, and it would be a solid pop-rock effort.

That's not the case however, and as a result, songs like "Beatdown in the Key of Happy" lose their punch. A quickly-paced track with some heavier guitar parts, the song remains focused on the bouncy rhythm and just how the vocals adhere to that. With an undeniably catchy chorus and some enjoyable verses, it's really beyond my comprehension as to why at the end of the song the band chooses to throw in a breakdown and an oddly-placed scream. I realize that some of the chord progressions running through the song were loud, but it fit. It worked. The crystalline vocals were punctuated well by the combination of a "whoa-oh" chorus and some distorted riffs; the breakdown at the end was completely unnecessary.

And that's somewhat of a recurring theme throughout the course of the record: There are way too many instances where Four Year Strong compromise an otherwise enjoyable song for something that only detracts from it. Just when the band gets on a bit of a roll, something comes in that really makes you scratch your head. There's no continuity and there's no uniform sound for them to build momentum on; it's a collection of random ideas thrown on top of otherwise enjoyable songs. "Heroes Get Remembered, Legends Never Die" falls into the exact same trap as "Beatdown," in that a good rhythm is thrown askew by...

You guessed it, another contrived breakdown.

I understand that Four Year Strong is trying to cater to the Set Your Goals fanbase, but what's unfortunate is that it's at the expense of what could have been a passable, if not entirely enjoyable pop-rock record. Good vocals and a sense of rhythm to match are forsaken. For what? The three seconds per song it takes to hop on a trend?

Not a fair trade if you ask me.