Death by Stereo - Death Is My Only Friend (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Death by Stereo

Death Is My Only Friend (2009)

Serjical Strike

It's been a solid four years since the transformed Death by Stereo released 2005's Death for Life, an attempt at blending better into the SoCal metalcore scene that suddenly found them in good company with a cheesy peer like Atreyu, while somewhat abandoning the punk/metal-informed hardcore of their earlier material. Death Is My Only Friend is another noticeable departure, only this time DBS has chosen to write thumping, aggro-butt rock.

Death Is My Only Friend brims to the surface with an allotment of even cornier melodies and forced angst that ultimately sounds like Papa Roach covering Ignite's back catalog and missing the point completely. "Opening Destruction" does nothing but, at least to the idea of sincere songwriting, with a thoroughly groanworthy chorus: "Running down, / running 'round, / falling down. / No one's here to catch youuu!" Seriously, guys? The proverbial 'you' in "I Sing for You" must be Hot Topic patrons with its declaration of, "sold myself some misery. / Depression, gotta break free!" If this isn't pandering...

Musically, little wins here, either. "The Last Song" and piano-addled "Forever and a Day" are some nasally Avenged Sevenfold ballad bullshit and the contrast of emotionless backing "uhhh-uhhh-ohhhh-ohhh"s with vocal barks in "Bread for the Dead" is about as dry as its title implies. The fussy, squealy guitar solos don't help much. By the time the band hit the tired-sounding verses of "I Got Your Back," the listener has to be exhausted, too. Nothing here is remotely catchy or invigorating, and frontman Efrem Schulz's flawed yell, once an endearing trait, is now trying too hard to be something it's not.

The fact that this album has 50 minutes of this crap (including an annoying hidden horror metal-type track) is sort of inexcusable, even with a second half that has some Strung Out-esque skatepunk vibes on "We Sing Today for a Better Tomorrow." The last fifth of the album is just weird, with sort of a bizarre NYHC feel to "Welcome to the Party," "For All My Friends (The Unity Song)" and especially "Fear of a Brown Planet." Whether that works in DBS's favor all that well is up for debate, but it sure sounds better than the rest of Death's radio cock-schlock. Granted, "For All My Friends" sure has a weirdly inviting opening, with Schulz calling all "niggers, wetbacks, fats (?) and...Jews." I'm pretty sure he means the terms endearingly, but it's pretty awkward sounding all the same.

Death by Stereo used to have some really genuine, well-rounded grit and aggression to their songs, but as the years have passed they seem less to be growing as artists and merely becoming confused ones. Put short, this album sucks.

The Ballad of Sid Dynamite
I Sing for You
The Last Song
Fear of a Brown Planet