Four Year Strong - Enemy of the World (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Four Year Strong

Enemy of the World (2010)

Universal Motown / Decaydance

Four Year Strong's Enemy of the World comes on the heels of the band's unfathomably popular breakthrough, 2007's Rise or Die Trying, as well as last year's shoulder-shrugging holdover of '90s alternative covers, Explains It All. Anyone put off by the band's ridiculous mish-mash of overtly bouncy, new-school pop-punk and layering of sledge-hammered, metallic hardcore mosh parts will be more than pleased to hear how toned down the contrast is for their major label debut, but may still ultimately find something lacking.

Opener "It Must Really Suck to Be Four Year Strong Right Now" (its title lifted from the closing line in Alternative Press's review of comrades Set Your Goals' This Will Be the Death of Us) has a central chorus that's actually pretty enjoyable, while "This Body Pays the Bill$" traverses a similarly solid, melodic route; but the former's riffy mosh-metal cues still sound sort of absurd--again, though, the band used to shoehorn these in so much worse and higher over a proverbial top. Their gravelly yells tended to be wildly overdone in the past as well, which is something you tend to hear moreso in the ongoing onslaught of the band's followers; in "On a Saturday," where guitars and keys are compressed to a teeth-chattering, seething fault, those given yells are far from the song's worst aspect, as they're at least less strained than prior. The keys are especially moderated when the energy runs rampant, as "Wasting Time (Eternal Summer)" attests. Given less prominence, they're able to add a quiet, cheeky layer to an otherwise relatively fun, thumping song.

Still, it feels like these songs fail to tell some sort of story or carry some sort of narrative arc. Any thematic continuity the band might be trying to convey is overpowered by these thunderous transitions that give way to parts that do nothing else but prostrate, sway or groove, and the band's personality comes at a premium as a result. "Nineteen with Neck Tatz" loads up on a staggering number of guitar and vocal tracks and once in a while it just feels overwhelming--like there's too much going on at once. Some bands revel in that chaos, but it just doesn't seem to bode well for Four Year Strong. You listen to "What the Hell is a Gigawatt" and just want to tell the band to take a breath, no less when Reign Supreme's Jay Pepito comes in to ferociously growl over a hardcore New Found Glory-inspired breakdown.

The most promise for the band shines in the almost genuine melodic hardcore pacing and drive of the closing title track. Given their major label status, that's probably an unlikely path for them to take; but given their apparent willingness to at least acknowledge the excess occasionally evident in their sound, it's a remote possibility. Either way, Enemy of the World is an improvement and example of Four Year Strong thankfully shedding excess and getting closer to the core of what makes a thoughtful and resounding song--as opposed to just a rhetorical one.

It Must Really Suck to Be Four Year Strong Right Now
On a Saturday
Wasting Time (Eternal Summer)