United By Fate (Island Records)
By: Alex Steininger
Let's get straight to the point. I don't want to hit you with a lot of buzzwords up front to turn you off. I'm just going tell you right now, United By Fate is one of the best rock albums of the year. It is a loud, abrasive record with plenty of drive. But, it doesn't fear its melodic abilities either, as it creates quick, sweeping hooks alongside crashing rhythms, a combo I just love.
By telling you all of this up front, hopefully you'll read the whole review, instead of skipping to the last paragraph and reading my summary. If not, just skip the review and get the album, as Rival Schools deserve to be heard.
From the immediate crash of "Travel By Telephone," the opening track, to the punk-speed of "High Acetate," Rival Schools may get the emo tag, but they're so much more. "Undercovers On," a steaming, slower number proves the band has a soft side. Focused around the subtle pop hooks rather than blasting guitars and punk fury, the rock still makes a huge impact on the song, as the booming rhythm section always does. However, the vocalist tones it down, singing rather than screaming, opting to let the guitar build throughout the song rather than come out with its guns blaring.
But for a band built around the jagged, urgent guitar rush and splitting rhythms, all wrapped up around the frantic, emotionally-drenched vocals, the band jumps right back into rage-filled rock, amped up and filled with plenty of spirit.
I haven't heard unabashed, poignant songwriting like this from a loud rock band in a long while. Normally, noise and depth don't go hand in hand. That is, until Rival Schools get their hands on it. This is as rough and solid as they come, a healthy combination of all that is good and evil in rock. I'll give it an A+. 15