Saturday, September 14, 2013

Boysetsfire - While A Nation Sleeps…

Boysetsfire
While A Nation Sleeps…
End Hits Records/Bridge Nine Records

When Newark (Delaware, U.S.) outfit Boysetsfire announced their break-up in 2007, I was really disappointed. They had just released ‘The Misery Index: Notes From The Plague Years’ (2006), and I seriously thought the band were on the brink of bigger and better things. But obviously they thought otherwise, and within a year, they all went their separate ways, and the band was no more. While I did keep a tab on some of the projects that came afterwards (Most notably The Casting Out and I Am Heresy), what I really longed for was a return of the real deal – Boysetsfire. Obviously the band thought so too, and after a mere three years after their farewell tour, Boysetsfire announced their return to the scene.
It’s been a couple years since then, and after a couple of line-up changes in the meantime, Boysetsfire (Who now comprise of vocalist/keyboardist Nathan Gray, guitarists/backing vocalists Josh Latshaw and Chad Istvan, bassists Roberts Ehrenbrand and Chris Rakus and drummer Dan Pelic) has finally completed their comeback with the long awaited release of their fifth full-length release ‘While A Nation Sleeps…’. Given the lengthy seven year gap between albums, and my own personal expectations of the album, I initially thought the album was a little underwhelming upon first listen. But I persevered with the album and gave it time, and lo and behold, it grew on me. So much so that you could be forgiven for thinking the band didn’t even split up in the first place. In other words, Boysetsfire haven’t missed a beat in their time away from the scene.
The album begins with brief a sound bite courtesy of Charlie Chaplin (Taken from Chaplin’s final speech from the 1940 film ‘The Dictator’), before they take over with a scathing vengeance on the opening track ‘Until Nothing Remains’. The seething anger from within the band can be felt within this track, with Gray projecting plenty of venom on the vocal front, while the band only add fuel to the raging fire with an equally heavy sound. But while the song is full of rage and aggression, the band’s trademark melodic choruses still exist, and provide the song with a hook that listeners can easily latch on to.
Much like some of the band’s latter day releases, a heavier sounding effort is almost always followed by a far more melodic effort. And it’s that pattern that is repeated here, with ‘Closure’ sounding very much like classic Boysetsfire fare with its catchy melodies and sing-along choruses. I can almost guarantee that this track will no doubt become a live favourite in no time.
‘Heads Will Roll’ sees a return to the scathing hardcore sound of the band’s early days with Gray sounding particularly savage on the vocal front with his take on state of the world, while ‘Phone Call (4am)’ is presented in re-recorded form here after initially being offered as a free download from the band’s website back in 2006 prior to their eventual split. As much as I liked the song back in the day, I prefer this new and updated version – so much so that I consider this track a personal favourite on the album.
In terms of the heavier post-hardcore driven efforts, ‘Everything Went Black’ (Which as originally known as ‘Plague’, and is again another track given away from years ago by the band), the self explanatory ‘Far From Over’, ‘Alter Of God’ and the technically driven and rather modern sounding ‘Wolves Of Babylon’ are some real stand out cuts that will have fans of the band’s older material more than pleased with their return.
On the flip side, the infectious ‘Save Yourself’, the emotional ‘Reason To Believe’ and the driving ‘Let It Bleed’ (A cover of The Casting Out’s track from their self-titled 2010 album) are all highlights, with the epic closer ‘Prey’ (Which is again another cover of Gray’s former outfit The Casting Out) finishing the album on a truly stunning and emotive note.
On a first listen, I wasn’t all that impressed with ‘While A Nation Sleeps…’. But over time, it eventually won me over. While I wouldn’t go as far as to say that this is the band’s finest effort to date, because it does have its flaws. At thirteen tracks, it’s a little bloated, and the consistency tends to waver a little over the course of the whole album because of that. And then there’s the Chaplin samples dotted throughout the album. I can understand what the band was aiming for thematically, but they do get a little annoying and distracting after a while.
But issues aside, ‘While A Nation Sleeps…’ is a great album from Boysetsfire, and overall a more than worthy comeback effort for a band who split well and truly before their time was up. Hopefully the album will help give the band the recognition they so richly deserve, and serves as just the first of many records to come in the future.

For more information on Boysetsfire, check out - http://www.boysetsfire.org/

© Justin Donnelly