ALBUM REVIEW – “Savages” by Breathe Carolina

Stretching the ‘alternative’ nature of the rock/hardcore world since their inception, Breathe Carolina have always applied strong pop flavourings to their electronic rock formula. The departure of scream vocalist Kyle Even and guitarist Joshua Aragon (only the latter has been replaced, by Tommy Cooperman) has given them the opportunity to move into even more comprehensive pop territory, and it’s an opportunity they’ve whole-heartedly taken. Savages is for all intents and purposes a mainstream dance pop album, consisting almost entirely of chart music synthesizers and computerised sounds.

In terms of quality, it’s more or less the definition of a mixed bag. ‘Bury Me’ kicks things off to a blinding start with its massive bass movements and subtly infectious chorus, but the ensuing ‘Bang it Out’ then incorporates every current trend in chart dance going to the point that it almost sounds like a parody. ‘Collide’ makes the same mistake, while ‘Please Don’t Stay’ takes such obvious influence from a certain Avicii hit that he may have some claim in suing for royalties. Such homogeneity to the status quo is disappointing, as elsewhere the material is strong enough to sound timelessly good, most notably on the beautiful yearning of ‘Shots Fired’ and the sugary, addictive ‘Shadows’. As an album Savages has a clear direction but some of its songs are far better than others and the quality control leaves something to be desired.

Now-sole vocalist David Schmitt has a lot to do on this record, a potential problem as he’s never been the strongest of singers- fortunately, the material he’s singing never demands too much of him and his voice does suit it, even if he is completely outclassed by guest Tyler Carter on ‘Chasing Heart’. The one song his voice really doesn’t mesh with is lone post-hardcore number ‘Sellouts’. Once again the guest vocalist (this time it’s Danny Worsnop) pretty much saves the track, adding some much needed aggression, but the heavy riffs and screams are so out of place with the rest of the album it’s a mystery as to why it was included.

The hit-and-miss nature of Savages might well be down to the growing pains of losing members, but Breathe Carolina have certainly hit onto something here. Pop songwriting talent is certainly not missing, and avoiding brazen imitation of what’s currently on trend will make future material far better. Screaming has never worked for their sound, and abandoning any traces of post-hardcore has benefitted them, but their new material does from time to time go too far the other way into regurgitation of what’s hot in the charts. Savages is a fun record, if nothing else, with a good few pop bangers, but it’s too inconsistent to truly established Breathe Carolina as big league players in either the rock or the pop world.

Rating: 6/10

[Michael Bird]





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