ALBUM REVIEW: Tonight Alive – Limitless
The album cycle for The Other Side (Tonight Alive’s last full-length album) documented their growth and development from a band at rock bottom, to a band at the top of their songwriting and performing game. Now they’re back with Limitless, The Other Side’s slightly less ominous younger brother.
The empowering theme of breaking down boundaries is more than hinted at from the start, with the title alone setting the scene for the new, happier Jenna McDougall and band to do their thing. Energising and uplifting opener To Be Me establishes from the off that Limitless is a far cry from debut album What Are You So Scared Of?. The catchy chorus and other-worldly production are the redeeming factors for what is essentially a less than impressive lengthy build up for the next track, Oxygen – a bit of an anticlimax in the end anyhow. The lull in energy provided by this track is not really necessary this early on, and the lyrics about ‘saving the world’ are frankly just banal.
The album is packed with slow ballad-types very much like Oxygen, which do nothing much but reinforce the idea of Tonight Alive being more like ‘The Jenna Show’ than anything else. It is undeniable, however, these do show off Jenna’s incredible vocals amazingly, particularly in places her falsetto, which we rarely got to hear in earlier material.
The next track Human Interaction is in all honesty slightly unsatisfying. It fails to build and the mundane chorus doesn’t really go anywhere. If this track were on The Other Side as opposed to Limitless, it would arguably have been one of the weakest tracks on that album, yet here it has been chosen to be released as the lead single.
Though progression and change in a band’s sound from one album to the next is healthy and to be encouraged, fans may worry that Limitless is too different from the sound that made them love the band originally. Having said that, it is undeniable that the transition to a more pop synth sound has been working well for a few other bands recently, with possibly the most noticeable case study being Bring Me The Horizon.
There are tracks on this album that feel more like the older sound however, for example How Does It Feel, Power Of One and I Defy. 2013’s The Other Side was considerably darker, lyrically and musically. The Edge (the lone-standing single released for the Spiderman Film) had an even heavier sound. There was no warning of the U-turn to come.
Overall, this album just feels lazy – missing something maybe. This isn’t because it doesn’t sound like the Tonight Alive we already know; there’s no shame in a change of direction, but possibly that missing thing conviction.
Dark times from which previous material was born the band have put behind them, but maybe the smoother seas just don’t make for good writing. It feels as if focus has shifted even further towards pushing Jenna into the limelight, whilst the band stay in the shadows. Instrumentally it’s just not particularly musically intricate or interesting, and generally it lacks compulsion in places, making it often feel forced and uninspiring.
Despite being their third album, it feels like the band hit the stereotypical sophomore album roadblock in the writing process, and despite being amazingly polished and very well produced, this ballad-heavy collection of tracks falls short slightly. Tonight Alive may have found their limits.
Stand Out Tracks: Power Of One, The Greatest
For Fans Of: The Summer Set, Sleeping With Sirens
Written By: Jo Howarth