ALBUM REVIEW: As It Is – I WENT TO HELL AND BACK
What was once upbeat pop-punk is no more. If anybody thought that As It Is would return to the sound that launched them into our stereos in 2014, I WENT TO HELL AND BACK proves them wrong. It was hard to guess which way the band would go after their drastic metamorphosis in 2018, which saw their third LP The Great Depression tap into something darker with a post-hardcore sound.
Patty Walters really honed his theatrical side during The Great Depression album cycle, giving fans a more all-encompassing experience. It was a massive leap away from their previous sound. This leaves the question of where does their latest offering fall in terms of sound and genre? The answer is slap bang in the middle, which is a great decision for the now-trio of musicians.
The album opens with IDGAF and right from the start, you know this album is going to be something unique. There are catchy choruses, thoughtful lyrics and even some screaming in the last chorus. Next up is I LIE TO ME. Turning the dial down slightly, but still as distinct as the first song, it is bound to hit a raw nerve for anyone who has ever struggled with mental health issues. With lyrics like “And now I don’t want to feel the way I do / I’m screaming at myself now, looking for a way out,” fans would not be wrong in thinking the band were on the brink when they wrote this record.
Things take an electronic turn next as the record throws out two related songs, ILY, HOW ARE YOU and IDC, I CAN’T TAKE IT. They have a slightly different sound to them, compared to the songs that open the album, but are enjoyable nonetheless, as is the next track I’D RATHER DIE which escalates the electronic sound even more.
Just when listeners think that the titles of these songs are getting more and more intense, the album gives us I MISS 2003. This song is an ode to all that once was in the pop-punk scene and the Warped Tour. It’s littered with references to the great scene bands that came before them, that influenced them and that they now call their peers. Lines like “Cause now I’m feeling miserable at best / I guess that’s what you get when your dirty little secret” references lyrics from Mayday Parade and The All-American Rejects. Other times Walters emulates all emo kids screaming I’m Not Okay in homage to My Chemical Romance, or just plain name drops bands like New Found Glory. It’s a catchy tune for the “elder emos’ to reminisce too and make younger fans wish they were there in the good old MySpace days. Emotionally cashing in on the same nostalgia that had us all going crazy trying to get tickets to the When We Were Young Festival.
As the rest of the album develops we hear a collaboration with Set It Off’s Cody Carson and rapper JordyPurp in the way of IN THREES. A song that tells listeners tragedy always come in threes (in oppose to luck as the old saying goes). Another standout track lyrically is I HATE ME TOO, a pop-punk song that is inspired by the intense online discourse surrounding bands and artists.
I WENT TO HELL AND BACK is a lot to get your teeth into, with 14 tracks that jump around between genres and emphasise the different talents of Walters, guitarist Ronnie Ish and bassist Ali Testo. As It Is have had their fair share of ups and downs and this record shows that off beautifully. With something for all listeners new or old, this album is a solid body of exceptional work that produces songs that do more than just sound good. They burrow inside your ear and lay ideas that hatch in your brain.
For a band that started out in 2012 with “no expectations and very few ambitions,” as Walters explains they were “just hoping to have some fun and be part of the thriving punk scene here in Brighton,” they’ve come so far. Walters says he is proud of the band they’ve become and if this record is anything to go by, so are we.
Standout Tracks: I MISS 2003, I HATE ME TOO, I WENT TO HELL AND BACK
For Fans Of: Neck Deep, Save Face, Boston Manor
Written by: Cat Wiltshire