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New Jersey emo-types Save Face reinvent themselves as rock opera wannabes with mixed results on Another Kill For The Highlight Reel.
Save Face have always been an ambitious band. Formed in 2012, the New Jersey four-piece only released their debut full-length, Merci, in 2018. You could hear why it took so long, though – a highly thought-out concept album about a recovering drug addict called Caleb, its songs were full of a moody, dark atmosphere, all minor chord heartwounds that bristled with suffering, courtesy of frontman Tyler Povanda’s earnest, raw delivery.
This follow-up does a complete 180 – to the extent that it almost sounds like the product of a different band. Gone are the glowering, gloomy songs full of tension, replaced by more macabre theatrical anthems about death and dying. In fact, these 11 songs almost sound as if they were written for a stage show, something very much confirmed by The Black Parade-esque aesthetic of the album artwork. In the same way that American Idiot became a musical, it’s easy to imagine Another Kill For The Highlight Reel soundtracking a troop of, say, dancers in skeleton outfits.
That’s not necessarily bad per se, but it is distracting. Whether it’s the creepy piano that opens first song The Funeral You’ve Been Asking For or the super-poppy adrenaline rush of title-track, the chugging dramatics of Bury Me (Tonight) or the tender balladeering of closer Please Murder Me, it just feels like Save Face are trying a little bit too hard, that their intentions and influences are a bit too obvious too often.
There are a few moments where they avoid those trappings – the breakneck rush of Sharpen Your Teeth or the belligerent post-hardcore of A.M. Gothic, which features Thursday’s Geoff Rickly, and the shadowy groove of Watch You Die – but much of this record comes off as performance rather than truth or catharsis. It’s fun, but comes off as slightly disingenuous. Nevertheless, it’s a bold move to write a rock opera, and while this falls a little short, it’s still a valiant attempt.
For fans of: My Chemical Romance, Alkaline Trio, Green Day
Another Kill For The Highlight Reel is out now via Epitaph