There are two types of bands in the music industry: those that experiment and those who stick to a familiar formula. Story of the Year, now in their 13th year, is the latter type. In their newly released album, The Black Swan, there is no shortness of sounds, but originality is a concept entirely unexplored.
At the core of the album, their third commercial release, the sounds all ring in like mirrored doppelgangers of 2002's Page Avenue. There is a familiarity that will gain approval from the band's fans. This is good, in a way, because the band has proven they can write album after album without reneging or exchanging their original sound. In the opposite way, every song has the same sounding hooks and choruses.
The melodies are complete rips of previous songs which, in turn, are rips of previous albums. Even the slow songs, like "Angel in the Swamp," play like slower versions of "Tell Me" or "The Antidote." The question of how many times one can replicate a single work seems to be answered by SotY with a slick, roaring, "infinity."
On its own, the album is not that poor. On the contrary, it's loud and authoritative. It even hits the sweet spots outside of the screamo lyrics and four measured heavy bass. The choruses are tucked neatly within the verses and the band is able to maintain a valid consistency in their presentation. Occasionally, with tracks like "Message to the World" and "We're Not Going To Make It," they do play with a few unique sounds. In the same way they worked into a hardcore bender in their previous album, In the Wake of Determination, SotY attempts to carry the listener on a musical journey. However, they are quick to abandon any new horizons, exchanging the potential of these tracks for the same old repetitive noises they have learned to master.
Previously, they pushed towards a harder, darker ambiance. This time around, they clearly spent two years re-mixing their own debut album with slightly different guitar sounds and alternate lyrics. The whole thing drips with talent and catchy rhythms, but this is overcast by their inability to truly evolve. SotY has managed to revert back to the basics, and as a result they have joined the elite list of bands who cannot get past their own originality (if that makes any sense) alongside such bands as Nickelback or Staind.
It's not fair to compare The Black Swan to anything other than Page Avenue or Determination because they are all simply the same recycled tracks blended together either without notice or without care. Yes, it is good, but also reproduced, underdeveloped, and unenthusiastic towards the future of both the music industry and the band's influence over this market.