Denial: “no way AMG is running this.” Anger: “Diabolus is torpedoing his metal cred again, what an idiot!” Bargaining: “come on, just write about Alestorm or Sulphur Aeon again!” Depression: “this makes me feel as happy as the White Wizzard debacle; Diabolus may just be [REDACTED] for this.” Acceptance: “okay, I’ll see what he has to say about the new Sum 41 record.” Now that we’re through all that, let’s take a look at 13 Voices, an quality album from a band who’s never made a bad one and hails from my home province of Ontario.
Being commonly lumped in with pop-punk, Sum 41 has justifiably been ignored by the vast majority of metalheads. While I’ve yet to find anyone my age that doesn’t have a soft spot for “Fat Lip” and “The Hell Song,” the goodwill often stops there. Yes, 13 Voices definitely has a modern-ish punk influence (read: a whole bunch of hooks), but it’s abundantly clear that this stuff is being played by musicians who know and love their fair share of metal. Remarkably, Sum 41 have once again found the sweet spot where fans of pop and rock can get into the tunes and unpretentious metalheads can have a good time listening to something fun, energetic, and with enough reference points to their chosen genre that it’s hard to dislike what’s going on.
Opening 13 Voices with soft electric guitars and well-executed strings, “A Murder of Crows” kicks things off by building tension for three minutes while being a memorable highlight in its own right. When things kick into high gear with “Goddamn, I’m Dead Again,” Sum 41 sounds downright hungry. Original guitarist Dave Baksh shows he’s back with a vengeance, ripping out a ninety second solo section that evokes the best of Sum 41, Metallica, and even “Hotel California” and ended up as one of my favorite solos of the year.
There’s much more goodness to be had than just the opening salvo. “War” is 13 Voices’s emotional peak, musically and lyrically painting a picture of a quiet resilience, one that’s measured and a bit vulnerable instead of brash and braggadocios; it’s the sound of wounds being cleaned in preparation to get back into the fray again. “God Save Us All (Death to POP)” follows immediately after, and its slick hard rock riffing with a subtle metal edge pairs well with the lyrics, which make good on the promise to persevere against the odds detailed in “War.”
There’s not a single song I dislike on 13 Voices. Sum 41 have done a great job here on their latest comeback, and while I went in with trepidation and caution I emerged, twenty listens later, with one of my favorite records of the year. I’m not asking anyone to agree with me on this, but I am suggesting that you give it a shot. Worst case scenario, you’ll be amused by one of the most bizarrely entertaining music videos of the year.
Tracks to Check Out: “Goddamn, I’m Dead Again,” “God Save Us All (Death to POP),” “War”