Sworn In - All Smiles
Oftentimes, I hear people bash Sworn In and usually defend them by mentioning Death Card is a fun album. After multiple listens, it's hard to deny their “heavy just to be heavy” attitude (as one of them pretty much said in an interview promoting DC), along with the high-school-freshman angst on “Hypocrisy.” A lot of their energy comes from their mix of frantic scenecore chugging and panic chords and Tyler Dennen’s vocals, but the lyrics are always less than average. Then there was that My Chemical Romance-ripoff album the band denounced prior to All Smiles, a good thing since it was the second worst album of that year for me, right behind All That Remains. So, with the band saying they’d go back to what made them popular, one would expect All Smiles to be a return to form.
“Make It Hurt” pretty much crushes those hopes. Getting through a serviceable verse, Sworn In seem to return what they wanted to get away from: melodramatic clean choruses that scream beginner lyricism like “Make it hurt, make it hurt, I can’t feel you if you don’t.” It's quite painful listening to these vocals as the heavy auto-tune is not stylistic, and the notes are theoretically not very difficult to hit. If you’re hoping that this is an isolated incident...no, it’s not. Unoriginal chugging, weightless guitar tones, slow and empty drum beats, and tinny screams make up the majority of the album. The title track maybe the most egregious, showing there isn’t much differences between All Smiles and The Lovers / The Devil. It almost makes your skin crawl to hear “Round and round we go” as a chorus, as if Sworn In are trying to find a middle ground for more pop-oriented listeners.
Then there's absolute messes of songs like “Helluputmethru.” The band try to induce anxiety with smooth cleans and guitars filtered through a glitchy mix, but the song stumbles and winds up sounding like a really bad impression of Tourette’s than an unraveling psyche, which I assume was the intended effect. “Hell...” is completely unforgivable. “Cry Baby” is a close second. Want basic nu-metal grooves and more of Dennen’s lackluster vocals? Yeah, I didn’t either, but it's there.
To compound the fact that the album just isn’t written well at all, the production is terrible. Moments that could have been fun, like the very end of “Puppeteer” which is just a braindead breakdown to headbang to, is ruined by a total absence of the meaty, biting tone that made similar moments on Death Card work. On “Dread All,” a brief, juicy guttural almost breaks through the arid vocal effects, but succumbs to a totally drained production job.
I don’t know what to say about Sworn In anymore. This was supposed to be a return to form, but it’s just more of the same. We could blame the production, but when the entire album is written this poorly, it almost doesn’t matter. One song is all you need to hear to understand. This could easily end up as my worst album of the year, unless All That Remains surprise us.
- Alex B.