I Am The Avalanche – Avalanche United
Release Date: October 11, 2011
Record Label: I Surrender
To put into perspective of how long it's been since a new I Am The Avalanche album was released, my first review for this site was their 2005 self-titled debut. Six years is a long time, huh? Thankfully, after all the label bullshit at Drive-Thru, I Am The Avalanche is back with a vengeance with their I Surrender debut, the appropriately titled Avalanche United.
Sure, you've already heard a few of these songs over the years (thanks to IATA's relentless touring schedule), but you gotta admit that it feels great to finally blast them as loud as you want through your stereo. The twelve tracks featured on Avalanche United never takes it foot off the pedal. When vocalist Vinnie Caruana enthusiastically says “check, check!” amidst the buzz of opener “Holy Fuck,” you know exactly what's gonna go down. Incorporating one of the album's best melodies (courtesy of guitarist Mike Ireland), Caruana recalls going through a divorce but refusing to go through another (“You don't turn your back on family”). “Brooklyn Dodgers” is a love song dedicated to New York, and is already a fan favorite – an old demo refined into a fist-pumping anthem.
Avalanche United also possesses a heaviness that wasn't as prevalent on IATA's debut album. The upbeat “Amsterdam” will send a charge throughout your nervous system, while “This One's On Me” is a celebration song, an ode to friends and fans alike. While the overall theme of the album seems to center around comradery, there are still some tense, dark moments on the record. The dissonant “Dead Friends” is a reminder of those who've passed on, while the creeping “You've Got Spiders” takes aim at scumbags. The former is a despair-ridden track that focuses on people losing their passion. The track is anything but, however, as a nicely placed mosh part anchors the track. The darkest moment appears on “The Gravedigger's Argument,” a breakneck punk song in the vein of Lifetime. Aided by Bayside's Anthony Raneri, the song tells the story of a gravedigger who realizes that he must bury his dead wife in his backyard to attain closure.
But Avalanche United doesn't stay bleak for long. Hell, this album features the most positive lyrics from Caruana in a long time, if ever. The melodic “I'll Be Back Around” has Caruana pulling himself up from his bootstraps and enjoying life, while the soaring (and fittingly titled) “Is This Really Happening?” is Caruana's first stab at a love song. There's a lot of poignancy to Caruana's writing on Avalanche United – you can sense his (and the rest of the band's) maturity throughout the record. It's as levelheaded as a record can be, never getting too sappy or too depressing. Whether it's not taking anything for granted anymore (“The Place You Love Is Gone”) or dedicating a song to the toughest sonofabitch you know (“Casey's Song”), Caruana takes it all in stride.
The album concludes in typical Avalanche fashion, as “Gratitude” is an absolute banger. From a pummeling drum solo (Brett Romnes seriously kills it on each track) to the blistering guitar duel between Ireland and Brandon Swanson, each IATA member shines, wrapping up the album with a contagious “AVALANCHE UNITED” chant. The quintet is having the time of their life and it's prevalent from start to finish. The album is everything you'd want in a punk record – fast, to the point, and in your face, all while being paced by crunchy guitar chords, rich textures, and raw vocals. It's obviously the best album of the band's career and the definitive Vinnie Caruana record. During the 30 odd minutes of Avalanche United, you hear a revitalized band that's eager to take over the country and at the top of their game. So here's a friendly memo to the rest of the pop-punk genre: it's time to get on I Am The Avalanche's level.
Slightly overrated in my opinion, because I can't seem to stomach through the middle of the record without getting distracted away from it, but as far as "punkier" pop-punk goes, with really, really solid musicianship, this band is flat-out a group of professionals. A major plus of this being their first record in 6 years is that it felt like they left absolutely everything in the studio and that makes for a wonderful energy and edge in these songs.
There are a couple of songs that I don't find catchy/memorable when taking the record in as a whole, but the musicianship is incredible, writing is done well, and the production is huge which all make up for that. My favorite track (other than the obvious fan faves) is "The Place..".
Vinnie has been one of my favorite people in this scene since I was 15, it always bummed me out the hand he was dealt in terms of label issues. I'm really glad these guys were able to put out a new record, let alone one that is going to top AOTY lists everywhere.