For Today - Prevailer EP
Record Label: Razor & Tie
Release Date: April 2, 2013
I hate to take one flaw and just pick at it for a while, but I feel I have to in this case. For Today isn't a bad band, but their use of awful cheesy breakdowns and cliches is just impossible to overlook. No matter where you are in their Prevailer EP, there's a breakdown right around the corner. It can almost be felt as the band keeps trying to build them up. The worst one is at the end of "From Zion" where, after the hi-hat counts it off, a chant of "We are the resistance/Rise up" is repeated incessantly, layered over the typical low and thumping drum pattern. Basically every overdone tactic in the book is used to make way for the breakdown, which is nothing but a few slow chugging triplets on the same low guitar chord. It's painfully uninspired parts like this that make it seem like these songs were just written to gauge a reaction from the fans of other bands that have used the exact same ideas, and this EP is just full of parts like that.
The most frustrating thing about For Today is their awesome potential. Boy do they have a lot of it. If you listen to the songs, you can hear it, it's in every one. Even right off the bat in the EP's opener "From Zion," a melodic guitar line slowly evokes anticipation as a booming breakdown shatters right through it. Then there's the bridge of "Flesh and Blood" where an incredibly catchy hook really shows off the secret weapon that For Today possesses. The lead guitar work of Ryan Leitru is just far superior to any other aspect of this band, and that, honestly, is pretty much the sole reason this EP is worth listening to at all.
Now, Prevailer isn't without a few positives. "Open Heaven" manages to retain a fair level of musicianship and good songwriting throughout, and it's quite balanced. However, the melody writing is a little weak (although the same can be said about most songs by this band), and there is yet another corny breakdown right before the song ends, but if that weren't there, it'd be a really solid song all the way through. There's also a pleasant acoustic rendition of "Fearless" off the band's previous record, which shows off more creativity than this band has ever shown before. There are adjustments to the song structure and melody that allow the song to sound like it was never a heavy song in the first place. It just shows a whole new side of For Today that I really wish people could see more of.
Don't get me wrong, here, I love breakdowns sometimes. I believe that they can be a really tasteful and powerful addition to any hardcore band's arsenal. It just takes a good ear for song structure and some careful execution, which really isn't too much effort. And while there are plenty of bands that pull it off, there are also countless others that neglect the formula and just throw in single note chugging patterns whenever possible, even when they don't fit. That's when I can side with the excess of criticism towards breakdowns, and it happens to be where For Today comes up short on Prevailer. The potential to fill these songs with a bountiful abundance of hypnotic leads over aggressive and heavy undertones is so great, but only used to a minimal extent. More than half of Prevailer consists of different chugging patterns and clean vocals over simple power chords. When it seems like most of your records' content was created via the Arbiter method, there's a problem. If a band can't show off some creativity in songwriting, their potential means little and their songs are bound to be soon forgotten.