Four Year Strong – Brain Pain (Album Review)

Pure Noise Records just dropped The Amity Affliction’s latest and they continue to roll out the heavy-hitters with Four Year Strong’s highly anticipated, first full-length in five years, Brain Pain, which arrives on Friday, February 28th, 2020.

Four Year Strong has been making music together for nearly two decades now after forming in 2001 while many of the band were still in high school in Worcester, Massachusetts. Impressively, their 2007 sophomore release, Rise or Die Trying, would peak at No. 31 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart in its debut week, paving the way for four more records over the next eight years, including 2010’s Enemy of the World and, most recently, 2015’s Four Year Strong. Having amassed a dedicated following across the globe, the band has gone on to share stages with the eclectic likes of Blink-182, Bring Me the Horizon, Every Time I Die, and many, many more.

With five long years since their last full collection of original material, the world is well overdue for some new music from the Massachusetts’ band. So, ready to offer up one of their most dynamic records to date, Four Year Strong—Vocalist/Guitarists Dan O’Connor and Alan Day, Bassist Joe Weiss, and Drummer Jake Massucco—present Brain Pain. Produced by the quartet with long-time collaborator Will Putney of Fit For An Autopsy, the 12-song collection presents a cohesive and matured Four Year Strong, but one that happily never breaks from their technical prowess and to die for melodies.

Brain Pain opens as guitars drive us right into the heart of “It’s Cool,” a sonic melange that intentionally overpowers its vocals as the tension increases until there’s a moment of clarity before the band explodes full force. It’s gritty, it’s melodic, and it’s a cool representation of their musical might. Luring your ears in for the kill, “Get Out of My Head” crafts an earworm from its first second. This is the poppier side of Four Year Strong, a Sum 41-ish grooving Pop-Punk rocker that is self-aware enough to know its own infectiousness.

Unleashing a demonic stomp, “Crazy Pills” amasses intricate layers that accentuate the track’s phenomenally catchy choruses as the guys wonder about their sanity. As we begin to wonder about our own, delicious bass thumps into “Talking Myself in Circles,” a repetitive cycle of inner monologue that fails to fill the space in an upside down relationship. This leads to the dueling vocals of O’Connor and Day, taking center-stage for melodic rocker “Learn to Love the Lie,” an upbeat ode to undying, pathological loyalty. (Probably not a good way to run your relationships, but it makes for a fun song!)

Pummeling guitar riffs detonate album namesake “Brain Pain,” a heavy display of the band’s technical prowess that does no harm. Then, hoping to feel something, they amp back up to maximum infectiousness with “Mouth Full of Dirt.” This continues into the nostalgia of “Seventeen,” a look back at the blissful ignorance of youth and revisiting the freedoms of that age. In a sense, this reflective moment is a solid representation of the entire collection’s thematic cohesion: an album that sees its creators older, wiser, and yet still hoping to tap into the hunger and drive that propelled Four Year Strong in their youth. Matured, yes, but still willing to take chances in both love and music.

Opening with acoustics and building into delicate orchestration, the ballad “Be Good When I’m Gone” offers up the more minimalistic and emotional side of Four Year Strong, displaying the band’s diversity on a silver platter. As if to counter this, they absolutely erupt into “The Worst Part About Me.” Worthy of an arena sing-along, massive melodies are punctuated by throttling riffs in this undeniably infectious highlight.

They continue riding this impressive high with the syncopated riffing of “Usefully Useless” before it all ends with “Young at Heart.” Here, a wall of sound is crafted to create a barrage of bittersweet emotions, one that sonically echoes back to the album’s start and yet twists and turns to author its own experience. With its angelic vocals and intricate layers, “Young at Heart” stands out as being one of the more experimental tracks on the album and also one of its highlights—a stellar note to end on.

Brain Pain is a delicious experience that spotlights Four Year Strong’s intricate guitar riffs and sing-along choruses, along with their flawless melding of Pop-Punk and Melodic Hardcore. While not a massive diversion from the sound that fans know and love, this is an album that pushes the boundaries a little further, displaying for all that this quartet will never slack in their craft. Stronger than ever and continuing to do themselves proud, Four Year Strong takes themselves to the next level on Brain Pain. Which is why Cryptic Rock gives the disc 5 of 5 stars.

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