November 17, 2020 I Am The Avalanche – DIVE (Album Review)
It has been six long years since we have heard new material from I Am The Avalanche, but that dry spell is about to end: the New Yorkers are set to return with DIVE on Friday, November 20, 2020, thanks to I Surrender Records.
It is true: “I Am The Avalanche is a force you just can’t kill.” The band was formed back in the early 2000s by Vocalist Vinnie Caruana after the dissolution of Long Island Punk legends The Movielife—though they have since reunited. Moving at a New York speed, by 2005 the Brooklyn, by-way of Merrick, band was delivering their debut disc, the eponymous I Am The Avalanche, and winning over hearts across the globe.
As they spread their name, they would go on to sporadically release new material over the next decade, with 2011’s Avalanche United and 2014’s Wolverines being their sole full length releases throughout this time. But they did tour extensively, sharing stages with the likes of Bayside, Senses Fail, Bouncing Souls, Saves the Day, and Four Year Strong.
Despite routinely facing personal and professional challenges, the quintet has managed to triumphantly soldier through over a decade-and-a-half of existence. So while there has admittedly been a gap of six years since the release of Wolverines, it’s safe to say that I Am The Avalanche—Caruana, Guitarists Michael Ireland and Brandon Swanson, Bassist Kellen Robson, and Drummer Brett Romnes—is finally back and stronger than ever.
Tackling the issue of being touring musicians amid a global pandemic—a personal topic for Caruana, as he and his wife both fell ill with COVID-19 in early spring—DIVE acknowledges the mess of the past nine months, but also admits that life was far from perfection long before “coronavirus” was part of the national consciousness. “This has been coming,“ the singer notes. “Pre-pandemic, things were still shitty. Our country has been turned upside-down by the current administration.”
But this frustration is, more often than not, channeled into an infectious hopefulness on the LP. “We all need this for our souls,“ Caruana continues. “For my relationship with music, I need this record to come out, to have people hear what we’ve made. Maybe this record will be there for somebody… I’m sure that it will.”
Produced by Romnes, you can label the 10-song DIVE as melodic Punk or Post-Hardcore, but genre has never been the point. Instead, the quintet focus on delivering anthemic fight songs to remind their legion of fans that no one is alone in these uncertain times. Perhaps that is why they opt to open the album with “Better Days,” a joy-filled toast to the future. “This is the last year that I go on sinking,” Caruana sings as he and his bandmates use the track to encapsulate the feeling of greater times, like summer days baking to death at Warped Tour.
This opens the gates for the more serious moments of “You’re No Good To Me Dead,” which offers a somber playfulness as the group admits “it hasn’t been your year / all the life has been sucked out of you.” Understatement of this crappy year. But they don’t linger, instead moving headlong into the titular “Dive.” Keeping its glass raised to those we have lost, but promising that “we suffer together, no one’s alone,” the catchy track is a stand-out, making it easy to understand how it became the collection’s namesake.
Switching it up, there’s a more languid pace for the emo “Fake Weed” (“You’re worth so much more than they give you credit for”) before they dip into the ballad “Love Song 69,” where Caruana’s vocals soar. Picking right back up, next it’s the anthemic grit of “Are You Listening?” paired with the autobiographical “Tokyo.” Meanwhile, on “Concrete,” we see that even when they are bashing their heads in frustration, they still sound like a dream.
Countering this bold anxiety, there is a nuanced intensity to “Earthquake Weather,” one that sets a tone that reaches its apex on the album’s emotional grand finale, “The Morning.” “If I’m still alive come the morning, if I somehow make it through / you’ll be the reason I still breathe; yes, I’ll owe it all to you,” Caruana confesses in the beautifully intimate final moments of DIVE.
Peppered with hope, love, and the strength found in unity, the collection is a sincere jaunt that sees I Am The Avalanche lacking in superfluous flourishes and needless flash. Lyrically and sonically raw, DIVE is a melodic record full of spirited good times as well as a realism that is able to see beyond any rose-colored lenses. A warm-hearted reminder that this year might bend us, but it will never break us, the collection feels like a sonic hug from the band to you. In this, I Am The Avalanche’s return feels like one of the best things to happen to 2020 as well as Punk. For all of this, Cryptic Rock gives DIVE 4.5 of 5 stars.