Story of the Year sounded way too clean on their debut for Maverick, 2003's Page Avenue. You could tell there was a heavy sound behind the emo overtones and Goldfinger impresario John Feldmann's sugary mix and production, but good luck finding it. The St Louis quintet was lost inside a formula. But the band more than remedies that with 2005's In the Wake of Determination, a rewardingly heavy record that still keeps things accessible enough for fans of Page Avenue's overdone power ballad "Anthem of Our Dying Day." Producer Steve Evetts (Hatebreed, Dillinger Escape Plan) brings out the hardness without shutting down Story's melodic sensibilities -- in a song like opener "We Don't Care Anymore," glowering riffs meet soaring choruses and even some keyboard for just the right balance of darkness and light. The similarly strong "Take Me Back" is saved from Hoobastank territory by its modified hardcore rhythms. Hardcore actually figures into most of Determination, fueling "Our Time Is Now," "Stereo," and the triumphant chorus of "March of the Dead." There are hundreds of bands in the mid-2000s who blatantly slam hardcore into metal and other elements. Story of the Year do, too -- they counteract their yelling and anthem-making with layered harmonies that still sound too sweet, and there are parts lifted from old Maiden and Metallica records. But Story of the Year aren't rocking a formula. And even if they are, In the Wake of Determination still sounds like exactly the record they wanted to make, so it doesn't really matter. It's clear that this time around, they believe in it.
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AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus