Finch's full-length debut is a phenomenal account of a band riding the thin line between hardcore and pop-punk while retaining a trademark sound that stands out from the crowd. Incredibly catchy while retaining a shred of independent integrity, Finch brings with them a familiar sound that speaks of years of finely tuned development and maturity, yet in all reality the group has only been together for a few short years. This young group builds on the style they introduced on 2001's Falling Into Place EP, further establishing Finch as one of the most promising bands inhabiting the scene in 2002. "Letters to You" and "Perfection Through Silence" also find their way onto this album from the band's earlier EP, allowing old favorites to feel right at home with the new material. Nate Barcalow's vocals ooze with passion and drip with the expected punk angst, yet where other groups fail at making an emotional connection with the listener, Finch excels at it. Barcalow's prominent melodies woven between the harmonic guitars bores holes in the heart. Glassjaw's Daryl Palumbo lends his recognizable screams on two separate songs, "Grey Matter" and "Project Mayhem," where he and Barcalow play off one another to make each song a must-hear track. Palumbo even sounds vaguely similar to Bad Brains' H.R. when singing on "Grey Matter." "Project Mayhem" lives up to its name, as it's a powerhouse of a song with irate screams and piercing guitar squeals tearing through spastic programming courtesy of Mark Trombino. Finch ventures into emo territory on the sappy "Without You Here," yet the band uses this mellow side sparingly and allows the song to be a refreshing mid-album relaxant. The lyrical poignancy prevents the song from feeling too generic, and it actually allows the listener to feel genuine melancholy, rather shocking for just another pop-punk band. That is just it, though -- Finch isn't just another pop-punk band, as for every "Stay With Me" or "Three Simple Words" that adheres to the typical emo/punk stereotype, there are songs such as the album's opener, "New Beginnings," or the despondent "Ender," which is a momentous opus of programming bliss. What It Is to Burn is an album that exemplifies everything that is right in the punk scene, from the dejected sadness of emo to the agonizing fury of hardcore, and most importantly in Finch's case, the uplifting tones of pop-punk. Finch has exceeded any possible expectations with their debut full-length and, as with their Falling Into Place EP, leaves you craving more.
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AllMusic Review by Jason D. Taylor