The Blackout

The Best in Town

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Just in case you were laboring under the false impression that emo/screamo/metal was a strictly American phenomenon, there's a band that hails from Wales and is good enough to show their stateside counterparts a thing or two. On The Best in Town, their first album for Epitaph (and second overall), the Blackout thunder and squall through a batch of songs that deal with the usual topics of heartbreak, betrayal, isolation, and frustration with romance and society and have a familiar sound (sweetly sung vs. rabidly screamed vocals, heavy riffing, cavernous drums, and great walls of processed guitars), but generally have a fresh and vigorous feel that keeps things hopping throughout. The best songs lean toward the metal end of the spectrum and the riffs are allowed to crunch with abandon. The opening "Shut-the-F**k-Uppercut," "The Fire," and "We're Going to Hell...So Bring the Sunblock" all fall into this category. The tracks that lean more toward emo-pop, like "Save Our Selves (The Warning)" and "Children of the Night" (and really, most of the album) work almost as well despite the slickness of the sound and the sometimes near-clich├ęd lyrics. The band -- especially vocalists Sean Smith and Gavin Butler -- displays enough energy and guts to paper over the weak spots. The metallic riffs that pop up in even the most melodic songs help keep things interesting, too. The only time the record falters is when the sap runs a little too thick and the band veers toward the middle of the road, which luckily only happens on the painfully earnest power ballad "Silent (When We Speak)." Otherwise, The Best in Town is a fine example of how to break free from the constraints of an accepted style by taking all the elements and doing them better than anyone else. Well done, chaps.

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