Smile Empty Soul's debut release is a screeching, brooding affair that smiles little and swears a lot. Like the surly rebel in the back of class, Smile Empty Soul's mouthpiece, guitarist, and principal songwriter Sean Danielsen launches accusations at every conceivable authority figure. The song titles read like headings in an angry suburban kid's diary -- "Therapy," "Your Way," "With This Knife," "All My Problems" -- while his grim-faced lyrics paint his problems broadly, without depth and offering no silver lining. "Inside the cage/I see an image of the future we don't have" (from "Nowhere Kids"); "Kill me with the love you won't give to me" ("For You"); "Go home and beat your kids so they don't turn out as bad as me" ("All My Problems") -- it sounds like Danielsen hasn't had a nice bowl of ice cream in a long, long time. Musically, Smile Empty Soul is yet another young trio equally indebted to Kurt Cobain's trademark bark and the hard-edged melodics of Alice in Chains. Grating guitars tear at familiar-sounding power riffs as drummer Derek Gledhill and bassist Ryan Martin hold down a capable yet unremarkable bottom end. The album's slower moments range from the crass antiwar sloganeering of "This Is War" to the faux-Staind acoustic ballad "I Want My Life."
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AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus