Released: 2007, Roadrunner Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
There is a defining moment in every person’s life when they begin to feel old. It can be physical, such as an aching back or sore knees, cosmetic where your once lush, flowing head of hair begins to thin on top, or it can be just an overall feeling of being “out of touch.” Being the sole fan and follower of metalcore on staff over the past five years, a lot—and I can’t stress enough, A LOT—of CDs from the genre have crossed my path and for the most part, I have enjoyed a good deal of them and taken my lumps for admitting so, too. So it was with great chagrin when a most unpleasant realization hit me upon spinning Still Remains’ sophomore release, THE SERPENT. I’m getting old. Leafing through the accompanying booklet, this Michigan-based Christian sextet is primped to look like a heavy metal boy band with the kind of swoopy haircuts and makeup that appeals to the kids who hang at the local mall. The songs are guitar-driven and aggressive but peppered with sweetly melodic, cleanly-sung choruses that are heavy enough to make kids feel rebellious while remaining safe enough for parents not to object to. Roadrunner has probably struck gold with Still Remains and the crossover appeal should see this band explode but tread with caution if you are of legal age to drink, vote, or, hell, even drive.
After a surprisingly solid, keyboard-laced intro track, “The Walls of An Empty Room” pretty much sums up what to expect on THE SERPENT. T.J. Miller’s hardcore bark in the verses is off-set by Mike Church’s cleanly-sung choruses which will surely appeal to the emo crowd. Church and Jordan Whelan drop hook-filled guitar runs left, right and center and the keyboards of Ben Schauland fill up any gaps. On tracks like “Stay Captive” and “Anemia In Your Sheets,” the same pattern is followed and the songs are undisputedly catchy but wholly interchangeable, as well. The youthful angst of “Dropped From The Cherry Tree” is aimed squarely at the young ‘uns and when the band slows down for the emotive ballad, “Maria,” it becomes crystal-clear that Still Remains is gunning to be name-dropped in every high school in the country. With lyrics like “I find you here alone at the forefront of my heart…we are apart and I am lost,” the white-belt-with-skinny-jeans-and eyeliner emo crowd will be all over “Sleepless Nights Alone,” too. Guitar fans should focus on album closer “Avalanche,” the heaviest song on the CD. Miller’s growls are fierce and Whelan and Church close the track with a mighty nice classical guitar piece that shows both sides of what this band has to offer.
As far as originality goes, Still Remains is hardly breaking new ground but their focus is clearly towards a certain demographic and THE SERPENT will appeal to it. There is lots of crossover potential for these songs, too, so expect a varied audience of punks, hardcore, emo and metal kids at their live shows. If Roadrunner is smart, it will have Still Remains touring endlessly in support of this album on any bill that will have the band. It worked for Killswitch Engage and will undoubtedly work for Still Remains, as well. This band is not really my cup of tea and I am about twenty years past their target audience but they do write a killer hook and display some definite chops on THE SERPENT. For fans of Bullet For My Valentine, Bleeding Through, Trivium and Killswitch Engage.
KILLER KUTS: “The Wax Walls of An Empty Room,” “Stay Captive,” “Anemia In Your Sheets,” “Dropped From The Cherry Tree,” "Avalanche"