After Weezer’s last album tanked so hard that it actually left a crater in its wake, even some of the most dogged emo fans had to concede that the genre might not be on stable ground anymore. How would they be able to deny it? When one of the biggest names in the genre’s stable releases an album which is dead on arrival, the future cannot possibly look good. Even with the end in sight though, some true believers always carry on undaunted and, in the case of emo, a perfect example can be seen in Fire Next Time and their fourth album Cold Hands. Emotionally articulate lyrics are the order of the day here and, to be fair, at least a couple of the songs are well honed and seasoned; it’s just unfortunate that Fire Next Time’s faculties as songwriters haven’t matured quite yet.
Growling premonitions of mania loom large from the moment “I Follow Stars, Not Dreams II” opens Cold Hands and listeners with a (shall we say) more aggressive sensibility will feel their pulses begin to rise in anticipation of what’s to come. Sheets of dark and caustic guitar from Ryan Mick and Kevin Klemp prove the duo is able to get under listeners’ collective skin, and Matt Murphy’s deep, ominous bass will help their eyes begin to see red, for sure. This kind of build ia simultaneously noxious and exciting – so what’s the problem? Singer/guitarist James Renton’s first audience address says it all; scan “I would do anything for you/ I’m too ashamed to show my face/ at your table as I quietly take my place/ Your eyes they shine like heaven’s gates.”
THAT kind of melodramatic, emo-nursing pabulum is the problem, readers. Simply said, the music sounds great but the songwriting is so sophomoric it’s laughable.
Now, to be completely fair, not every song on Cold Hands suffers from the “great song, lousy lyrics” problem that “I Follow Stars, Not Dreams II” does. In fact, tracks including “Hell and Damnation, He Said,” “Carrion King” and “Hand Of Time” all break the prurient cycle and produce some solid returns as Fire Next Time DOES find a way to strike a balance between their emo and metal sides – it just doesn’t happen often enough to sustain the album. Most regularly, the results that the band produces are fairly limp because the metal imagery they employ (all dark, all brooding) clashes with the lighter, less technically-impressive sound synonymous with emo and will only succeed in producing dubious grins among those who hear it; metalheads will find the music too soft, and the last few undying fans that emo has will find the lyrics too dark. There’s just no winning for Fire Next Time here.
But has the band travelled beyond redemption with Cold Hands? Even four albums in (yes, really), it’s possible that Fire Next Time may be able to wake up and break out of this recurring nightmare, all they have to do is pick one of the sounds they’re playing with: they can either be an emo band or a metal band. They’ve got enough talent that they could (theoretically) do either one, but they really need to stop trying to cross wires and do both.