Published Oct 05, 2016Considering what Deryck Whibley's gone through in the last five years, it's impressive that 13 Voices even came to be. It's a fact accentuated by the song titles here: "A Murder of Crows (You're All Dead to Me," "Goddamn I'm Dead Again" and "Fake My Own Death" kick off the record with a triple play of morbidity.
Fortunately, the music is a little livelier, for the most part. Although the first song feels a little drawn-out with its gaudy orchestrations, its followup is the closest thing we've gotten to "heavy metal and mullets" since 2004's Chuck, with appropriately shred-happy solos courtesy of returning lead guitarist Dave "Brownsound" Baksh. "Fake My Own Death" trades in the solos for a more radio-friendly arrangement, but retains the ever-important riffage.
Unfortunately, the "hard-score punk" elements — Whibley wrote the album while watching movies with the volume muted, resulting in plenty of keyboard parts — sometimes get in the way. "Breaking the Chain" sounds closer to Linkin Park than Sum 41, though some fun and cheesy guitarmony breaks it up in hilarious fashion, and "There Will Be Blood" swings with an oddly circus-esque bounce before another metallic break. While the distractions are nice, it only underlines the fact that Sum 41 are at their best when forging a fusion between metal and radio-friendly pop punk/rock — not allowing them to exist separately.
Things are hit and miss when the Ajax band are doing their take on other popular acts. The title track brings to mind Bayside, while "God Save Us All (Death to POP)" employs synths in a similar way to Bring Me the Horizon's latest. "War" is this album's "Pieces," and succeeds as its tender moment and lyrical turning point.
Sum 41 in 2016 is a lot like their early 2000s pop punk peers Blink-182; they're fun, capable of writing at least a few songs worthy of an inevitably forthcoming "best-of" compilation and at their best when embracing their past. (Hopeless)