Sum 41's latest album, 13 Voices, is a lyrical journey of frontman Deryck Whibley's recovery after being hospitalized right up until the time he was ready to leave for tour, and that's no coincidence. The once-mischievous punk rocker tells Exclaim!'s No Future that the whole album was written in chronological order.
That puts "War" and its refrain of "What am I fighting for? / Everything back and more," at around the midpoint of the recovery, and understandably, he reveals it wasn't just a crucial part of the album but also a crucial part of his life.
"I wrote those lyrics at a time when I was easily going to fall off the wagon and just say, 'This has been so long, it's been over a year now, I'm not getting any better. I can't walk. My nerve damage in my feet is so bad that I can't stand for more than two minutes.' I just thought I was never going to get better. The doctors didn't know if I was going to get better, and I just thought, well this is no way to live; I'd rather just drink the rest of my life away and at least enjoy it."
Instead of falling off the wagon, he took the reins and recovered: from being unable to stand for more than a couple of minutes to roaming the stage and from being unable to play guitar to penning a whole album on the damn thing. But writing this time around wasn't a jam session. In another unconventional move, Whibley wrote much of the album while watching muted movies, including Edward Scissorhands, Mars Attacks!, Inglourious Basterds and 12 Monkeys. He even punningly refers to the result as a "hard-score punk" record, even though he doesn't listen to much hardcore.
But when asked about his love of Metallica, the Whibley reveals, "I mean, Metallica, they just have such great melodies, even though they're tough and they're hard and heavy, they're like the Beatles of metal. They're really catchy songs."
That intersection of catchy and heavy is where Sum 41 built their sound, taking metallic riffs and welding them to their pop-punk foundation. Although they've detoured from that sound at times — Underclass Hero ditched toughness almost entirely, while its predecessor Chuck separated their influences into their own songs, such as the Metallica homage "The Bitter End" — it's ultimately where they built their home, which 13 Voices returned to.
"I came out okay in the end. Even though there were some dark times and there were some hard times, and I sing about those things, ultimately I come out better for it in the end, and the album, I think, reflects that lyrically."
And though they may not call it a "Sum-Back," Sum 41 are definitely back. Find out more about their return in the interview below (and don't miss out on our acoustic session with them).