CD Review: Sum 41 / Screaming Bloody Murder
Reviewed by: Ryan Labbe
Many bands come to a point in their career when they try something different from their past efforts, and show they’ve matured as musicians and lyricists. Despite Sum 41’s last album, Underclass Hero,” which many fans felt was a forgettable regression, Sum 41, comprised of Deryck Whibley ( lead vocals, lead & rhythm guitars, keyboards, piano), Jason McCaslin (bass guitar, backing vocals) and Steve Jocz (drums, percussion) are back and trying to make good with their fifth album, Screaming Bloody Murder. It’s no longer simply about power chords and fast drumming. Screaming Bloody Murder is 14 tracks displaying everything from screeching guitars and pounding drums to acoustic guitars strumming alongside a somber piano.
The album begins with “Reason to Believe,” which showcases a strong, marching heavy-metal like intro that gives way to an edgy pop-punk chorus, not unlike the kind we’ve come to expect from Sum 41. The song feels more like an introduction than a cohesive song. After hearing the remainder of the album, it’s clear that “Reason to Believe” is a fitting choice for the opening track, as it has all the elements you can expect from other 13 tracks: dirty heavy metal riffs, mid-tempo ballads, quiet breakdowns, and strong pop-punk melodies.
Next up is the album’s title track, and first single. As the name might suggest, it’s an aggressive song, and perhaps the song most reminiscent of classic Sum 41. It’s a rare day that I claim the single is the strongest track on an album, but today is that day. “Screaming Bloody Murder” begins with a mid-tempo piano-driven intro. Whibley sings, “I’m not quite myself these days/I guess we all come undone time to time in different ways.” In come the pounding drums and scathing guitar riff that make the song a good choice for a first single. McCaslin’s bassline moves the song along, muted guitars join and the chorus explodes in true Sum 41 fashion. “Tear me open I believe/God will send you all to bleed,” screams Whibley, “And no one can deceive/what it’s meant to be/ a Bloody Murder we will scream!”
“Blood in My Eyes” starts off with an eerie guitar intro, and gives way to a really fun heavy metal riff that you makes you believe it when Sum 41 once proclaimed that “Maiden and Priest were the Gods that we praised.” The verse is quiet, subdued, and the chorus is fairly forgettable, but when they go back to the heavy riff, it makes things all better. After the second chorus, Sum 41 break into a fast, furious heavy metal riff that is the main reason this song deserves multiple listens.
Other highlights include “Jessica Kills,” another fully charged rocker from top to bottom with a strong low-end that drives the song towards a sonic chorus, and Whibley’s aggressive screams in top form. “All Comes to an End”, when it gets going, reminds me of something from My Chemical Romance. It’s fast, energetic, has a great chorus, but just doesn’t sound like Sum 41 to me.
The somber “Over Now” is a song about a dying person singing to their loved one. The instrumentation is subdued and simple, with only a piano and guitar. “Hold me now, cause I couldn’t even if I tried/It’s over now, I guess it really is my time,” Whibley sings during the first verse. The lyric that really stuck out to me comes at the end of the chorus: “What do you I have to do/I was supposed to grow old with you…but that ain’t gonna happen.” It’s a simple sentiment, but one that stirs emotion, and I like this song for that reason.
“Exit Song,” the final track on the album, is short slow outro. “There is nothing left to say/‘cause you don’t want to try, and I don’t want the pain,” sings Whibley. “It’s time to let you go and bow out of the game/Maybe we will find the answers through the blame.” Given Whibley’s recent divorce from fellow musician Avril Lavigne, it’s easy to see this as a possible message to her. It clocks in at less than two minutes, and is a fine, although bittersweet, way end the album.
Another item worth mentioning is the appearance of Roger Joseph Manning, Jr., one of the founding members of Jellyfish, on piano.
Screaming Bloody Murder is a decent effort, but is not without its flaws. Sum 41 could have easily cut a few tracks. “Time for You to Go” and “Baby You Don’t Wanna Know” could easily have been saved as bonus tracks, as they don’t really fit the album, and just feel like filler. Some of the choruses sound too similar and, as a result, some of tracks blended together.
Sum 41 has put together a very ambitious album, one that hits the mark at times, and falls short at other times. Sum 41 is a band that is at their best when they’re making fast, pop-punk tinged with metal. I can accept that they are maturing and evolving, and I really enjoy some of the new songs, but all in all, on Screaming Bloody Murder there’s too much filler, not enough killer, and just not enough of what I’ve come to love about Sum 41.