“Don’t fix it if it hasn’t broken yet.”
Those eerily prescient words come from the chorus of “It Must Really Suck to Be Four Year Strong Right Now”, the propulsive first single off 2009’s excellent Enemy of the World. Yet somehow the pop-punk/melodic hardcore foursome failed to heed its own advice. 2011’s In Some Way, Shape or Form saw the group suddenly adhere to mainstream radio rock formulas in a ho-hum effort that earned them the unfortunately accurate nickname of “Foo Year Strong”. Before long, it appeared as if five years of relentless recording, promoting and touring took a toll on the band, and an extended period of inactivity prompted rumors of a breakup on the horizon.
No need to worry—the five-song EP Go Down in History puts the “strong” back in Four Year Strong. The band wisely chose to hit the reset button and join forces once more with Machine, the super-producer behind Enemy of the World. His impossibly chunky guitar tones, massive vocal layering and pristine drum sounds will always be a perfect match for FYS’ pop-punk-on-steroids style. Opening track “What’s in the Box?” immediately demolishes any doubt surrounding the band’s vitality:
“I know that every word I’ve said has fallen short of being clever
But I think you get the picture
I’ve been working too damn hard to give in to pressure
But it doesn’t mean the walls aren’t caving in
I know my wounds will heal with time
But still I wear all my scars with pride”
Guitarists/vocalists Alan Day and Dan O’Connor sound more fired up than ever before. Their heartfelt singing carries the battle-worn gruffness of a veteran back for more punishment, while their crushing, swift guitar riffs are especially reminiscent of longtime Machine collaborators Lamb of God this time around. Day and O’Connor might as well be two halves of the same juiced-up, flamboyantly-bearded hardcore hivemind, and the five songs on Go Down in History thrive on the chemistry of this duo.
As Four Year Strong’s most exuberant release to date, Go Down in History is timed perfectly to coincide with the band’s stint on the Vans Warped Tour. Much of the band’s renewed energy can be attributed to the ferocious playing of drummer Jake Massucco, unleashed once more following a comparatively restrained performance on In Some Way, Shape or Form. He peppers lead-off single “Tread Lightly” with all sorts of stop-start trickery and breakneck tempo changes. Gunshot drum hits accent the highly punctuated vocal hooks provided by Day and O’Connor.
But just when it seems they’ve let it all out, Four Year Strong channels even more vigor into the title track. “Go Down in History” is one hell of a career-defining statement with perhaps the best chorus the band ever wrote:
“It’s never too late to keep your head straight
Move your hands back in forth in perfect symmetry, so you can
Live like a time bomb that doesn’t have long
Go down in history”
This track has everything one could possibly want from Four Year Strong. There are fist-pumping breakdowns, all sorts of nifty guitar parts, catchy hooks and gang vocals a plenty, titanic drumming and even some percolating low end from oft-ignored bassist Joe Weiss. And the best part? Everything is weaved together seamlessly in an amazing display of songcraft.
If there’s anything to complain about on Go Down in History, it’s that the constant one-upmanship gets to be a bit much on repeat listens. By the time closing track “So You’re Saying There’s a Chance…” rolls around, there just isn’t anything new for the band to do. It seems silly to discuss excess on a 17-minute release but I can’t help but think the EP should end after the triumphant title track. Nevertheless, Go Down in History is a winning return to form from one of the best pop-punk acts of this generation. FYS knows how fickle fame can be, and the band seems intent on taking full advantage of its new lease on life:
“I know my days are numbered, so I’m making ‘em count
I’ve left those things behind me, without a second of doubt”
Nick Porcaro is a 24-year old graphic designer, musician and writer based in Jersey City, NJ. Nick graduated in 2012 from UArts in Philadelphia, PA with a BFA in Graphic Design. As a musician he’s played guitar for over 10 years, in addition to dabbling in bass, drums and vocals. Nick currently plays rhythm guitar with Max Feinstein and has worked with Matt Scuteri, Sara Martin, Shakedown Inc., and The Nerd Who Ate St. Louis. When he’s not freelancing for the Wilma Theater, Nick is writing songs for his debut solo record.