It’s always intriguing when a band drops a concept album, chiefly because it’s a polarising decision that solicits two possible reactions: adoration or abhorrence. Sworn In’s latest LP ‘The Lovers/The Devil’ follows suit, being a record that doesn’t allow you to form a neutral opinion. You’ll either appreciate it for what it is – a tale of volatile love translated into 13 clustered metalcore tracks – or you’ll write it off as another one of those indecisive, not-metal and not-hardcore abominations. We wouldn’t blame you for doing either.
On the one hand, it’s a confronting and a solid metalcore release. It’s complex and evidently crafted, with a dynamism that can’t go understated. The soft string twangs and gentle cleans that fill the first few seconds of its opener ‘Sweetheart’ contrast with what follows as the weight of fully instrumentalised core takes centre stage. The transition between soft and harsh – light and dark – is symbolic of the whole album, which jumps between making you want to cry and making you empathise with its infuriation. Subject-wise, the lovesickness that sustains itself throughout the release suggests a heart as heavy as its guitars, with an equal drama that’s prevalent even in the way the vocals are delivered. The best exhibition of that is ‘Pocket Full of Posies’, which presents itself as a standout track. It’s cemented in the album’s latter half, which is unarguably stronger.
On the other hand, it also has its flaws. You know that saying, ‘too many cooks spoil the broth?’ This LP wears its influences on its sleeve, and it’s plausible to argue that it’s spoiled by its overly ambitious attempt to sound like every single one of them. In terms of originality, there aren’t any emotions on this album that haven’t been covered by anyone else (concept-wise, it’s extremely reminiscent of the narrative-focused offerings dropped by genre contemporaries Alesana). There’s some clear utilisation of the screamed verses/clean chorus/breakdown recipe, but in attempts to jump out of the typical, song structures become, to put it simply, confusing. Obviously, it’s not like blatant song structuring is a prerequisite for good music (quite the opposite, as the alternative music community will attest). It’s just that there’s a line between experimental and messy, and Sworn In are teetering on its border.
If you’re a metalcore fan, the chances are that you’ll be into this album. It has what you want from a release labelled under the genre, but there’s a lot to be said about a classification full of bands with knee-touching similarities. If you’re a metal or hardcore purist who turns their nose up at screams sliced and diced with production-finished cleans, move along.