Thursday, October 6, 2011

Album Review: I Am the Avalanche - Avalanche United

Just so you guys know, we're giving away a free copy of this album today at 2:30 EST on WMUC-2 College Park Radio. Check us out here.

Vinnie Caruana has outdone himself. Sure, he kept fans waiting on the edge of their seats for the better part of six years, but Avalanche United, I Am the Avalanche’s long-awaited sophomore record, is well worth the wait. A rabble-rousing collection of 11 fists-in-the-air anthems, Caruana has crafted his best album since Forty Hour Train Back to Penn.

From the very first guitar squeal of opener “Holy Fuck,” it’s clear that Avalanche United is the soundtrack to a barroom brawl, an album to be enjoyed with a basement full of friends and a fridge stocked with beers. Caruana returns to his “shout it, don’t sing it” mentality with some aggressively delivered lines backed by gang vocals tailor-made for live shows. “Brooklyn Dodgers” has been floating around cyberspace for a while, but has never sounded better than on the album cut. The chorus goes full-throttle to the wall, making up for lackluster energy in the verses. Once the verses meander their way into the chorus, Caruana’s songwriting chops shine, proudly showcasing his best musical quality: writing punchy, stage-dive worthy choruses. Michael Ireland and Brandon Swanson’s guitar work on the album is at its crunchy, raw best on the bombastic “Amsterdam.” The track suffers from the same syndrome that plagued “Brooklyn Dodgers” with unimpressive verses that, if the listener can trudge through, offer an enormous payoff with one of the album’s most anthematic rallying cries of a chorus.

Even though I Am the Avalanche has made short, fast, aggressive songs its wheelhouse, Caruana unabashedly flaunts some pop-rock sensibilities throughout the album. “Is This Really Happening?” could find success on modern rock radio as a single, with Foo Fighter’s-esque verses culminating into a soaring chorus paced by drummer Brett Romne’s frenetic beats. But Avalanche United is easily at its best when Caruana growls his signature last-call bar band songs. “This One’s On Me” is a boozy jam that would translate well live at a small club show, and Bayside’s Anthony Raneri trades off call and responses on “The Gravedigger’s Argument.” The record ends the only way that I Am the Avalanche knows how to close out an album: with a bang, not a whisper. “Gratitude” is a rollicking finisher that gives each band member a shot at the spotlight, whether during a blistering drum solo or a particularly catchy hook by the dual guitarist attack.

I Am the Avalanche’s second full-length isn’t perfect by any stretch of the word, but its flaws are where the album gets its charmingly aggressive personality from. There’s no pristine production or conspicuous tinkering with vocal and instrumental effects, but the rawness of the album matches up with the pent-up emotions unleashed by Caruana. Still building the I Am the Avalanche brand, Avalanche United might just be the album for the band to step out from under the shadow of Caruana’s past projects and shine on its own merits.

Full Album Stream

Track List:
1. Holy Fuck
2. Brooklyn Dodgers
3. Amsterdam
4. I'll Be Back Around
5. Is This Really Happening
6. This One's On Me
7. Dead Friends
8. You've Got Spiders
9. The Gravedigger's Argument
10. Casey's Song
11. The Place You Love Is Gone
12. Gratitude

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