Review: Decyfer Down – ‘Crash’

Posted: May 4th, 2009
Contributed By: Nick

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Release Date: May 5th, 2009 via Columbia / INO Records
Decyfer Down is:
TJ Harris (Vocals)
Chris Clonts (Guitar)
Brandon Mills (Guitar)
Josh Oliver (Drums)

Overview: The stage was set for North Carolina’s Decyfer Down to drop their sophomore album in September 2008, more than 27 months after the release of the band’s rookie effort ‘End of Grey‘. Even though the new Decyfer Down stuff was so close you could taste it, palates were soured when the September release was scrapped in favor of a some-point-in-early-2009 date, echoing the band’s desire for a “fresh start” following a tumultuous 2008. Speaking of tumultuous, let’s not forget that amidst a myriad of release date alterations, Decyfer Down had to say goodbye to former front-man Caleb Oliver who bowed out to address personal matters. Things might have seemed grey for Decyfer Down, but it was all a new beginning for the band in the end. Enlisted to fill Oliver’s vacancy was TJ Harris, who hopped on board in the wake of his then group Fighting Instinct’s demise. Armed with Harris and renewed hope, Decyfer Down went back to the studio with their new album’s producer Paul Ebersold (3 Doors Down, Revelation Theory) to re-record vocal tracks and make some final tweaks. Finally, Decyfer Down and their fans can breathe a sigh of relief, as the band’s brand new opus ‘Crash‘ is actually, no joke, no lie, fo real dawg, hitting stores on May 5. Check out the boys this spring on tour with Skillet and Disciple.

The Good: Decyfer Down take many, many months of pressure and let it all go, opening the album’s first and title track in a dovetail of sweeping rock in rope-like release. “Crash” is glowing with urgency and an immediate hook, neither of which feel rushed or over-powering. You can feel how exuberant and hungry Decyfer Down are right away which will surely help pump up listeners and lock them into the album. “Desperate” is a selecτion from the book of TJ Harris’ former band Fighting Instinct which Decyfer Down borrowed and re-worked for ‘Crash‘. “Desperate” spins a sonic trio comprised of a cutting, robust main riff, chunky, four-on-the-floor thumps, and verses built on an intricate hop, culminating in a superior performance by new guy TJ Harris; together, all four pieces of the “Desperate” puzzle help animate and empower its strong, intrinsic sense of longing. The cavernous first single “Fading” is draped in emotional sentiment that feels completely genuine and non-syrupy 100 percent of the time. A bevy of dynamic nuances sprinkled all across “Fading” help imbue the track tremendously, the final chorus bringing the tune’s melting pot of flavors full circle. A mid-tempo ballad with a high-tempo storyline, “Best I Can” is reflective, personal, and purgative. Guitarists Chris Clonts and Brandon Mills as well as drummer Josh Oliver keenly lay back, realizing the meal-ticket of “Best I Can” is punched by its poetics. When the simmering intro of “Ride With Me” comes on, you know good and well that it will have you up and moving. “Ride With Me” is roaring and pulsating, a downright romp whose chorus bounces like a 25 cent vending machine bouncy ball on a cobblestone road. After a bombshell opening, “Wasting Away” settles into a vibrant, atmospheric niche, exalted by bracing choruses and an endearing, throwback-ish bridge cut with one ridic guitar solo. “Over My Head” is completely punch drunk with giddy-up thanks to a rockin’ cocktail of sizzling guitars, punchy drums, and layered vocals-it’s impossible not to enjoy. The uber-sultry and purely passionate “Moving On” twinkles with bardic charm embellished by Decyfer Down’s flawless execution as well some production wizardry courtesy of Paul Ebersold. I really love how “Moving On” rides the modesty train all the way to its final stand, which is absolutely gushing with loveliness. The bombastic end of “Moving On” is the perfect dynamic segueing into the consistent, driving “The Life”, a simple yet timely and tasteful treasure late in the game. ‘Crash‘ closes its gates with “Forever With You”, the definition of gorgeous as performed by Decyfer Down. “Forever With You” is a heroic, touching piece of heaven that will linger in your heart for an eternity. In fact, stop reading right now and go listen to “Forever With You”; but make sure you keep the Kleenex nearby.

The Bad: “Crash” is indeed fit to serve as the album’s title track however drummer Josh Oliver would have added heaps of muscle had he utilized a crash over the ride. Because beefy bridges were the trend on ‘End of Grey‘, a more hulky “Crash” would not only be a lucid transition for the band but the familiarity would also help glue listeners in more effectively. After hearing both versions of “Desperate”, I must admit I favor the Fighting Instinct version, simply because the drum groove behind the core riff is much smoother than Oliver’s. “Wasting Away” bursts open with a riotous introduction which then plays absolutely no role whatsoever in the rest of the song, benching what is arguably the coolest aspect of “Wasting Away”. Take a good listen to the riffs of “Ride With Me” and “Over My Head”. Now go listen to Rev Theory’s “Light It Up”. Ironically enough, the co-writer of “Light It Up” was none other than ‘Crash‘ producer Paul Ebersold….

Bottomline: For those of you worried about TJ Harris’ replacing Caleb Oliver, stop-Harris will blow you away. As for the whole shabam, ‘Crash‘ is a way enjoyable record from an extremely tight band in Decyfer Down. No, it’s no ‘End of Grey‘ (which, if you haven’t heard, is a masterpiece) but it certainly gets the job done. Oh, and yes, the wait for ‘Crash‘ was definitely worth it.

TuneLab Rating: 8 out of 10