Title: Back To Oblivion
Released: 29th September 2014
I want to get something out of the way up front: I really like Finch. I was just the right age when their insanely well received 2002 début What It Is To Burn came out and I had it on repeat for weeks. I used to play its closing track Ender at open mic nights (badly). 2005's Say Hello To Sunshine was heavy as hell and divided opinion somewhat, but after two break ups and nearly ten years with no full length release I was entirely ready for Back To Oblivion to blow me away. I couldn't wait to be impressed, but sadly I'm not sure that I was.
My problem with this record is not that it is bad as such, actually there are a handful of pretty great moments, it's more that it feels rather uninspired as a whole. There is no question that it starts strong: the first three songs catch your attention like a right hook and for a moment it feels like Finch have never been away. But as the album plays out things get less urgent, less refined. Those first two albums seemed to have direction and purpose, but unfortunately Back To Oblivion just feels undercooked.
But let's start with those first three tracks:
Back To Oblivion, the opener and title track, shows the louder, cleaner, more melodic side of Finch. It's a nicely uplifting song that almost feels like a more mature, more optimistic take on their 2002 breakthrough single Letters To You and puts me in mind of Funeral For A Friend’s own 2007 album opener Into Oblivion (Reunion). This is followed by Anywhere But Here, a heavy, darkly melodic track with a chorus that will grow on you like ivy. The driving percussion and laid back guitars remind me of In Case Of Fire and its position on the record paves the way beautifully for my personal favourite: Further From The Few. This track throws down a metallic verse riff and a swaggering mosh pit starter of a chorus that gives way to a part-spoken, part-screamed bridge and a stupidly pleasing half time outro. Now, like many of us, I love screamed vocals, and I have to say that Nate Barcalow's scream sounds even better to me on this album than ever. Sadly it is a woefully underused tool on Back To Oblivion, just one way in which Finch seem to have abandoned their edgy, abrasive unpredictability in favour of some rather middle of the road decisions.
Aside from those first three songs, Two Guns To The Temple has a hunger that is lacking elsewhere on the record and a scream that could curdle milk, Inferium’s rather lovely and unexpected ‘Cello line certainly pricked my ears up and the 3/4 time signature of Tarot is welcome rhythmic variation. But sadly, that is pretty much where the magic ends for me. There are 12 songs here, at least eight of which I would be fine with never hearing again. Play Dead for instance, starts well enough but drops into chorus that Nickelback might have rejected. The Great Divide seems to be a perfectly acceptable rock track, but I have listened to it about 10 times and honestly I couldn't pick it out of a line up. Picasso Trigger has an over-worn Deftones-esque tonality that makes it immediately feel like it was overplayed on Scuzz about seven years ago and Us vs. Them almost gets it right with a chunky riff and a rather tasty bass line, but, like so much of this album, it loses out to unimaginative guitar lines, predictable structure and a noticeable lack of song writing weight to carry it through.
The trouble with Back To Oblivion is this: there are bits that I love and there are bits that I hate, but there is also a lot that is just… OK. Not dreadful, certainly not excellent, just average, and that is far more damaging. For me, Finch has always been a band that takes risks; that write slightly unhinged but beautifully honed guitar music. Unfortunately this is not the band that I found on Back To Oblivion. What I found was a band that is yet to prove this reunion was entirely a good idea.