Many people have fond memories of Flyleaf’s self-titled debut album from 2005. Specifically, the album opener and hit single (“I’m So Sick”) not only succeeded in breaking into their thoughts with frontwoman Lacey Sturm’s heartfelt clean singing, but broke their faces with sudden, ferocious screams as well. Unfortunately, the rest of that record was dull enough to make soaring leaves divebomb to the ground while imitating the sound that a downed military aircraft makes (yes, inanimate objects would be that bored).
As the third full-length studio album in their repertoire, New Horizons does showcase some extent of musical maturity. Flyleaf have cut back on bland and repetitive guitar riffs and invested more time into crafting vocal harmonies and melodies. But that still does not elevate them above the forgettable status of “typical alternative/pop metal band”.
The Texan quintet have come up with a list of songs that are mostly likely to get air-time on radio, but zero-time in one’s long-term memory banks. Emotionally moving vocal harmonies and infectious choruses abound in tracks such as “Cage On The Ground”, “Great Love”, “Stand”, and album closer, “Broken Wings”. In particular, the introduction to “Stand” features a beauteous vocal harmony led by Sturm’s angelic voice, and it evokes this queer urge to stroke an abandoned kitten while sobbing at the cruelty of the world. Evidently, this musical approach is targeted at the pop music lovers. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing; even hardcore metalheads need a pop music fix every once in a while as a reminder that their preferred music is ze most brewtal in da whole wide world.
Mainstream bands such as Flyleaf cannot be blamed for wanting to gravitate towards the musical tastes of the masses. By all means, go ahead and get that million Facebook likes! It is usually more rewarding to have many people admire you for something easily acceptable, rather than have a coterie of social outcasts worshiping you for something difficult to accept. Who would relish the thought of Zoroastrianists praising one for composing grand musical tributes to the creator Ahura Mazda?
Still, it is annoying that Flyleaf have abandoned the harsher sound of their debut album with such ease. The self-titled debut album may have been merely listenable, but at least Sturm utilized a mix of clean and harsh vocals for it. On New Horizons however, there is nary a scream. The ‘harsh’ songs on this record would be “Call You Out”, “Freedom”, and “Green Heart”, but they are poorly done. In these songs, Sturm’s vocals are one-dimensional; they merely consist of clean singing alone and never devolve into throat-rending screams. Hence, there is a very narrow range of emotions explored. Instrumentals-wise, both the guitar and drumming parts sound bland and uninspiring. In fact, Sturm’s one-dimensional vocals actually compel one to notice the mundane drumming patterns… which is never a good sign for any mainstream metal record.
Musically speaking, Flyleaf‘s latest effort fails to live up to its title and does not reach new horizons. It is yet another mainstream metal record that will be forgotten as soon as it disappears from Metacritic’s ‘Coming Soon’ section. Still, it will take residence within the stereo for a week or two as it provides enough pop entertainment to tide any jaded extreme metal fan over those pesky days when extreme metal blues strikes. For the pop fans out there, New Horizons will probably sound pleasing enough to warrant some CD shelf space right next to Avril Lavigne.