Famous Last Words, a pop metal band, is pretty popular. The band’s debut album Two-Faced Charade has sold 10,000 copies in America to date, which is fairly respectable for an independent band. According to the “sell points” in the press materials, the band has acquired nearly 200,000 Facebook likes and tens of thousands of Twitter and Instagram followers, so this all points to a band that mines rocks and hardcore sounds to a mass appeal. However, there is an air of familiarity to the group’s latest album, Council of the Dead. Screamo-vocals? Check. Staccato guitar licks? Check. Use of Auto-Tune on some vocals? Check. Songs that all sound the same? Check. You might think that I’m basically writing off Famous Last Words here, but that’s not really the case. You can see why this outfit has reached a broad audience, as they are pop in the popular sense, but it’s just that there’s nothing that’s new or invigorating here. Famous Last Words do a job, and do it fairly well at that, but there’s not much more to them than that.
If you can say anything about Council of the Dead, it is that it is ambitious. It’s, I think, a concept album about the afterlife, but it’s hard to be sure, for while there’s a soulful chant to the singing, there are also guttural vocals — and you know that vocals tend to take a back seat in the metal genre, and burying the theme behind a series of screams makes it hard to say for sure what’s going on. Still, there’s an intro that welcomes listeners to the great beyond, there’s the sound effect of a heart monitor going flatline at the end of one of the songs, and there are choir vocals on “Brothers in Arms” that sound as though they come from beyond the pearly gates. That would lead one to believe that this is pretty morbid stuff, but not so morbid to put off all those pop music fans. Council of the Dead, while hardly innovative, will still get you to punch holes in the wall, which is what bands like this want you to do, and as far as pure aggression goes, this is pretty by the book. In the end, all I can say is that Famous Last Words is an enjoyable group, but they aren’t going to light the metal world on fire with originality. It is what it is, and if you like metal with all of the edges sanded off, Council of the Dead will likely tide you over until the next thing comes along to command your attention.