April 26, 2005
Much is said about Acceptance's style of music, ranging from emo-pop to alternative rock but in its essence the band is extremely capable of writing effective, hook-filled, melodic pop songs with a rock edge. Many critics will say they write rock songs with great pop sensibility which, in my opinion, comes down to the same thing. But if you strip down the songs to their bare essence, you will find a melodic build up that leads into a hook-filled chorus; an age old success formula.
Of course this is nothing new and in recent yeras bands like Something Corporate, Jimmy Eat World, Copeland, Dashboard Confessional and Anberlin have all done something similar. Many critics and reviewers will point this out and they'd be right. However, this isn't necessarily a problem. A Volkswagen and a Ford are both cars with engines and wheels and both are quite reliable and popular among a certain audience. They are similar yet different. The same thing applies to music. Utilizing a proven concept is fine as long as you can make it your own and come across believable.
On "Phantoms" Acceptance does just that. The intensely passionate vocals and thickly layered arrangements propel the melodically driven build ups into masterfully written, hook-filled choruses that will resonate with the listeners. The songwriting of this band has always been very promising and on "Phantoms" it comes to full fruition. Soundwise they may sound like a beautiful lovechild of Jimmy Eat World and Anberlin but this kid has no problem whatsoever meeting (and at times surpassing) the standards set by its parents.
Highlights on the album are the opener Take Cover which spells you with its piano lead-in and then takes you on a ride, but also the lead single Different which is a mid-paced ballad filled with passion that will likely hit a sweet spot with teenagers and young adults and might very well end up being a summer radio hit.
Other highlights are So Contagious with its intensity and sing-along nature, In The Cold which has some of the best hooks of the whole album and closer Glory/Us (a.k.a. Gloria/Us Appearing) which features a gorgeous Rhodes piano melody that only emphasizes the impact of Jason Vena's spectacular vocals.
"Phantoms" is a fine collection of addictive pop-rock songs that could produce at least 5 hit songs (Different, Take Cover, So Contagious, Over You, In The Cold) and should garner the band a large following and well-deserved commercial success. Its similarity to other bands in the genre might dampen the critical acclaim somewhat but they shouldn't be too bothered with that. It's just someone's opinion (as is mine in this piece). What I would say about "Phantoms" though, is that it doesn't quite feel like an album to me. There isn't really anything that ties these songs together. But since I'm really enjoying the songs on the album, that is only a minor detail.