by Donald Wagenblast, edited by Erik van Rheenen
There’s good years, there’s great years, and then there was the slate of pop-punk releases that came out in 2011. After the genre was critically destroyed by a slew of bands who brought too much fluff and not enough substance to the table, 2011 left almost too much to take in at once. This was made abundantly clear when considering the release and reception of A Loss for Words’s Rise/Velocity Records debut No Sanctuary. Despite being the best work of the band’s career, it somehow didn’t quite earn as much praise as the band’s contemporaries, such as Transit (who released the instant autumn classic Listen and Forgive), Fireworks (preachers of the summertime Gospel), and the pop-punk poster boys of the moment, The Wonder Years, whose proper Hopeless Records debut Suburbia: I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing was one of the most talked about albums of the year.
But A Loss for Words remained steadfast, as they always have. They took opening slots on tours they could have been headlining, all the while doing so with the heart and passion that made No Sanctuary such a treat to listen to. The songs were catchy, with a little rock ‘n roll flair that none of the other bands mentioned earlier (and most of the others) could muster. This swagger was mostly brought to the table thanks to the vocal prowess of Matty Arsenault, complemented by the guitars of Marc Dangora.
It’s important to mention what A Loss for Words did so successfully the last time around, because the band’s follow-up to No Sanctuary, ode to the road Before it Caves, cashes in on those same strengths yet again. This time around, Dangora’s guitars are even bigger, with a well-timed solo in “Falling,” an enticing opening riff in “20 Block,” and interesting effects through the intro of “Eclipsed.” Dangora’s running mate, Nevada Smith, is no longer with the band, but there’s no real absence felt on Before it Caves, which is a credit to Dangora’s creativity and precision throughout the entire album.
Arsenault’s vocals are top-notch, as expected. The singer, whose pop-tinged side project Class of ’92 became his focus during the band’s downtime before recording Before it Caves, and that venture clearly had some influence over his delivery this time around. While his vocal talents are easily noticeable, Arsenault delivers those vocals with less grit and shows off a more polished approach without sacrificing emotion and power. Arsenault gets a great boost from bassist and backup vocalist Mike Adams, who provides melodies that not only complement Arsenault’s leads, but provide another layer to them every time he steps up to the mic.