Dicey experimentation falls flat
Darkness marks the newest release of LA-based group Stitched Up Heart. This release is just the second studio album from the foursome who are led by frontwoman Alecia “Mixi” Demner, with their first release being 2016’s Never Alone.
Darkness marks a shift in metal subgenres for the band, having originally been focused on characteristics of goth and alternative metal. The album departs from the sound of its predecessor Never Alone, a project often defined by loud, thrashing instrumentals and aggressive, spacey vocals. On Darkness, that sound has evolved into one more lucidly centered around electronic production. The incorporation of electronically engineered bass tracks marks a change from the relatively instrument-forward previous productions. Perhaps this is an ambitious attempt to defy boundaries or redefine their sound, but unfortunately, a lot of these tracks are merely the bones of insipid pop trends combined strangely with remnants of the energetic, powerful instrumentals that characterizes most metal and its many variants. This is painfully evident on vapid pop tune “Crooked Halo,” which features a bizarre hodgepodge of sounds and, all in all, underwhelming production.
Unfortunately, other tracks give off the same bland pop flavor. “My Demon” is another example of a track that really misses the mark as its directionless energy rests upon a poorly executed pop song structure. “Warrior” is a Disney-star-turns-punk sort of track that offers little lyrical value within its uplifting sentiment.
None of this is to say that Stitched Up Heart has completely done away with the pronounced instrumentals present on their first release. Early tracks like “Lost (feat. Sully Erna)” and “This Skin” contain the loud instrumental elements of metal origin, featuring heavy bass lines, lively riffs and energetic refrains. Even “Warrior” does. Where these tracks fall flat is their reliance on the symphony of overproduction as a facade to cover up a lack of lyrical variety and generally poor writing.
The undesirable reality of Darkness is that the bulk of its tracks are overproduced, uninspired archetypes of the hard rock and alternative metal genres that make for a monotonous front-to-back listen without much to distinguish from one track to the next. The monotone nature of these tracks makes them seem destined for the musical purgatory that is a video game loading screen. The few exceptions are the standout tracks that possess a mismatched electronic component, such as the aforementioned “Crooked Halo” and “Bones.” As the world continues to idle through a global pandemic, perhaps Stitched Up Heart can utilize the down time to re-evaluate the direction of their sound and center around fully-conceived artistic themes that can be aptly reflected through lyrical content and instrumentation.