Ten years ago, Solid State Records signed one of the best and most creative new acts to its roster: The Ongoing Concept. Sadly, the band more or less fell apart after only three full-length albums, as each of the band members left, leaving Dawson Scholz as the only remaining original member. The bandís downtime since Places could have naturally spelled the death of The Ongoing Concept. Thankfully, though, it has only reinvigorated the original members, having seemingly caught their second wind with Again, their first album in six years.
Again is not only a move forward for the band, but also a retrospective of sorts, as each track is a direct reference to something from their last three albums. As usual, the intro track perfectly prepares the listener for what's to come while also bridging the gap between the last album and the current one, opening the album with a medley that recalls various moments from said albums, almost like the main character in a TV show having a flashback about what happened in the previous seasons. The following nine tracks are brand new tunes, but essentially act as sequels of sorts to other songs. It's a rather audacious decision for a band that prides itself on not doing the same thing twice, but they take the idea and completely knock it out of the park. And there are only really a few songs that are immediately recognizable as reworked tracks, such as "Amends Again" and "Melody Again," which share whole lines of lyrics and their respective melodies ("You wanna make amends with me? / I've got news for you / I gave you a chance to make it alright and turn it around / you're never gonna be my lover"). "Saloon Again" also makes plenty of references to the original "Saloon" ("Let's deal the cards again," "There's a cheater in the house"). For the majority of the tracklist, though, the similarities between the new and old songs are a bit more subtle.
As ever, The Ongoing Concept remains one of the most creative and versatile artists in the modern heavy music scene. As evidence throughout the record, they could have easily plowed through each song with loud and raucous metalcore that demands you get out of your seat and thrash around. But instead, they go down the multi-genre route, always leaving the listener guessing what's about to happen. Of course, there are plenty of heavy moments throughout; tracks like "You Will Go Again" and "Saloon Again" all feature furious riffs and intense screaming, and it's incredibly addicting. But the jazzy guitar licks of "Amends Again" and the soulful vocals of "Feel Again" really shine, too, making it clear that this is more than just another metacore band. In fact, my favorite track this go-around, "Unwanted Again," is the least metal song of the whole record. Instead, it's more of an R&B-inspired alternative/pop song, with funky bass lines, fantastic clean vocals, and a little bit of synth. It's possibly the most out-of-left-field track on the album, but it's pure gold, and I'd probably take a whole album's worth of it.
I was supremely disappointed in 2017 when The Ongoing Concept's demise seemed pretty certain, and again when the next few years went by with no news or updates. But I'm happy to say that they're back in full force without missing a step, and that Again simply exceeded my expectations. Fans of the band definitely won't be disappointed, and newcomers should be prepared to fall in love.- Review date: 3/28/23, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Solid State Records
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