Connecticut emo punk band Sorority Noise are back with second album ‘Joy, Departed’, released on Topshelf Records. ‘Joy Departed’ is different from its older sibling; elements of the first album ‘Forgettable’ with its upbeat and fast pop punk tracks do crop up occasionally on this record, but the sophomore effort has a more serious, emotionally exhausting quality harking back to the emotional weight that My Chemical Romance were famous for making back in 2006 with ‘The Black Parade.’
The major themes in ‘Joy Departed’ focus on lead vocalist Cameron Boucher’s experience with manic depression and addiction and the despair and pain felt by Boucher’s struggle are conveyed maturely in the record through the at-times-heartbreaking lyrics and delicate instrumental solos. The record also deals with the frustrations that are associated with insecurity and sorrow with Sorority Noise’s signature screeching guitar riffs and climatic crescendos. The message of the album can only be praised, it copes with the reality of depression and draws attention to a serious topic; speaking on the issue, Boucher stated, “Depression is not a trend. Depression is not cool. Depression is not hip. It is a serious mental illness that we should help others fight to better their lives as well as our own.” Can’t argue with that.
That said, the album’s strength lies in the slower, more melancholy tracks, with a highlight being closing song, ‘When I See You (Timberwolf).’ Boucher asks, ‘does hell taste as sweet as you thought?’ to the person he once loved. The lyrics are sung beautifully and with eerie guitar providing a dream-like backdrop, it’s hard not to feel the entire weight of Boucher’s heart while listening. However, like many of the tracks on this record, the slow and sombre start ends in a chaotic outpouring. On this track it works, it feels like the heavens have opened and some relief has come to Boucher’s heavy heart.
However, other tracks don’t fare well. ‘Fluorescent Black’ and ‘Your Soft Blood,’ to name a few, both start with a promising slower tempo but then switch to the punk pop riffs and heavy guitar screeches that would have been expected from Sorority Noise. Perhaps that isn’t a bad thing, after all it’s the style Sorority Noise established in their first album. However, with exceptions, the tracks aren’t providing anything that hasn’t been heard before, the built up endings to poignant starts get a little repetitive at times. An exception to this is heard in ‘Fuchsia,’ a delicately beautiful track with female backing vocals where Boucher confesses, ‘I’m the reason your leaves are withering.’ It is in these slower tracks where the sound is stripped back that the pain and rawness of the subject matter can really be felt in all its extremity.
‘Art School Wannabe’ and ‘Corrigan’ provide light relief from the emotional rollercoaster of the rest of the record. Both tracks sound like throwbacks to early 2000s emo-pop, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Both tracks have a catchy chorus and brilliant guitar parts to make up classic punk pop tracks. In ‘Nolsey’ the guitar riffs and drum beats are crazy good, they provide a heavy and structured backdrop to carry the song. Opening track ‘Blissth’ again starts slower but then explodes into an anthem-like instrumental section which is reminiscent of the Killers and their crowd-pleasing numbers.
Overall, ‘Joy, Departed’ does what it sets out to do, it highlights the pain and despair that comes with mental illness making its listeners feel a part of the weight of depression through the heavy lyrics and delicate instrumental solos. Parts of the record are genuinely beautiful and Sorority Noise show off their talent and skill in these poignant moments. However, dropping almost every track into a loud, and frantic climax with thrashing drums and screaming guitars starts to wear thin after a while and it seems a shame that the band’s stripped back openings are overshadowed by huge and dramatic endings.
That said, the message of the album is massively important and any band that promotes mental illness awareness should be praised and given credit. Also, the tracks provide a nostalgic experience for any fans of early 2000s emo-pop, which who are we kidding, weren’t we all?
‘Joy, Departed’ is out now on Topshelf Records
The full track-listing for ‘Joy, Departed’ is as follows…
‘Your Soft Blood’
‘Art School Wannabe’
‘When I See You (Timberwolf)’