Volumes have, well, had a volume problem. Over the course of their two previous records, the LA-based group always featured some absolute bangers (“Paid In Full”, “91367”) and at least one spacey jam (“Edge of the Earth”, “Erased”). They were great in short bursts, but the full album experience always felt sorely unsatisfactory. Via featured too many chugs and too little melody, while No Sleep was haphazard in its mixture of pit-starters and djent slow jams. The signs of progress were clear in No Sleep, but Volumes had (notice the past tense) yet to figure out how to make a record that grabbed the listener from the beginning and never let go.
Thankfully, that all has changed with the group’s third release and first with new singer Myke Terry (who replaced Michael Barr). Different Animals is aptly named; it’s like a zoo, bringing together wildly different sounds and styles. The whole package comes together wonderfully, with the musical journey beginning and ending with two of Volumes’ fiercest numbers yet. “Waves Control” could easily have fit in with the heaviest numbers from Via, at least until Terry begins asserting himself. His melodic vocals are leaps and bounds above the band’s previous work, with his timbre and tone would befit a hip hop hook. That’s exactly what you get with the second and second-to-last tracks, with Terry’s vocals bouncing off buoyant hip hop production. “Finite” and “Pullin’ Shades” are two of Volumes’ best tracks to date and push their sound to new and more adventurous territory. The djent/prog metalcore undertone and groove is still there, but these songs are smooth, silky numbers first and foremost. I hesitate to call it urban metalcore because that gives the notion that this is nu nu-metal…
Oh, except there are two instances of that on the record, and they encapsulate Volumes’ growth and room for improvement. “Hope” is the type of song that Linkin Park has been trying to make since Meteora: anthemic, hooky hard rap/rock that has mass appeal; it even features a beat straight out of that Fort Minor spin-off record. “On Her Mind” is the other instance, and it’s wildly fun and really unfortunate. The Pouya feature is just plain horrendous: dumb, immature, and pointless. The immanently catchy chorus and Korn-meets-Meshuggah riff is wasted on a song dragged down by atrocious lyrics (“dingaling”, really?). To be fair, a good portion of Different Animals features mediocre lyrics, but the message of hope and getting past your demons goes a long way in forgiving this issue, but it’s just given the bright pink highlighter treatment on ‘On Her Mind”, unfortunately.
Those quibbles aside, Volumes have finally succeeded in crafting a memorable, cohesive full album. The expanded use of clean vocal hooks, coupled with a much greater emphasis on guitar melodies over mindless chugs, keeps the band’s third record afloat throughout. Different Animals perfectly captures the essence of Volumes’ excellent third album: new bark, same bite. No, this record’s broad color palate showcases the group’s best musical output yet. Their bite is finally as fierce as their bark.