Escape the Fate – Chemical Warfare
Released: April 16, 2021
Craig Mabbit // lead vocals
Kevin “Thrasher” Gruft // guitar
Thomas “TJ” Bell // guitar
Robert Ortiz // drums
Rock’s bad boys Escape the Fate are back with their seventh studio album, Chemical Warfare and they’re here to prove why their explosive fusion of hard rock is still holding strong fifteen years since the band’s inception in 2006. As they look to evolve their sound in the everchanging music landscape, guitarist Thrasher co-produced the album alongside with renowned producer John Feldmann (Blink-182, Mod Sun, 5 Seconds of Summer) to make their style in 2021 as tightly polished as possible. While many of us may be more familiar with the band’s earlier heavier material, Dying Is Your Latest Fashion (2006) and This War is Ours (2010), Chemical Warfare tries its hardest to tie Escape the Fate’s past and present selves together.
The record kicks off with ‘Lightning Strike’, a riffy, anthemic belter, ultimately setting the scene for the rest of the album. Second track ‘Invincible’ sees the band transcend down the melodic rock tangent while adding some new string elements by way of violinist Lindsey Stirling and hey, it’s not too overdone which is good news. However, I’d be lying to you all if I didn’t say that Escape the Fate are pretty adamant on venturing straight into pop territory on this album. ‘Unbreakable’ is an almost danceable tune featuring a thumping electronic drum beat and synth laden hooks teamed together with soaring, uplifting lyrics. But it’s in title track ‘Chemical Warfare’ that perfectly sums up the band’s maturity whereby vocalist Craig Mabbit is veering towards edgy, rock-laden riffs amongst soaring emotions.
As we heard with ‘Unbreakable’, this maturing Escape the Fate is leaning towards poppier territory and ‘Erase You’ surprisingly felt a little edgier and enjoyable, amidst simmering up all that emo-pop energy. Teaming up with Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker for ‘Not My Problem’, is an unapologetic alternative/rock anthem that has really grown on me since it was released earlier this year. There’s even a tasty nu-metal-style breakdown here which kinda threw me back to Linkin Park’s early days and I’m all about it.
Things get a little heated from this point on, with ‘Burn the Bridges’ presenting itself with edgier hip hop styles fused together with waves of meticulously heavy riffs that builds into intense vocals and a hectic breakdown that finally rears its head (“You built the bridge, I’m gonna burn it DOWN!”). If you’ve been pining for some classic Escape the Fate, this one’s for you. ‘Demons’ is an absolute treat with the melodic rock guitars colliding into Mabbit’s hefty screams. It’s a real highlight to hear how how cohesive this entire album is though. Underneath all its more mainstream rock undertones, is an album full of songs that tie into each other really well and makes for quite the pleasant listen.
After six albums, and even on Chemical Warfare, it’s pretty clear to see that Escape the Fate are feeling pretty comfortable in their signature style and sound. ‘Hand Grenade’ provides us with fast-paced energy that feels very post-hardcore and new-age rock, while ‘Ashes’ adds soaring vocals alongside some punchy riffs amidst the whoa-oh’s. Thrasher and Mabbit manage to ground themselves for a moment on ‘Gravity’ in an attempt to hone in on more of those hard rock melodies which has been a recurring style from the very start before pulling in a soaring, anthemic rock number with ‘Walk On’. Preaching a message of faith and hope in the listener, this song did feel like the most heartwarming on the album, and I can definitely see a mobile phones and lighters moment here when their live show returns to form.
Fifteen songs on an album is pretty strenuous, and I did feel many of the tracks blended into one another by this point as ‘Around the Sun’ really didn’t give me anything new. However, my ears did prick up with ‘Shut Up and Listen’. Featuring a punchy as hell chorus that collides with a breakdown that ends way too soon, the song is sheer proof that the band included this number for the OG fans. It’s a track that’ll fit right in alongside some of the band’s well known hits, like ‘Situations’ and ‘One For The Money’ and I found myself hitting repeat on this one most. Rounding out this matured sound from Escape the Fate though is ‘Over It’ and if you stuck around with as much enthusiasm for track fifteen as track one, I tip my hat off to you…
On Chemical Warfare, it’s pretty clear to see that Escape the Fate are comfortable with the sound they’ve produced over the years. As the band looks to pushing into the mainstream rock arena, this album will delight any dedicated fan that’s stuck with them over the years. While I doubt that it will win over any new listeners, overall it was a cohesive, enjoyable listen with a few chunks of this record that are still worthy of being an Escape the Fate staple.
Escape The Fate – Chemical Warfare tracklisting
1. Lightning Strike
2. Invincible (feat. Lindsey Stirling)
4. Chemical Warfare
5. Erase You
6. Not My Problem (feat. Travis Barker)
7. Burn the Bridges
9. Hand Grenade
10. Ashes (Broken World)
11. My Gravity
12. Walk On
13. Around the Sun (Deluxe Edition)
14. Shut Up and Listen (Deluxe Edition)
15. Over It (Deluxe Edition)