Known for their persistent use of positive lyrics in their songs, The Color Morale returned in August 2016 with another full-length album dedicated to lifting spirits. However, this time they might just be showing their age. While this album does not compare creatively to previous releases, it still manages to leave a good — but not great — impression on the listener.
“Desolate Divine” starts off with “Lonesome Soul.” This song’s structure basically becomes a template for rest of the album. It opens with a build-up and then breaks out with a guitar riff, then settles into the soft introduction of Garret Rapp’s vocals. While vocally enthralling, the repeated structure fails to truly distinguish a single song.
It’s not until we reach the third track and lead single, “Walls,” that we begin to see some of The Color Morale’s aging. Rapp’s reputation was founded on his voice. With the release of “Desolate Divine,” we hear much less of his screams and an emphasis on his singing instead.
The trade-off, it seems, is that their guitarist, Aaron Saunders, would do most of the unclean vocals. Longtime fans will miss the throaty passion from Rapp, but there are still songs where he delivers. Lyrics like “Maybe that’s the hell I’m living / Battles between where I’m numb or I’m feeling / Remember when we filled our lives / With the will to fucking live?” are the higher points of the album not just because Rapp is screaming, but because of the nostalgic feeling it creates.
While the sixth track, “Home Bittersweet Home” doesn’t change in terms of song structure, it does manage to make the bridge feel and sound far more unique than the other songs. Instead of opting for a lyrical bridge, The Color Morale decided to use a quoted message leading into the chorus. The creativity of this bridge and its contrast with the rest of the album, as well as the few instances of Rapp’s screams, are what this album needs more of to bring it back to the level of previous releases.
Unfortunately, the rest of the album falls flat — particularly the last song, “Keep Me in My Body.” The intro riff almost feels like a nod to their first two full-lengths, a sound that’s heavier and more powerful before returning to the mediocrity the album follows before.
What’s worse is that the closing lyrics, the last words the listener hears are, “It’s okay, to feel this way / it’s okay to not be okay.” While it sure keeps with the positive theme, it’s disappointing that the listener is left with such simple statements. What’s lost is the imagery, the analogies, the metaphors and the narrative that their last two albums carried. There’s nothing thought-provoking here.
Overall, this album feels like a step backward. Song structures lacked variance and instead struck the same pattern again and again, leading songs to meld together and sound far too similar. Hopefully, The Color Morale can find a way to return to their roots and write more creative songs built on imagery and narrative. Otherwise, the lack of creativity combined with the positive theme and vibe will only further their aging, as people begin to search for more engaging material.
You can preview or purchase the album here: http://thecolormorale.net/#anchor_releases