Hot off the Press

Modern Day Escape | Under the Gun

by Mark Allen
Staff Writer —

Modern Day Escape’s latest shot at leaving a mark on the modern metal market is Under the Gun, a serviceably rote release in the Escape the Fate or Black Veil Brides vein. In other words, the skinny-legged jeans-wearing congregation at Hot Topic will suck this up like kohl-slathered vampires slurping blood from a slash-veined wrist. It’s harmless stuff, clean/screamed vocal patterns engineered over suitably heavy but recycled riffs, packing enough punch to please the newly-pubescent consumer it is targeting but offering nothing you can’t get from a dozen other bands. This is vanilla rock, hard to love but impossible to hate.

But hey, sometimes you’re in the mood for a little vanilla and if that’s your current craving, Modern Day Escape will provide adequate satisfaction. Their ranks are graced with the presence of ex-Black Veil Brides drummer Sandra Alvarenga and this gal really knows how to bang the skins. Women wielding the sticks in metal music are a rarity; a woman wielding the sticks and totally kicking ass while doing it are so rare that they make hen’s teeth appear copious by comparison.

That’s not to say the other members are talentless slouches. These guys (and girl) can play, it’s just that most of what they play is so predictable. This style of modern, post-hardcore rock can still sound relevant and invigorating, but there needs to be something unexpected, something old given a new sonic kick. For example, Black Veil Brides gained attention by grafting a glam element to their sound, marrying scream-core with hair-metal. Gimmicky, sure, but it worked and listeners took notice. Modern Day Escape need not copy Black Veil Brides, but by sticking so resolutely to genre formula without giving it a twist, they risk indifference from modern metal fans.

Looking for hooks? Under the Gun definitely has them but in keeping with the album’s overall vibe, they are mostly standard issue. Good enough to keep you from scrambling for the Skip button, not quite good enough to make you reach for the Repeat button. The band seems to be grasping for an anthemic quality; they succeed on a few songs, but most of the time just miss the mark. Not by much, but a miss is still a miss. Modern Day Escape seem on the cusp of breaking through the barrier and delivering something truly memorable, but that moment has not yet manifested. Maybe on the next album it will all come together beautifully. After all, they say the third time’s the charm…

But even on an album that can best be described as run of the mill, there are a couple of above-average tracks that merit mentioning. “Life’s a Bitch” is not (sadly) a remake of the Hardline song, but rather a mid-tempo rocker with a catchy, almost sing-along chorus. The band’s penchant for melodic passages is properly displayed in “Angels Up Above,” which manages to be both heavy and balladic at the same time, with an excellent balance of clean vocals, growls, and screams. And if it a heavy hitting juggernaut you seek, “The Syndicate” throws down a thick, pummeling groove and punctuates the cynical proceedings with tough-guy gang vocal shouts.

Listen, some bands are so bad that you just want to put an Uzi to their heads to make them stop crapping up the airwaves. Modern Day Escape is not one of those bands. There are far worse groups out there and there are also far better ones, and it is this overarching average-ness that ultimately proves to be the band’s weakest factor. They don’t miss the target completely, but the bullet hole is an underwhelming distance from the bulls-eye.

Genre: Modern Hard Rock, Metal

James Vegas (vocals)
Marti Rubels (lead guitar)
Sandra Alvarenga (drummer)
Mark Burn (rhythm guitar)
Shep (bass)

Track Listing:
1. City of Thieves
2. Don’t Hold It Against Me
3. Life’s a Bitch
4. Tiger’s Blood
5. Angels Up Above
6. The Syndicate
7. Voiceless
8. Feels On the Darkside
9. Playing the Victim
10. Under the Gun
11. Demons Down Below
12. Haha

Label: Standby Records


Hardrock Haven rating: 6.3/10