The cliché goes that you’ve got your whole life to write your first record and six months to write your follow up. For I Am The Avalanche it’s been six years since their self titled debut was released by Drive Thru records. After a long wait their sophomore album, Avalanche United, is finally here, and with it comes a dramatically improved I Am The Avalanche.
Going into Avalanche United on my first listen I had a lot thoughts going through my head. A healthy dose of residual Movielife baggage from my high school years, my mixed feelings about their debut, and how promising the demos that have been occasionally leaking out for years sounded. After my first listen, I had only one thought. “This sounds like a band six albums deep in their career.”
Opener “Holy Fuck” is constructed, unintentionally we’ve been told, like the prolog of a musical, providing all the background you’ll need to get caught up on band history. The mantra of friends being your family isn’t a new one in punk rock, but when cast against the strife of five years of shitty deals and life “Holy Fuck” is more of a battle cry than anything else. It also introduces the band’s newly matured power pop chops.
The previously leaked “Brooklyn Dodgers”, “Amsterdam”, “This One’s On Me”, and “Is This Really Happening?” all make reworked appearances, and are the most traditionally pop punk tracks on the record. Caruana’s voice has become gruffer over the years, giving subtle melodic grit to his vocals, and pared with guitarists Brandon Swanson and Michael Ireland’s chugging chords it’s damn compelling.
Where they really start to impress are the songs you haven’t heard before. “You’ve Got Spiders” is equal parts Long Island pop punk circa 2001 and post hardcore sing-a-long. Fans of the elusive blisteringly fast skate beat and Bayside fans will equally adore the “The Gravedigger’s Argument”, for it’s shredding verses and guest spot from Bayside vocalist Anthony Raneri. “The Place You Love Is Gone”, “Casey’s Song”, and “I’ll Be Back Around” are strange constructions of 70s mod and power pop built on foundations of modern punk, that easily rank among the best work the band has ever done.
As the record draws to a close it ends with another song that wouldn’t be out of place in a Broadway rock opera, “Gratitude”. It feels like the ending of something, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it become a fan favorite to close out shows. Unlike their mixed debut Avalanche United is an album. It has an identifiable beginning, middle and ending, and it tells a story without having to resort to a convoluted concept album cliché. Instead it uses honest song writing, and a frankly staggering level of growth as songwriters, to write short stories that equally appeal to headphones listening and screaming back at the microphone at a show.
Avalanche United is a good record. As time goes on and I listen to it more I can see it becoming a great record. Each time I listen to it I discover new melodies and touches I didn’t see before. Yes, six years was a long time to wait for a new I Am The Avalanche record. But if they can make another leap like the one between their self titled debut and Avalanche United I’ll wait as long as they like.