Lower Than Atlantis seem a band that have in the past been torn between tendencies. One the one hand, they really like muscly, meaty guitar tones, as they’ve demonstrated to great effect in songs like Here We Go. On the other, they also have huge pop influences, driven somewhat I would imagine by frontman Mike Duce’s work writing for 5 Seconds of Summer. While they have produced good singles in the past, they have never really put out a cohesive record – until now.
The opening track, Had Enough, is a driving rock song in the vein of old singles like the aforementioned Here We Go. While there is nothing else quite like it on the album, there is nevertheless a clear progression in style from here on, which eases some of the transitional jarring that was present in earlier albums.
One thing that is immediately obvious is that, while working in the traditional song structures associated with mainstream rock, Lower Than Atlantis are not afraid to innovate within this formula. On almost every song in the album, there is at least one element that brings something new and interesting to the table.
Quite often this comes from the vocals; while the themes and expression aren’t necessarily too innovative – although songs like Boomerang have decent metaphor work – the variation within and shifting between vocal scales creates at times a discordant feel, like singing in minor over a major track. This makes verses that would be boring when done by any other band immediately more interesting – not that there are many boring verses.
Another feature highlighted by this album is the band’s understanding of how to layer sound, creating a rich, compelling effect that is almost ever-present throughout the album. This is particularly notable on tracks such as I Don’t Want to Be Here Anymore and Long Time Coming.
The variety on this album is actually pretty surprising as well. The range of styles that influence the songs is broad: Work For It is definitely influenced by jazz, particularly in the bridge section; Money has very definite prog rock roots; and Dumb is probably the closest thing I’ve heard to a rock version of house music. Overall, this variety keeps the album feeling fresh, and keeps most songs with a distinctive tone.
The technical aspects can also be impressive at times: for instance, the guitar riff on Could Be Worse utilises harmonics to impressive effect, breaking up the riff and placing emphasis on the surrounding notes.
There are a couple of weak points to this album – the lyrics aren’t necessarily that inventive, although the way they are worked into the songs is still very impressive; the chorus on Work For It is unusually weak and monotone; and Money does feel like a cheap knockoff of the Pink Floyd song of the same name.
However, overall, Safe In Sound is an impressive effort from a band who in my eyes have failed to realise their true potential in the past. Almost every song on this album could be a radio hit or arena anthem in its own right, and it was genuinely hard to filter down to the best songs on the album. I would recommend that almost anybody give this album a listen, because you will mostly likely find at least something you like, if not the whole package as I do. If Lower Than Atlantis continue to produce music of this quality, they should be truly safe in sound.
Best Songs: Had Enough, Dumb, Boomerang, Could Be Worse, I Would