Five Crooked Lines
Finger Eleven switch up their style once more, but still can't hit the highs of their classic albums
13th August 2015
It's been five years since Finger Eleven's last album, and twelve since they released one that I can say I truly enjoyed from start to finish. Don't get me wrong - I have no actual issues with Life Turns Electric or Them vs. You vs. Me, but the significant change in direction leads to a lot of inconsistency outside of singles Paralyzer and Living in a Dream.
They've changed their style once more with the release of Five Crooked Lines, but it is a significantly more impressive change. The entire album is harder but it is also very experimental, drawing on a lot of different influences from nu-metal to prog rock. Each and every track is unique from the other, and very little of it feels like filler.
Immediately kicking into top gear with Gods of Speed, you could be forgiven for thinking you were listening to a different band and it's not until Scott Anderson's distinctive vocals kick in that it's confirmed. The high-bass, industrialised guitar style continues in the fantastic Criminal, which sounds like it draws inspiration from contemporary rock bands like the Black Keys. This is directly contrasted to the following track, Save Your Breath, which sounds like it could be written by Saliva or Sevendust at the turn of the century.
Then there's Wolves and Doors, which sounds more like 'traditional' Finger Eleven - and by that I mean the funk-fused stuff that's come off of their last two albums, not the better stuff from their self-titled and before. Their first single and clearly meant to be their flagship track, it's OK, but it's no Paralyzer, and it's one of the weaker tracks on the album, so it's disappointing to advertise what is a high-quality album with a track that's a little lacklustre.
Fortunately, it's immediately followed by Come On, Oblivion - which couldn't be more Pink Floydian if it tried. The reverb and soft bass echo something you'd find on The Wall, but it's broken intermittently with the classical rock chorus. And then my personal favourite track on the album follows it: Not Going To Be Afraid. I will admit it is a little bit of a generic ballad but it hits a note similar to some of my favourite early-2000s alt rock bands such as Cold and Staind. The title track is a similar story, but by this point the album has peaked and the second half is noticably weaker.
That's not to say it's bad - I'm still not convinced Blackout Song isn't written by Weezer, and it's great. Absolute Truth, Lost For Words and Sensory Eraser are all good tracks too, they're just not as good as what's on offer in the first half. The album closes out with A New Forever, which carries the style of some of Them vs. You vs. Me's slower songs, and it's a strong example of what those albums did do well.
My only real disppointment is that despite all their experimentation and throwbacks, they didn't include a classic alt rock track in the style of Good Times or Stay in Shadow. So as much as I love this album, for me the band will still be at their best in 2003 on the 1080° Avalanche soundtrack.