As straight edge rock and roll has faltered in popularity and originality over the past few decades, alternative, modern and pop rock has taken its place. This seismic shift in the core sound of rock music being produced has led to a plethora of artists from all across the globe rising in popularity, if not gaining ultimate stardom. Whether it’s the catchier guitar tones, massive hooks or varied instrumentals incorporated with other stylistic elements, it’s safe to say that the modern day version of rock is drastically different from the artists who “revived” a once fading genre. British alternative rock outfit Young Guns have been a part of this shift over their 12 years as a band, as their small, yet established discography has seen them gradually move from a heavier hitting sound to a softer, more alternative one. Unfortunately, they moved too far into the realm of pop and alternative with their 2015 release, Ones and Zeros, creating a sound that didn’t feel natural to who they were, causing lackluster reception. Now, just over a year later, the band is back with their fourth album, Echoes, in hopes of reigniting the fire under their fan base and showing they didn’t lose their magic touch.
For those wanting to know the immediate verdict on Echoes, it ultimately comes across as a combination of Bones and Ones and Zeros. While the influence of Ones and Zeros poppier stylistic choices may be off-putting to some, Young Guns has never been a band with a grand plan or afraid to experiment with different sounds. That being said, there are multiple noticeable differences between the two albums that come to a head immediately and further tweaks and nuances throughout the record that come to light the more someone listens to it. Foremost, while there are pop stylizations in the songwriting structure and the utilization of synthesizers still lives on, there’s heavier emphasis on incorporating full-fledged instrumentation once again. This is done by having moments of strong guitar solos and leads, bouncy and rhythmic basslines and intense, pulsating drumming from their new drummer Chris Kamrada. There’s also a much heavier reliance on a bigger, more fleshed out sound which results in a return to form of arena-sounding tracks with blaring riffs, soaring vocals and memorable hooks.
Breaking down Echoes to each singular track would be quite tedious as there’s a noticeable amount of standout songs due to the album being littered with potential singles. That being said, the album does feel as if it has two halves; one that feels more at home in the modern rock realm while the second half opts for a more alternative and poppy style. “Bulletproof” showcases Young Guns ability to create singles immediately as it opens up the record with a repeatable riff and toe-tapping drumming before Gustav Wood’s mesmerizing vocals kick in and the chorus ramps up the sound and innate catchiness. Moving into the title track, “Echoes”, there’s a backing synthesizer that lies beneath the instrumentation and flows right along with the music, getting louder or softer with the track. The fifth track, “Mad World”, needs little introduction as its pulsating bassline and drumming blow the doors wide open. “Awakening” and “Living in a Dream Is So Easy” is where the album transitions to the alternative realm as the overall guitar and basslines take a step back to a wider array of electronics and orchestral arrangements. This doesn’t mean that the massive sound takes a step back; in actuality it becomes more expansive and louder, truly befitting of being played on a stage in front of thousands.
Aptly put, Young Guns have never been a band to shy away from trends and incorporation different elements into their music. While the beginning of their discography lies more in the modern rock realm, the transition towards a more up-tempo and stronger flowing record that utilizes alternative and pop elements began with Bones. Where Ones and Zeros failed was that it relied too heavily on those aforementioned pop elements, creating a more dance-driven sound that strived for radio play rather than letting it come naturally. In that respect, Echoes delivers admirably fitting snugly alongside Bones as a record that appeals enough to the mainstream, while retaining enough of their original sound to create something that feels inherently unique to Young Guns.