Secondborn is a pop punk or pop rock outfit from Lafayette, Louisiana, who originally meant to only record one EP. Symbols, releasing in late June, will be their second EP so it is safe to say they are officially a band. The newly minted group’s first EP, A Call to Arms seemed, at the time, to show they already had a clear pop punk direction in mind, but with Symbols there seems to be some confusion about whether this is where they will stay.
Pop punk became popular in the late 90s and early 2000s with bands like Blink-182, Sum 41 and Good Charlotte. This brand of pop used punk chords with kinder, gentler lyrics that did not require a whole lot of thought, but added an edge to the standard pop vernacular. To their credit, Secondborn is generally a better version of these pop punk pioneers on A Call to Arms, with clean, well-composed guitars and a healthy dose of metal-inspired drums. The vocals were more along the lines of earlier pop punk bands quality-wise, but they fit in well with the style of music on the first EP. Things seem to have become more complicated, however, on Secondborn’s second effort, Symbols.
When Lions Dream is the first single off of Symbols. It opens with some very clean guitar shredding by Patrick Trumps and Stefan Hawkins. Lee Gauthreaux’s drums on the track are a heady mix of metal and punk style and bassist Alex Daigle’s skills are featured in an interesting way. These three elements are the solid, high-quality parts of Secondborn’s burgeoning new style, but some other parts are a little shaky. On When Lions Dream as well as on other songs, the band has added a heavier synth element than was on their first EP. In many cases these new synths, played by Tim Benson, seem out of place and as though they do not gel with the style of the rest of the band.
Similarly, the musicality, or lack thereof, in singer Daniel Pinner’s vocals are a consistent issue on Symbols. Pinner’s voice is typical of many pop punk singers of the 90s, which means it is untrained and generally more about screaming and intensity than staying in tune with the music or, in Secondborn’s case, with the style. His vocal style worked a little better with the rest of the band on A Call to Arms where the band was more punk-leaning, but now with this new direction towards the style of bands like Muse or 30 Seconds to Mars, it definitely clashes in some spots.
The opening song on Symbols, Say Love is one case where all the elements Secondborn is trying to incorporate in their new style work well together, though the song is decidedly on the pop punk end of the rock spectrum. Say Love is probably the best track on the EP, but there is still some flagging in Pinner’s vocal quality. It does not clang quite as noticeably, however, because the styles align better than on When Lions Dream and other songs. When his vocals are toned down for the chorus in this song, in fact, Pinner’s voice is actually capable of carrying a tune and sounding less punk, so there may yet be hope. The odd-sounding synths are still there in parts of Say Love, but it is not as noticeable as on some other tracks. This song, once released, will likely be a hit.
Secrets, Symbols’s second song, probably most accurate representation of the sound Secondborn are trying to achieve. Keys and guitars are much more in alignment with each other and it is possible some remastering helped with this. Pinner’s vocals also contain some remastering, echo effects and possibly auto-tune to create a more cohesive feel between him and the instrumental. Heavy bass and low-tuned guitars give the track an industrial feel and support the synths.
If Secondborn continues to go along the lines of Secrets style-wise, they will more than likely gain notoriety in the genre of indie rock that is defined by bands like Rise Against, Muse and 30 Second to Mars. It seems that this is their goal on Symbols, as most of the songs contain elements like intense synths and metal-style guitars and drums. They also re-worked a song from their first EP called Kings Blood, which was originally more pop punk, into a synth-driven emo/industrial track.
With Secondborn it is just a question of getting all the elements working in the right proportions and aligning each musical element in terms of quality, style and timbre. Secondborn will likely also continue to draw audiences with their pop punk base on tracks like Say Love. Symbols will be released in full in mid-June. In the meantime fans can listen to their first EP, A Call to Arms and the single When Lions Dream on Secondborn’s Soundcloud page, listed below in sources.
Review by Layla Klamt
Images courtesy of Secondborn’s press package