By Lauren Harris
'Calm Before The Storm' is that most frustrating of things: an album lavished with effort, polished to within an inch of its life, and with an army of people contributing to each track (five people have a hand in 'Let Us Be') and yet, it's difficult to get excited about this album. 'Calm Before The Storm' makes all the right sounds, but there's something too predictable about them. You can time, almost down to the last second, when each track's obligatory guitar solo is going to kick in.
It's difficult to imagine who this record's aimed at. 'Your Turn' and 'Get Over It' tell their tales of unsatisfactory relationships in cheesy-but-likeable Avril Lavigne style, but are devoid of those infectious choruses that made Avril so great. There isn't enough of a sugar-rush for pop-punk fans, and the lyrics, subject matter and lack of bite won't make this a hit with fans of heavier music.
Sappy, predictable lyrics and repetitive choruses only add to the over-produced flatness. 'See Through' has a stinker of a chorus, with Harris wailing "I'm seeeeeee throoooo-oooough" over and over as if she can't think up a second line. 'Hit or Miss' is a cringe-worthy ode to that most overused cliché: a beautiful outcast girl, and 'Come On Over' tries to be sexually provocative, and to say it fails in the attempt is putting it mildly. Harris seems to struggle with putting emotion into her voice, and many of these songs ring untrue as a consequence. It's hard to identify with tales of relationship woe when Harris doesn't sound like she means what she's singing.
However, Harris does have an interesting voice and an impressive vocal range. The surprisingly deep vocals of 'Steal Your Fire' are what makes this song the best on the album, and Harris belts out the high notes for occasionally beautiful slow-burner 'From The Bottom to The Top' with enviable ease.
The major problem with 'Calm Before The Storm' is that someone didn't know when to leave this album alone, polishing away until each song is so easy on the ears, that it doesn't really provoke a reaction. The stop-start guitars of 'Let Us Be' brings this problem into focus, as the awkward chords counteract the over-production and this song rocks away just like the rest of the album should but, sadly, doesn't.