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Enjoyable, but Dull - 100%

FagsAreGay, May 15th, 2007

While a change in style for a band can sometimes be refreshing, it can just as inversely be a misstep. As for Embodyment, while the abrupt stylistic shift between Embrace the Eternal and The Narrow Scope of Things may have worked, their continued exploration of alternative rock may not have been the best move. While Embrace the Eternal was relentless in its raucousness and The Narrow Scope of Things solid in its screamo-meets-alternative rock-medley, Hold Your Breath does not fare as well.

Sean Corbray, after making his debut on The Narrow Scope of Things, is still the vocalist here. On The Narrow Scope of Things, fans of the band’s original line-up still rejoiced that Corbray maintained some of the fury that, albeit of a different sort, the original vocalist started. As per his introduction into a band that would be forever changed as a result of his arrival, Corbray at least brought depth, character, and personality to Embodyment. However, on Hold Your Breath, those aforementioned attributes are missing. Gone are the tortured wails, lost is the honesty, and nowhere is the embattled attitude that defined the band's earlier work. Yet it’s not that Corbray’s singing is bad--because it’s actually quite good. It’s just that a more technically proficient singer has replaced the vocalist of the same name who, on merely an album prior, bristled with conviction. So what happened?

The band “matured,” that’s what happened.

Although the rest of the band managed to improve their already-established technical prowess a smidgeon more, and although their ability to write a catchy song is more adept, Hold Your Breath sees Embodyment as perhaps too focused on minutiae. Yes, the production is flawless; yes, every note is spot-on; yes, the timbre of every instrument sounds crisp and clear; yes, most of the songs are pretty downright catchy; yes, the band are at the top of their game; yes, this still sounds like Embodyment. There’s just no conviction. It’s true that the band’s integrity to write good music is still evident here; they just forgot their purpose.

Thus, Embodyment sacrificed meaningful, challenging music for pop-oriented, semi-derivative choruses on Hold Your Breath. And still, the music on Hold Your Breath is not bad at all; it’s just lacking in comparison to the music on the two albums prior. Songs like “Decade,” “K-9,” and “A Season’s End” frankly don’t compare to similarly formatted songs from The Narrow Scope of Things like “Winter Kiss,” “One Less Addiction,” and “Confessions.” Whereas Embrace the Eternal was complex and The Narrow Scope of Things diverse, Hold Your Breath is neither, nor is it even its own entity. It just sort of exists.

So while there are some standout tracks like “Yours Truly,” the opener, and “Cruise Control,” the closer, Hold Your Breath falls short. It’s not bad; it’s just not great, either. Its likeability is most likely determined by how much of an Embodyment fan one was at the time this album was first released. Otherwise, for those who do not already hold Embodyment dear, Hold Your Breath is a rather uninspired, passive pop-rock album that one can live without.