Back to Oblivion is the long-awaited third studio album from alternative rock band Finch. It’s the band’s first release in nine years and marks the end of a hiatus period that began shortly after the release of sophomore album Say Hello to Sunshine in 2005. With so much time between records, it’s natural to expect a different sound on this record; each member is nearly a decade older, with evolved influences, personal tastes and priorities. However, Back to Oblivion is unmistakably Finch and stylistically slots somewhere between debut album What it is to Burn and Say Hello to Sunshine.
Some fans of Finch’s pop-punk infused post-hardcore sound from the first record were deterred by Say Hello to Sunshine’s jarring transition, as the pop elements were sacrificed in favour of more technical instrumentation. Back to Oblivion sounds like a more natural successor to What it is to Burn and acts as a perfect bridge between the previous two albums, making the band’s full catalogue more coherent overall. Singer Nate Barcalow’s vocal style on Say Hello to Sunshine has been carried over to this record, although musically the song structures are much simpler and straight forward, making it reminiscent of their debut album.
The twelve tracks on offer are straight-up, alternative rock songs, with a focus on massive chords, catchy riffs and infectious choruses. The album’s opening trio of songs are upbeat and pulsating, acting as a reminder that Finch are back and they mean business. The instrumentation may not be as complex as their previous album, but it gives drive and urgency to the music, making it impossible to keep your head still. From there things start to settle, as the band adds variation through slower tempos and gradual build-ups that allow Barcalow’s vocals to really shine. While Finch may have been absent for nine years, Barcalow has evidently maintained his instrument well and the range of tones and melodies used on Back to Oblivion keep the album sounding fresh and interesting throughout. This is backed up by Brian Virtue’s minimalistic production, which helps give the album its own personality. The guitar tones are unclean and trebly, allowing the bass to stand out in the low frequencies and the vocals perch at the heart of the mix; never dominating the music but sitting nicely in the centre of it. The result is an album that sounds uncompressed, with a lot of space to breathe. This gives the record a raw, unpolished sound that compliments the attitude of the songs.
The variety and progression running through the album comes to a head with penultimate track “Inferium,” which is arguably one of the best songs the band has written to date. Barcalow’s softly-uttered vocals sound vulnerable against the bleak guitar intro that gradually builds in volume and intensity until an emotionally-fuelled chorus delivers the crescendo. “Inferium” is so powerful that it would have been an ideal way to end the album. Unfortunately, closing track “New Wave” is too meandering and downbeat to rival the emotion of “Inferium” and ends up bringing the tone and satisfaction of the album down a little at the end, which is a real shame.
Back to Oblivion is a successful return for Finch, demonstrating that they maintain the ability to produce great music that somehow feels true to their identity, despite the long pause between albums. Musically the album has enough energy to demonstrate that the band still has a passion to continue performing and vocally Barcalow sounds as good as ever. It will be interesting to see how fans of Finch’s debut album will respond to this release and whether those who were resistant to Say Hello to Sunshine in 2005 will be willing to give the album another listen now. Either way, it’s great to hear them back and hopefully they’ll stick around long enough to reward us with another record before this decade is over.