Album Reviews

Smash Into Pieces – Unbreakable

Formed in late 2008, Smash Into Pieces is an up-and-coming band of young men from Sweden with an alternative rock sound that is akin to Creed, Decyfer Down, Nickelback, or Hinder, to name a few; they often cite Alter Bridge, Pantera, and Shinedown as other musical influences on their style.  The band is fronted by vocalist Chris Adam Hedman Sörbye, and joined by bandmates Benjamin Jennebo (guitar), Per Bergquist (guitar/vocals), Viktor Vidlund (bass), and Isak Snow (drums).  Their accessible style of music gives them a potential of a large audience and is radio-friendly enough to be considered AOR in their approach.

Colder is a hard-hitting first song that opens with a keyboard line and guitar-driven beat.  The vocal lines are catchy, and despite the melancholy focus of the lyrics that paint a picture of a relationship that cools and becomes more distant over time, the overall sound of the song is fairly upbeat with a punchy rhythm.  The middle of the song holds a much different ambient keyboard solo that gives a bit of variety to the song and is a pleasure to hear in and of itself, but is just a brief reprieve from the rest of the song.

The second song on the album, Heroes (As We Are), is an almost anthemic song with a slight techno start that builds into a bold beginning.  It is a moderately-paced song with smoothly segued verse, chorus, and bridge sections with the thematic riffs in between.  The melodic vocals are solid, at time smooth, and others little grittier, and a bit of screaming vocals have a slight cameo in this song at the end of the bridge, first introducing the dual vocal style on the album.  The serious lyrics, about the need of rescue from the downhill spiral by a hero who would step up to the task, add to the weight of the rallying sound of the song, and together this combination creates what is probably my favorite track on the album.

A Friend Like You is a popular single from this album, and this third track tackles the difficult topic of losing the friendship of his best friend after stealing his girlfriend, offering apologies and understanding the consequences of his actions, but missing their friendship nonetheless.  The music is compelling and fits well with the song, with leads from the piano in addition to the guitars.  The relatively slow tempo helps communicate the apologetic attitude of the song, and incorporates some rhythmic complexities that give it additional musical interest and showcase their songwriting skills.

The fourth track, Crash and Burn, starts with a singular clean guitar intro, but the solo belies the intention of the song as an energetic beat kicks it off after this opener.  The song is upbeat as well as the lyrics, which communicate a “get back up after you fall” message:  “We live, we learn, through ups and downs and turns; We crash, we burn, but still we rise again.”  This is the second song, during a short bridge, to include screaming vocals in addition to the usual clean, melodic singing.  The music undergirding the song has a peppy drive to it that keeps it moving, and uses a mix of power chords and arpeggiated lines with the guitars while the bass provides featured riffs and accents that complement the other parts well.

Here to Stay has a power ballad feel, with a single line guitar entry that the vocals join in for the first verse, before the rest of the band comes in at the chorus.  There is a slight appearance of strings playing into the second verse that you can hear as the song drops in the volume of sound and instrumentation but slowly builds as the song carries on.  This song holds the place as the standard love song of the jilted lover who lost his best catch and is now left holding the bag.

The titular sixth track, Unbreakable, starts off as one might expect with a heavier and groove-driven introduction.  This song keeps a moderate pace, but stays in the hard/alt rock vein with some reprieves at the beginning of the verses.  It’s a catchy-enough, sing-along quality song that represents the group’s style and statement as a whole.  Similar to the previous song Crash and Burn, its theme focuses on being solid enough not to give up or becoming a victim to circumstances.

Rockstar is the seventh song that seems almost tongue-in-cheek coming from an aspiring rock band, but yet it remains serious as it tackles the harsh realities of the true lifestyle of the rockstar that the public (and even new bands themselves) often perceive.  It is based on strong power chord rhythms with a pseudo-techno underpinning that keeps it precise and cadenced throughout.  There is a bridge section about halfway through the song with a change in style that breaks from the choppy, chunky beats into something more ambient, but then comes back more brutally with the second appearance of screaming vocals during the bridge, but then returns to the clean melodic singing for the remainder of the song.  This song is another track that shows off the particularly catchy hooks that would be easily accepted in a multitude of venues.

The eighth track changes gears a bit and starts off mellower with just a guitar and keyboard entry as the vocals come right in.  Come Along is a song about someone being ready for companionship after having time alone to find himself and now wanting to share that discovery and new place with them.  It builds into the choruses, then drops to the more simple guitar and keyboard motif on the verses and after the bridge and finishes strongly.  This is again fairly moderately-paced, but not too slow with a nice ebb and flow to the various parts of the song.  The melody is easy to catch on to, and is overall a nice composition.

Contrary to the last track, I Want You to Know starts off strong with power chords and heavy beats, though it backs off on the verses.  This is an upbeat tune that has a heavier edge to it to keep it from being too pop-ish.  It also is the fourth song to incorporate screaming vocals at the end of the chorus for emphasis around the otherwise clean melodic singing.  This song deals with the loss of someone, the ending of a relationship by which means isn’t specified so it could apply to a number of situations to which the listener could relate.

My Enemy begins inconspicuously with a softer beginning with arpeggiated guitar chords and repetitive notes in the melody theme, but then shifts to a more chugging, defined rhythm with grittier melodic vocals.  The middle of the song gives a brief musical break with a piano and bass-led combination leading into a guitar solo and some adlib vocalizations before it reprises the chorus reiterating the warning to not become this person’s enemy or end up paying the consequences.

The last song is Fading, a strong closer to the album.  The music is substantive with both lighter and heavier moments and melancholy in its tone.  The opening and closing of the song parallel each other with the same plucked chords, the solo in this song is probably the most shred-like of them all, and the power chords again make their meaty appearances throughout the song. Dealing with losing someone in a tragic way with the aftermath of being stuck in the moment of grief and fading away as the emotions and memories seem to hold the person hostage is a sober theme with which to end, and the music seems to communicate that in tandem with the lyrics.

The songs on this album are fairly straightforward and are similar throughout in style and length (all the songs hover around an average of four minutes), so that there is consistency, which could easily border on redundancy and is something that the group should monitor to keep themselves fresh, relevant, and stand out from their peers.  They seem to alternate between heavier songs and ones that are lighter to keep the pace interesting and preventing the album from feeling unbalanced.

Chris Adam’s vocals have a pleasant melodic range, but show versatility to with prudently used screaming vocals that are generally understandable and are used mostly for emphasis in the songs.  The vocal lines have a sing-along quality to them with strong melodies that are easy to pick up.  The melodic riffs with the keyboards and the guitars by Benjamin and Per are catchy and varied enough to keep the songs moving forward and interesting with the scope of their songwriting style.  The rhythm section led by Viktor and Isak is very solid and provide a good base for the songs, with their own flourishes from time to time.  They seem solid musically as a group who work together well and are good complements to each other for a well-balanced sound.

Smash Into Pieces is yet another newly-minted successful band from the very musically-oriented and highly-talented middle Scandinavian country, who have a bright future ahead of them if they continue to put out this caliber of music or beyond with their future albums.  It would be easy to say their fan base could easily grow around the world with their accessible songs that can attract admirers of all ages.  I can confidently recommend “Unbreakable” to fans of the rock genre, and can easily see this album being added to many a rock fan’s music collection.

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