The Way – Helpless But Not Hopeless


TheWAY_Helpless_Ep_coverSouthern California punk bands all sound the same…right?  Even the most diehard fan of punk rock will admit that certain regions and geographies spawn bands with a similar, characteristic sound.  The Way hails from Oxnard, CA about an hour or so north of Los Angeles and yes, they do have that California melodic punk rock sound.  The Way, however, have managed to embrace the sound and influence from many iconic bands, but still apply their own spin.

Helpless but not Hopeless is the second album from the Way, which is fairly impressive for a band that started in early 2009 and had their first album The Fight is Ours released earlier in 2011, the same year as Helpless but not Hopeless.   One could guess as to their sound, since they are a Southern California punk band influenced by Bad Religion and Social Distortion and taking those influences into consideration, you would be very close to their sound.  Thankfully, they are not a “tribute” type band, merely copying/stealing that sound, but they have blended their influences together to produce a sound that is comfortingly familiar but still different enough from their influences to not be confused.

What immediately stands out to me are the vocals.  Johnny sounds like he could be related to Mike Ness (Social Distortion) and there are some little nuances and turns of phrase and tone that sound very much like Mike Ness but those are fairly rare overall and the vocals are mostly very strong and do not come across like he is trying to impersonate Mike Ness at all.  Lyrically, the Way is an obvious Christian band, which many may figure out just by the label they’re on (Thumper Punk Records), but the lyrics do not come across as overly preachy at all.  I like in “Abandonment Theology” how  the first half of the song is directed toward non-believers and the transition to the second verse starts with “Hey Christian…Don’t think that I’ve forgotten about you” and then goes on to point out the shortcomings of believers and how both believers and non-believers are playing a role in moral decay.  The emotion put into the performance and the gritty lyrics help the songs come across as real and genuine, just like one would expect in punk rock.

Musically, I did have a surprise or two listening to this.  The biggest one was the opening to the song “The Lone Road” where I hear a distinct guitar tone that sounds straight from Paranoid-era Black Sabbath.  I certainly wasn’t expecting that, and have no idea of whether or not it was intentional but I did like hearing it.   In general, the songs are mostly driving melodic punk rock similar in some ways to their influences with some unique breaks thrown in to keep things interesting.  I do especially like the prominence of the bass guitar in some sections, again a good touch that lends some differentiation to their sound.  The addition of a couple guitar solos also adds some nice flavor to the recording.  One of the more different songs on the album is “The Coming Storm” which tells the tale of a person spiraling down to rock bottom.  The song starts out with a bit of a groovy clean guitar section that has a somewhat ominous tone to it, eventually ending in feedback and distortion kicking in for the mid-tempo verses, only to alternate back to the clean guitar before more feedback and a guitar solo preceding the final verse, and then finally ending with the clean guitar-driven groove.  Certainly not your typical punk rock song structure, but it works very well and does not feel out of place at all.

Overall, this is a very strong release.  Production quality is very good.  My biggest complaint is that I wanted to hear more.  I will say I was not a big fan of the Ritchie Valens cover at the end and do feel that the vocals may be a little strained in a couple places, but these are really minor issues.  If you’re looking for some melodic and driving punk rock with a Southern California flavor and some straight ahead rock-n-roll influences, you will want to pick up Helpless but not Hopeless.

Rating: 7.5/10

1. Abandonment Theology
2. Don’t Let It Die
3. The Lone Road
4. Misplaced Feelings
5. Suffer With the Lost
6. The Coming Storm
7. We Belong Together (Ritchie Valens cover)

Band Members:
Tank – Bass
Ryan – Drums
Manny – Lead Guitar
Harry – Rhythm Guitar
Johnny – Vocals

Record Label: Thumper Punk Records, Dec. 2011

Weblinks: Myspace Reverbnation / Facebook  / Twitter

Buy the album here:
Holland: First Paradox
Norway: Nordic Mission
USA: Metal Helm

Video below for: “Don’t Let It Die”

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