As It Is – ‘I Went to Hell and Back’

By Sean Reid

Having embraced a darker tone on 2018’s ‘The Great Depression’, the return of As It Is is very much on par as being the “light at the end of the tunnel”. With the departures of guitarist Benjamin Langford-Biss and drummer Patrick Foley, the band’s fourth album, ‘I Went To Hell and Back’ sees the returning trio (Patty Walters, Alistair Testo, and Ronnie Ish) fight through a period of uncertainty.

On the surface, Walters, Testo, and Ish have crafted a lyrically blunt record complemented by plenty of hooks. You just have to look at song titles such as ‘I’d Rather Die’ and ‘I’m Sick and Tired’ to see how straightforward these songs are. While the angry teenager tone does tend to wain thin in places, As It Is have confidence in writing addictive songs.

Previous singles, ‘IDGAF’, ‘ILY, How Are You?’ and ‘IDC, I Can’t Take It’, are clear evidence of this. ‘IDGAF’ explodes with radiance in its chorus, with Walters’ words being delivered with bitterness. While ‘ILY, How Are You?’, along with the reference-laden ‘I Miss 2003’, comfortably sits in the current nostalgia-soaked pop-rock trend. ‘IDC, I Can’t Take It’ is the best of the three; driving instrumentation with a simple callback hook that’s sure to ignite crowds whenever the trio returns to a live environment.

On the whole, there is an admirable quality to these 14 songs. Besides being lyrically consistent, it shows hints of stylistic versatility. Take ‘I Want To See God’ for example and its adrenaline-fuelled guitars. Elsewhere, ‘I’m Sick and Tired’ is fiery as Walters pushes himself with support from dense instrumentation.

For all the positives ‘I Went to Hell and Back’ offers, there are forgettable moments. ‘In Threes’ hones in on a stripped-back pop vibe with assistance from Set It Off’s Cody Carson and rapper JordyPurp unsuccessfully. ‘I’d Rather Die’ is executed in a similar fashion; while it’s a laid back break from the pop-rock hooks provided, it lacks a lasting impression. Likewise, the concluding title track meanders in over-produced and atmospheric ground.

While there are signs of mixed versatility, it’s big hooks that continue to be As It Is’ speciality. Later cuts such as ‘I’m Gone’, ‘I Can’t Feel A Thing’, and ‘I Hate Me Too’ provide a strong run of songs that nicely tread the balance of nostalgic and fresh pop-rock/pop-punk without sounding feigned in on purpose. And there’s no involvement from Travis Barker in sight.

As a lead vocalist, Patty Walters’ delivery is genuine, executed with sincerity. He’s backed by Ish (lead guitar) and Testo (bass), providing a sturdy and coherent musical foundation that allows all three members to shine.

With a scattering of grit, the occasional miss, and plenty of memorable melodies, As It Is’ return is a well-balanced mix of progression and familiarity. ‘I Went To Hell and Back’ is another step towards As It Is becoming a reliable band with a willingness to (occasionally) push themselves without straying too far away from their origins.

SÊAN REID

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