Mainstream rock has been a forgotten son of the metal family for almost as long as I have been aware of the music. Ever since the grunge explosion (the merits of grunge even being a definable sub-genre not withstanding), the singles that populate rock radio have had immeasurable influence from the bands that came out of Seattle. The post-grunge movement, as it became known, is known most of all for two things; bands that prefer angst to any other expression of emotion, and a wave of productions that made the bands indistinguishable from one another.
Few bands that aren't afraid to call themselves rock bands over the last fifteen years have broken out of the mold that has developed. Every single that comes over the speakers features the same deep voiced singers crooning over the same bass-heavy production that makes the music so dark it can be nothing but downbeat. There was a time when such sounds were novel, but an entire generation of fans have grown up and come of age knowing nothing else as the model of popularity. The differences between bands comes not from their original sounds, but instead from their ability to tap into the muse of songwriting.
Otherwise does not arrive looking to destroy the box they will be placed in. The music on “True Love Never Dies” is firmly rooted in the tradition of radio rock as it has been handed down, offering little in the way of innovation or originality. The good thing for them is that while the genre could use a dose of both, neither is necessary for a record to succeed. Though we may have heard this all before, a good song will always be a good song, no matter how much it reminds us of something else. In many ways, that kind of pre-constructed association can work in their favor, delivering us a dose of something we have good memories attached to.
Albums like this live and die on the vocal melodies and performance. The age of the riff ruling the airwaves came and went long ago, with modern guitarists serving as little more than a thumping weight to fool the truest of metal fans into believing they're listening to something heavier than the reality is. Knowing this, Otherwise manages to deliver on the expectations of fans of this particular brand of rock. Guitars are sufficiently tuned down to be acceptable to fans of heavy music, although such tuning, combined with the clinical production, leaves the entire album sounding dark, lifeless, and sterile. The songs don't feel like they can breathe, and they often sound like the product of long, labored studio sessions.
But the most important part of the formula are the vocals, and it is here that Otherwise is best equipped to shine. Adrian Patrick sounds exactly like what you would expect, but has the tone and sheer vocal power to sell any song. His voice is easily the best weapon the band possesses, especially when he gives himself a strong set of melodies, which he does often enough here. Every song on the record is designed to have a sing-along hook ready to be echoed by an arena crowd, with the quizzical exception of the single “Soldiers”, a rather tuneless affair that uses military themes to explore epic terrain with limited success. As a first impression, it would serve as more of a deterrent to hearing the rest of the album than an enticement.
“True Love Never Dies” doesn't reinvent the wheel, because while innovation is great, the wheel works as it is. There will always be a place in this world for melodic rock music, and “Scream Now”, “Vegas Girl” and “I Don't Apologize” are all fine examples of the medium. Not every song works as well, but there's something enjoyable about this kind of record even when it does fall flat. The good is good, and the not-so-good is still far from bad, which makes the record a pleasing yet ultimately forgettable way to spend some time. You can do much worse.