After their experimental third album, As It Is has returned with “I WENT TO HELL AND BACK,” another new endeavor in sound that fits perfectly in their discography. For some bands, returning to the roots of their music after a heavy step away can feel recursive and stagnant, but As It Is came at the classic pop-punk tone with a whole new look.
The band itself has changed significantly since their last release in 2018, saying goodbye to original guitarist Ben Langford-Biss in 2019 and drummer Patrick Foley at the end of 2020. Ronnie Ish, previously the band's tour manager, stepped in as guitarist, and his presence shines on this album.
Maintaining at times a classic pop-punk sound and emo lyrics, songs like “I’M SICK AND TIRED,” “I WANT TO SEE GOD” and “I CAN’T FEEL A THING” will remind long-time fans of the albums they fell in love with. Other songs like “I DIE 1000X” have a reminiscent sound to songs off their first album “Never Happy, Ever After,” but stand alone as the only slow song on the album, whereas previous ones were full of them.
One of the interesting qualities of this album is the new sound from vocalist Patty Walters. The change in tone is hard to describe, but has the sound of maturation, somewhat away from the typical higher range male post-hardcore voices. Walters still occasionally ventures toward screamo, which could feel out of place on an album which gives attention to the “pop” in “pop-punk” but it all feels well-placed.
In terms of new sounds, it’s almost impossible to ignore the addictive snare tracks throughout the album on songs like “I’D RATHER DIE” and “I WENT TO HELL AND BACK” that really emphasize a band with traditional pop-punk style developing with the genre. “I HATE ME TOO” and “IN THREES” are the best examples of this new wave sound.
Alongside the drum tracks, bassist Alistair Testo and Ish have moments in “IDC, I CAN’T TAKE IT” that really make the song. It has the classic “I hate this town” emo vibe with lyrics like “Hope is like a lighthouse / burning in the background,” but sounds like nothing they’ve made before at the same time.
Walters is notorious for his sad, sad lyrics, and this album truly embraces that, much like their others. It would be remiss not to mention the lyrical standout that is “I MISS 2003,” the band's ode to their younger days in the Warped Tour scene. With references to bands like Mayday Parade, New Found Glory and All American Rejects, the lyrics “Tell me that you’re alright / cause I’m not okay / I left the best of me in 2003” are sure to be blaring down punk stations for months, if not years to come.
The album ends on a title track which, while depressing in it’s lyrics “You said tomorrow would be better but that was yesterday,” listeners may understand that the band is saying it’s okay for things not to be okay, and music can be there beside you in all of those emotions. The new sound will allow for fans entering the scene now to connect as much as it will those who have been around since the beginning.
As a listener who’s enjoyed As It Is’ music for some eight years now, I can confidently say this album met all standards I could have for it. The new sound is exciting, but the commitment to the classic pop-punk style reminds me this is the same band I’ve always loved, no matter how much changes.