Swan songs signify endings. If a swan is singing, or so the story goes, it is using its last breath.
The Plot In You are a quartet from Ohio who play an almost cinematic brand of metalcore on this release. The band are made up of. Landon Tewers Vocals, Lyrics, Programming
Ethan Yoder Bass
Josh Lewis Childress Guitar
Michael Cooper Drums
Failure. Endings. Demise. Hopelessness. Emptiness. Sadness. Despair. These are emotions that we have all felt, and likely will feel again; Swan Song is a goodbye. It is a reflective glance in the practice in self-applied therapy, a chance for The Plot In You to rinse out the bitter taste from their mouths and lay their cards bare on the table. One can imagine that this is a melancholy forlorn listening experience that spits darkness and recalls the fragility of life, however more importantly it offers a road to recovery, proof that should we need it the darkest periods of our lives are indeed only temporary.
Swan Song is less of an album and more a cathartic release of emotion that ends on a feeling of enlightenment. The album is full of incredible musicianship throughout, as well as hard hitting, very raw lyrics that cut to bone,
Letters To A Dead Friend’ starts things off with the quaint eeriness of a distant school yard set over reversed vocals and modulated synth loops. It’s a captivating sound bed for Landon to croon over and sets the pace nicely for the album’s various mood swings and genre-bending of dark-pop, ethereal rock, and aggro metalcore. Some lowly pitched vocals slip in, as does Landon’s gritty screaming that he does so wonderfully well. A rich tapestry of tonalities, it begins as melodically bright and percussively-driving as Landon ponders what might have happened if a friend of his hadn’t died but had instead lived their full life. As a song, it’s confronting bargaining stage of grief: “Dead wrong or dead right, I should be in the ground a thousand fucking times” he screams in the heavy finale. It’s very much a what-if scenario, a face-thy-self-examination, and is an inexplicably bold first track to unsettle your expectations. The darker change of key to the screams, menacing chugging guitars, and gut-rumbling low-end for its climax is sudden but seamless. When ‘Letters…’ kicks your teeth in at 3:21 for that emotionally dynamic explosion, its powerful enough to move you to tears.
With ‘Fall Again,’ out of the frying pan shoots this signature sound with a dry yet punchy and somewhat glitchy metalcore tune. If you’re one of those people who care about finding THE heaviest song on a record, then this is the track. A more dare I say straightforward track that has a lot of familiarity, it shows off just how characterful Landon’s singing and screaming is. He’s a massively talented though criminally underrated frontman who can hold his own with the best in the scene. A somewhat more dissonant, chug-laden second half gives way to a final elated chorus and one absolutely killer breakdown, where the band’s rhythm section gives it their all. It becomes abundantly clear how this band arrange their songs, how these elements all work in unison. Synths and electronics fly above, heavy guitar chugs and the smoothed-out, bass-heavy mix anchor to the sides Landon’s immensely intense vocals, whilst the drumming fires straight down the middle. It’s a wonderfully effective mix and production methodology, arming to the teeth the already stellar songwriting.
Face Me isn’t just one of this record’s best tracks, and not only one of my favourite 2021 tunes, but it’s one of favourite pieces of music of all time. I feel this track was written about a relationship that’s become deeply plagued by mental illness, the toll it took on the couple, and how there’s was a yearning to make it work. Something I can easily relate to sadly (“I don’t wanna be the love you prevail from, I don’t wanna be the waves in your sea” Landon pleads in the second verse.) The immersive layering of Landon’s screams over a woman’s repeating sampled mantra; the tracks lurching rhythmic pace during the emotionally distressing harrowing breakdown; the distorted synths adding some guile to the measures before the downtrodden feels drop; all of the harmonic tension; how the mix withholds certain elements at just the right time – there’s so much to love about this banger. This is it, peak auditory sumptuous musical bliss, featuring everything that makes this band tick and gets me going!
Landon and the boys serve up one of the happier, brighter rock songs of their entire career on the 4th track “Too Far Gone”. (Despite the dark lyrical content which I take as being about acknowledging when a relationship has run its course.) If there was ever a song from this album that was destined to tackle the over saturated radio leagues – even with the heartfelt lung bursting high pitched screaming in the second verse –it’s this one. Although that’s not its only quality, nor the only identity it has. It doesn’t feel cheapened or forced in the slightest, but an brutally honest and ambitious rock song for them. When the chunky climax arrives around the three minute mark, with the band backed up by a huge millennial whoop, as Landon offers some brutal insight with perhaps reckless honesty about his love life – “when I try to love, my failures sink through the seams” – and with that it becomes more than just a “radio” song as I elude a few sentences back.
Track 5 is Paradigm and this track definitely has the most traditional Metalcore sound. It’s got that sort of rowdy party vibe throughout and is in my opinion the weakest song on the album in terms of musicality. It’s a fine, if not pissed-off sounding metalcore track with some passable riffs and plentiful screaming but I want more than that these days. However, please do note that filthy, pitch-rising held scream near the end is just dripping with disdain. Lovely! It reads like it’s a track about society’s false worship of public figures, a stark reminder to not idolise people, and the potentially toxic relationships that could stem from that. This is the band trying to remind us that (not all, but most) YouTubers, influencers and content-creators just see their audience as mere numbers. A topic that always makes me want to cringe slightly given musicians themselves don’t probably fully comprehend that they hold the same position and power as those they criticise in such songs, albeit on a smaller platform. Rant over!
Starting with a repeating “who do you want to be?” vocal line and a melodic synthesised ostinato. It’s a haunting yet very true statement. ‘Both To Blame’ is a reflective look at a relationship ending. In which both parties are far from faultless in things falling apart. There is a lot of reflective sentiments bundled up in this song, without falling into a desperate ‘please take me back’ approach. Instead its more clearing the air for his ex-partner, so that the blame isn’t placed solely on them, conceding he was just as guilty in things turning sour. Landon is admitting his own indiscretions after the fact and is even showing empathy to his ex. That takes guts, and it’s refreshing to hear that. Maybe it’s something I need to learn……Much more insightful than the self-obsessed, personal myopia that’s plagued so much metalcore music over the last 15 years.
Track 7 ‘Too Heavy,’ funnily enough, really isn’t that heavy. Quelle Surprise! A slower, somewhat uplifting yet atmosphere-heavy piece that’s all about that showcases a sweet sincere lighter side of the band. The high-pitched notes and sweet vocal runs that Landon dishes out are evocative with a charming undertone. The atmosphere in the track allows them to knuckle down and push the song towards its most obvious and satisfying pay-off. For example, the slick section layering at the end, as the verses overlap with the chorus hooks and some really heart wrenching screams, with all of the instrumentation firing off. It’s all a bit clumsy and could say very messy, but I think that seems to be by design: that chaos and anxiety when things gets way too heavy in our lives. Even with the glacial pacing of the song, it’s a real album highlight.
Track 8 Enemy’, making its presence felt with an eerie ethereal vocal sample and a ringing bass, with subliminal string noises left in for added punch. All before chugging guitars that sound thicker than a full bucket of Greek yoghurt and face-slapping drums touch down with force. One little trick that this album seems to love is using a sole vocal track from Landon hang in the air before things return with a sucker punch and they then hit harder than ever. They do this on ‘Face Me’ and they do it here again to great effect, despite this song having my least favourite chorus off the album. The song’s hellish metalcore passage, with these broken down sounding guitars and the violent voice-breaking screams, is face-melting stuff. The Plot In You, or rather Landon, make such interesting choices with their instrument voicing and section transitions here. Maybe a grower
Penultimate track Whole Without Me’. It’s a happy-medium of their electronic pop and heavier metalcore.With a slightly uneven paced breakdown, basic snare roll build-up, it all seems a bit of an anti-climax (for me), but it still hits hard. A true endorsement to this record’s quality: when it slacks, it’s far still far superior than most of their contemporaries dish out. In this track we see Landon “de-masking” himself and his problems, revealing the man he is. It’s far from the album’s greatest moment by any stretch of the imagination, but you can feel it’s a seriously vulnerable moment for the frontman and that certainly doesn’t go unnoticed.
The album closes with the ticking, nursery-rhyme pitched-percussion of ‘Freed’ starts one of the band’s most progressive compositions yet. With the distorted hi-fi synth rumbles, evocative strings, some trance electronica, and aggressively picked industrial chugs, the band go all four dimensional. It’s a somewhat grim ending with various moving parts, it seems a dark place to end the record on. With Landon admitting that he goes to sleep “with no intention to wake” and also addressing issues with his mother, recalling what he first shared with the world about her on ‘Glad you are gone” from their 2013 opus Could You Watch Your Children Burn In this finale, it feels like Landon is “freed” from all of that negativity in his life. Like a message in a bottle hurled into the sea or, a paper of confessions burnt up by the fire, this was a purge. Thankfully, the band haven’t purged their passion or creativity. On this album, it’s most certainly over-flowing.