It is no secret that the past two years have been a strange ride for all of us with isolation and hope-crushing news coming at us on the daily. For the transatlantic trio As It Is, consisting of Patty Walters (vocals), Alistair Testo (bass) and Ronnie Ish (guitar), it hasn’t been much different. With touring and live music coming to a stop and no certainty when it would fully come back, the band saw themselves losing a very important part of their livelihood.
Over this time period the trio faced confusing and conflicting emotions to a point where they questioned everything including their life choices, sending them down a dark and twisted road. Especially the vocalist Patty Walters, despite having always been more of an introvert, saw his mental wellbeing deteriorating through lockdown as the outlets he was most used to, such as touring, volunteering and conversations with friends and even strangers seemed like a distant memory. Their fourth studio album “I WENT TO HELL AND BACK” - out on February 4th 2022 via Fearless Records - reflects that to a tee and even though As It Is isn’t exactly known for happy songs in their discography, this may be their darkest record to date.
If you thought it couldn’t get much darker than the themes of their 2018 release The Great Depression, a concept album, divided into the five stages of grief, then you might end up being surprised. While there was a very important discussion of heavier themes in that last record, there was still a hopeful message every now and again. “I WENT TO HELL AND BACK” takes it a step further with more anger, frustration and self hatred mixed with apathy.
The album draws you in with the track “IDGAF” - a song that takes the raw emotions we have all been feeling, whether it may be heartbreak, anxiety, anger or simply wanting to give up and turns it into this angst-filled, yet catchy tune. It was written as one of the first songs for the album way back in 2019, however now in 2022, after collectively going through a pandemic and lockdowns, the lyrics feel all the more cathartic to sing (or scream, whatever you like) along to.
Next up there’s “I LIE TO ME” which is about those awful days where you struggle to even get out of bed and the resentment that comes with it - a theme that comes up in more songs as the album progresses. This song in particular emphasizes that sometimes you have to fake it ‘til you make it, or… lie to yourself if you will.
The next two songs “ILY, HOW ARE YOU?” and “IDC, I CAN’T TAKE IT” feel like a call and response type of thing, showing different perspectives - one about checking in and one about not getting the same energy back. “I’D RATHER DIE” is the ruthless war inside your head - you are sick of being in that mindset, yet don’t even want to do anything about it anymore as it drains too much energy and the possibility of failure keeps you from even trying.
The next track “I MISS 2003” is a love letter to the noughties and the pop punk and emo scene back in the day that just fills your heart with joy as you’re hit with a wave of that sweet nostalgia. The lyrics reference 13 bands and artists that shaped an entire generation. Who doesn’t miss the old days of being kids, where everything seemed so much simpler than it does now? (... and MySpace)
After taking a trip down memory lane “I’M SICK AND TIRED” and “I WANT TO SEE GOD” draw you in even further with a bit heavier and angrier sound than the rest of the album, definitely forming the high point of the record. While the first minute and half of ”I’M SICK AND TIRED” is more on the upbeat and catchy side of things, it picks up more and more throughout the song and creates a solid build up for the next track “I WANT TO SEE GOD”.
For the song “IN THREES” As It Is are creating a dramatic and eerie atmosphere, both sonically and lyrically. The track is about what may happen when you spend too much time in your own head and create this alternative reality, where what is true is heavily distorted and twisted. They teamed up with Cody Carson (Set It Off) and JordyPurp, who add more layers to the song to create a fascinating final effect.
Nearing the end of the record, the tracks “I HATE ME TOO”, “I’M GONE”, “I DIE 1000X” and “I CAN’T FEEL A THING” serve as a last pick up of tempo leading up to the title track “I WENT TO HELL AND BACK” which slows it down one last time, mostly putting its focus on the vocals with a stripped back instrumental consisting of keyboards/synths and an electronic drum beat tied together with several voice effects, giving the record a quiet and somber ending.
In conclusion, with “I WENT TO HELL AND BACK” As It Is explored their darker side even further and allowed themselves to take risks by adding something new and exciting to their discography. Their pop punk days may be long gone now, but this new outfit suits them quite well. Funnily enough - as pessimistic as this album is lyrically, it truly is a joy to listen to. The heavy themes and toxic thought patterns discussed in this album certainly won’t fix anything, but sometimes it is comforting to know that you are not alone thinking that way and that there are people out there who understand.
02. I LIE TO ME
03. ILY, HOW ARE YOU?
04. IDC, I CAN’T TAKE IT
05. I’D RATHER DIE
06. I MISS 2003
07. I’M SICK AND TIRED
08. I WANT TO SEE GOD
09. IN THREES
10. I HATE ME TOO
11. I’M GONE
12. I DIE 1000X
13. I CAN’T FEEL A THING
14. I WENT TO HELL AND BACK
As It Is - "I WENT TO HELL AND BACK"
Label: Fearless Records
Release date: 04.02.2022