ALBUM REVIEW: New Years Day – Half Black Heart

New Year’s Day helped pave the path for today’s female-fronted nu-metal bands who balance hard rock aggression with pop hooks. Having emerged from the days of Myspace, they have refined the weighty grooves of that era to transcend the bandwagon of their peers. This is largely due to frontwoman Ash Costello. On Half Black Heart (Century Media Records) Costello’s voice finds more piercing power. She knows how to pack a punch without resorting to screaming. This helps their songs avoid the modern rock formula that is wearing thin.  

They make the most of big, anthemic choruses on the song “Secrets”. The verse breaks down in a way that allows her to show different shades of her voice rather than just having to belt it out at 11 the entire song. Songs like “Fearless” click with their radio-minded hooks without sounding like wrestling entrance themes. Costello’s knack for melodies is as sharp as any songwriter in the corporate pop machine, but the organic nature of the music keeps things from ever becoming overly saccharine. 

At times, this raises the question of which came first; the pop song or the rock crunch? Knowing their history as a band, the answer is rock, but the evolution as a band is impressive. They do not shy away from using restraint, even if it means toning down the more overt metallic pound that might not serve the song they are trying to write. This often translates into allowing a wider range of dynamics to unfold. It should be said that this album is immaculate when it comes to production; the attention given to the vocals is top-notch. This sheen might bring the pop elements more to the forefront than if they plugged into their amps and went for it in the practice space. Though given the nature of where they are going on this album, it makes sense. 

Could this album be darker to compliment the “Goth” tinged presentation that is part of their brand? Yes. It is the element of this album that the more “spooky” minded demographic of their audience might be disappointed in. Without the darker undertones of past releases, which might have come across as angrier, they fall closer to the rock n roll status quo of 2024. While “the darker, the better” might be my mantra for music that resonates most with me, in all fairness to the artist, life changes people and they create from different spaces. Artists are allowed to do things like get sober, take meds, go to therapy, and fall in love, which are all life choices that might find someone creating music from not as bleak or brooding of a place. It is after all called Half Black Heart and not Fully Blackened Heart or Charred Miserable Heart.  This is more of an empowered album than it is a cheerful or happy one. 

At the heart of this album is a band that knows what they want to do and is comfortable in a place where they can execute this to the best of their ability. It is the sound of maturation, perhaps not the same fire of the younger band that wrote songs that oozed with sexuality, but are crafting albums that are well-produced exercises in songwriting that put them at the top of their game. There are few surprises, just the band doing what you want them to do, in the way they want to do it.

Buy the album here:

8 / 10