The Fray is back! Just over a year since releasing the commercially-successful Scars & Stories, the alternative rock band from Colorado have returned with their fourth—and ultimately, fairly predictable—studio album, Helios.
The first 10 seconds of the opening track “Hold My Hand” are as brilliant as anything they’ve previously released, highlighted by their signature irresistible piano-based sound. But at the 20-second mark, it changes. In comes an electronic undertone, pulsing and very much present—perhaps a new musical direction for this band? A pounding drumbeat follows, succeeded with an intricately designed guitar riff before the song climaxes with a massive choir-backed final chorus.
But nothing else on the album comes across as particularly different. From there on, Helios is a mix of up-tempo stadium fillers and subtler yet still catchy piano ballads. The Fray has delivered strong performances on each song: vocally, musically, and even lyrically. It’s clear that the songs are well produced, and Isaac Slade’s lead vocals are as brilliant as ever—but maybe that’s the downfall.
Songs like “Wherever This Goes” are good songs—easy to listen to, with a clear beat, and pleasing vocals. However, once it’s over, it’s over. There is no lasting impact. It’s the kind of song one hears, enjoys it, and then moves on, and it’s unfortunately the same with the album as a whole. Helios has its noteworthy moments; “Our Last Days” is truly a great song, but it suffers in the sense that realistically, it isn’t that far from anything The Fray have done before. While the faint electronic influence is present, and the band have clearly developed their sound into Five For Fighting territory, it is very much a typical Fray record.