Courtesy of Epic Records
Courtesy of Epic Records

From desperately attempting to save the soul of a person struggling with drug addiction to doubting the benevolence of a supposedly kind and nurturing God, the Fray have taken us through some of life’s deepest emotions and most challenging experiences with many of their widely recognizable songs. The band has already established itself as a groundbreaking pop-rock phenomenon, but with the Fray’s newest album has once again been challenged to improve and evolve. This task is easier said than done, and it is difficult to fathom how a band that has already achieved such high commercial acclaim can improve. Despite the odds, the Fray have once again managed to build upon their success instead of falter.

It is rare to find a band that has the ability to produce lyrics that truly illustrate the hardships of life, all while backing them up with raw talent and power. “Helios” is an album that maintains this power and lyrical artistry throughout each and every track. Lead singer Isaac Slade, more commonly known by his last name Slade, is an artist who frequently draws upon personal experiences and incorporates them into his songwriting. This insight into the singer’s life is most clearly demonstrated in “Wherever This Goes” when he sings, “I’ve been here forever / Afraid to be my father / And afraid to leave him too.” The result of words like these is a compilation of tracks that speak of genuine experiences that are truly relatable, and easy to vicariously live out  through his honest and emotional lyrics.

In “Helios,” Slade outright addresses sensitive subjects that most people dance around. Instead of hinting at his feelings, he sings on the track “Break Your Plans” that, “I wish I had cheated / At least that’s a reason / I’d understand why you’re leaving now.” These lyrics take the audience by surprise, allowing listeners to feel the singer’s emotional distress. “Helios” has multiple powerhouse songs that are worthy of being overplayed on the radio — with their powerful hooks, energy and relatability, the tracks on “Helios” have the potential to compete with any popular song on the radio at the moment. The standout track of the album is “Love Don’t Die,” which will please fans of the pop-rock genre with its upbeat vibe, catchy chorus and love-inspired lyrics. Other tracks on the album that also prove to be radio-worthy are “Hold my Hand” and “Break Your Plans,” which have the Fray’s heartfelt lyrics and powerful choruses.

Not only has the band proven itself to be consistent with producing incredible lyrics, but the Fray have experimented with new musical elements that prevent the album from being repetitive. “Helios” offers a refreshing change of pace with its incorporation of electronic instrumentation that might remind listeners of Muse or U2. The low electronic synth vibrations in the album are reminiscent of Muse’s “Madness,” while the clear and resonating guitar tones give listeners a similar sound to U2’s guitarist, the Edge. Tracks like “Hurricane” demonstrate these qualities, along with other tracks like “Give It Away,” which heavily incorporates funk music that beckons listeners to tap their feet to the rhythm. The incorporation of these different styles in “Helios” has thrown the Fray into new musical territory that has not been explored in any of their previous albums.

Before listening to this album, I thought the Fray’s golden age was long over. Thankfully, I was proven dead wrong. Despite being faced with the odds of meeting their past levels of success, “Helios” not only lives up to the excellence of previous albums, but surpasses them.

Rating: 4 stars