Division is another solidly crafted rock record for the Tennessee band 10 Years, but by staying so close to the formula of their 2005 major-label debut, The Autumn Effect, it’s hard to gauge the growth of this quintet. On the one hand, you could argue that 10 Years are refining their Tool-lite alt-metal arrangements. But on the other hand, are the band members simply following a familiar playbook without much interest in adding their own twist?
Streamlined Radio Rock
The 13 tracks that make up Division suggest sleeker, shorter variations of the labyrinthine darkness that Maynard James Keenan brings to Tool’s best work. Relying largely on mid-tempo songs that rarely go longer than four minutes, 10 Years and producer Rick Parasher focus on tight, catchy material that’s instantly accessible. Much like the group they’re joining on tour to support this album, Filter, 10 Years manage to streamline the intensity of hard rock into a more user-friendly variation, maintaining its cathartic release while making it palatable to a wider audience. You couldn’t accuse 10 Years of being edgy, but they’re certainly a formidable radio-ready unit.
A Lead Singer With a Growl in His Throat
Throughout Division, singer Jesse Hasek lets loose his growl of a voice, whether it’s on “11:00am (Day Dreamer),” where he’s encouraging a cautious friend to take a risk, or “Actions & Motives,” an antiwar diatribe. Like his band’s polished but vaguely generic material, he doesn’t possess a very distinctive singing style, a fact not helped by Parasher’s highly-buffed studio approach, which leaves his voice sounding almost too perfect. But with that said, Hasek capably imbues tracks like “Russian Roulette” with a sense of urgency and disgust, decrying an associate whose self-destructive tendencies are growing progressively more dangerous.
Please Forget the Lyrics
While Division demonstrates that the band’s music remains brawny, the largest area for improvement is the group’s lyrics. The topics that Hasek and 10 Years tackle aren’t inherently unworthy, but lines like “Sex always sells/Death is a thrill” and “Disasterbation/The death of a nation” from the self-righteous “Drug of Choice” are nearly laughable attempts at commentary meant to skewer society’s addiction to empty pleasures. The band are on surer ground dealing with love and loss, but when 10 Years try to be political, such as on "Actions & Motives,” listeners are advised to focus on the music rather than the inanities coming out of Hasek’s mouth.
A Collection of Great-Sounding Tunes
While the album suffers in some regards, it’s hard to quibble with the songs themselves. Segueing nicely from slow-burning numbers like “Beautiful” to the vaguely psychedelic “Focus,” co-written by Dean DeLeo of Stone Temple Pilots, there isn’t a single track on Division that qualifies as a dud. Complaints about the overly sweetened sound keep the album from being as memorable as it could be, but 10 Years seem less concerned with stretching the envelope as they are in trying to construct a top-to-bottom strong collection of great-sounding tunes. Now that they’ve done that, it would be interesting to hear the band challenge themselves a little.
Release date – May 13, 2008