Album Review: Sum 41 – ’13 Voices’

Posted: by Hannah


In 2014, Sum 41’s lead singer and songwriter Deryck Whibley was placed in a medically induced coma and lost control of all of his motor skills after battling alcoholism. He was on the verge of death, and nearly everyone assumed this was the sorry end to one of the truly great pop punk bands. Now 5 years since their last release, Deryck is healthy and sober, and Sum 41 is back on 13 Voices, with most of their original lineup reunited. They are surely changed by the experience, but as strong as ever, and revitalized by their victory.

13 Voices was produced by Whibley himself, allowing every instrument and lyric to be realistically raw and rough, an entire album designed to perfectly reflect his battle against his own inner demons. The calculated album opener, “A Murder of Crows”, is a cinematic thriller but it’s not until “Goddamn I’m Dead Again” that the listener understands they’re in for the band’s heaviest offering since Chuck. 

The construction of the album is ironic, combining breakneck guitar solos and duels that would impress any metal head with radio rock undertones evident in catchy choruses and melodies. It’s the songwriting that keeps even the most sneering songs accessible exploring both external and internal demons, exemplified by “I’ve paid my price / I’ve done my time with the devil in disguise” on “Breaking The Chain”.  Whibley vocals rise above the noise, riddled with angst and anger but he changes the delivery enough to make the listening experience pleasant.

The self-titled track comes across like a punkier My Chemical Romance, a reminder that sadly not every band is resurrecting but maybe that’s a good thing because you can hear when a band truly forces a comeback. With Sum 41 you hear the opposite, they aren’t forcing anything. This is the genuine Sum 41 that we all remember. You can tell the band want and almost need to be back because they have a lot to say whether it be personal or political. It’s on the call to arms “War” that Sum 41 shares their scars with pride, an admission of weakness and an encouragement to find the same strength they have to fight back. “So what am I fighting for? /Everything back and more / And I’m not gonna let this go / I’m ready to settle the score / Get ready cause this is war”.

13 Voices is appropriately heavy, an expression for all the heaviness our world and us each as individuals no doubt faces. In a scene once and still seemingly saturated by “pop-punk” Sum 41 took a risk frankensteining genre elements from punk rock and metal, as they have throughout their career. It could have been disastrous ‘loss’, but its tight win. There’s no need for sampling as the drums provide explosions and the guitar work is at times eerie. The album’s sound is so collectively coherent songs start to become indistinguishable, but instead of boring the listener, it reinforces start to finish listening of the entire album. This is an album that will remind you of everything that made you love Sum 41 in the first place. Your volume can’t be turned up enough for 13 Voices, but Sum 41’s message is loud and clear: they’ve been through hell but they kept going and you can do the same.