You can't blame a band who can clearly write some inspired riffing for forging ahead when their vocalist bails for greener pastures, but for Amber Pacific, the loss seems devastating. After a solid showing on 2007's Truth In Sincerity, frontman Matt Young exited the ranks in order to admirably pursue a career in education as a school principal, but in hindsight, took a huge part of the band's sonic character with him. The group heard on Virtues, Amber Pacific's latest release and debut for new frontman Jesse Cottam and second guitarist Davy Rispoli, sounds very little like the band that recorded Truth, and it's really not such a good thing.
Musically, there's plenty to like about the record. When the band decide to rock (“Conviction”), they generally do it fairly convincingly, thanks to drummer Dango's kinetic beats and guitarist Will Nutter's overdriven crunch. They make the mistake though of getting bogged down with far too much schmaltzy balladry (“Forever”) and mid-tempo fluff (“Shine”), with a general over-use of sappy strings and piano that borders on criminal. The upside is that when Amber Pacific snap out of it and bring the pace back up (“The Good Life”), you're that much more appreciative.
Unfortunately, you can't say the same for the vocals. Cottam is a vastly different singer than Young, with totally different tonal qualities. Young had a good, clear, pop-punk-ish delivery, while Cottam–who has power, to be sure–sounds like a modern rock/hair metal castoff trying to sneak into Warped Tour. To put it plainly, his voice and sometimes-sophomoric lyrics add a corporate rock element to the sound that pushes the already overblown songs over the top, and it gets pretty grating. Maybe Amber Pacific v2.0 will appeal to a whole different audience with Virtues, because for all intents and purposes, the old Amber Pacific seem long gone.