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by Alan Sculley & r & Judging by a recent article on MTV.com, one would think Story of the Year would want to apologize for the success of their debut CD, Page Avenue. "Our first record wasn't really... I don't know... us. I mean... it had no feeling at all," stutters lead singer Dan Marsala. "People still loved the record, and that's awesome. But we didn't want to do that again. We wanted to sound like a real band."


Problem is -- according to guitarist Philip Sneed -- the band members, including Marsala, weren't nearly as disappointed in Page Avenue as the article suggests.


"Unfortunately that interview kind of misconstrued some of Dan's words," Sneed says. "How we feel is, it's a good record. We're proud of the songs. We played the songs forever and we really don't have a problem with the majority of the songs. That was our band at the time and the unfortunate thing on our side is we just didn't like necessarily how it was recorded, as far as production value and that kind of stuff. Because of the way it was recorded, we thought that it just kind of drained it a little bit. That was the only negative spin on the last record."


In light of those comments, it's no surprise that the new Story of the Year CD, In the Wake of Determination involved a new producer. Instead of John Feldmann (also the frontman of the band Goldfinger), the band worked with Steve Evetts, who had mixed Story of the Year's recent live DVD, Live in the Lou/Bassassins.


Sneed, though, says this move was not a reflection on Feldmann. "We're still good friends and still talk to the guy. There are no hard feelings. There's no nothing. It's a bummer that that interview kind of played it out to be more than it was." They certainly shouldn't be upset with Feldmann, the guy who played a key role in getting the St. Louis-based group's career off the ground


In June 2002, the group, which formed in St. Louis in 1999 under the name Big Blue Monkey, had won a contest to play at Pointfest, an annual rock festival sponsored by the city's modern rock station, KPNT radio. Hoping to make the most of the opportunity, the band handed out sampler CDs and videos to virtually anyone backstage who was connected to a band or the music industry. One of the videos ended up reaching Feldmann, who was also an A & amp;R representative for Maverick Records. He invited the band to open some shows for Goldfinger, and then produced some demos that helped land the deal with Maverick Records. The instincts of Feldmann and Maverick Records turned out to be on target, as Page Avenue steadily built sales, eventually selling nearly 800,000 copies.


In the Wake of Determination seems to have the goods to build on that success. The CD has a heavier and more energetic sound, but the real key is the songs themselves. The writing on the new record is sharper and the hooks hammer home with more immediate impact than they did on Page Avenue.


Rockers like "Take Me Back," "We Don't Care Anymore" and "Taste the Poison" all sound like potential hits, as the band neatly walks a line between metal, hardcore and a poppier brand of guitar rock. The band expands their musical range in modest ways on songs such as the anthemic rock of "Five Against the World," the darkly hued ballad "A Silent Murder" and the frenetic core of "Jarhead."


Sneed says the band members felt confident enough in their songwriting and vision for In the Wake of Determination to co-produce the CD with Evetts and go for a live-take approach in recording, which was done at a studio in Phillips' St. Louis home.


"We wanted to do it really simple, with no like cutting and pasting," Sneed says of the decision to bypass a traditional studio. "We wanted to do straight guitar riffs, and if we screw up, go back and do it again or leave the screw-up in. You know, we wanted to do it very, very raw and capture more of the feel of the song rather than the structure."





Story of the Year at the Big Easy with Every Time I Die, From First to Last and He Is Legend on Saturday, Jan. 7, at 7:30 pm. Tickets: $20. Visit www.ticketswest.com or call 325-SEAT.
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