Album Review: SUM 41 – Order In Decline

The pop-punk icons have delivered one of their best records to date. 

With Order To Decline, Sum 41 celebrate some of their most honest lyrics to date. Whibley poured everything he had into the album – producing, engineering, and mixing the album in his home studio. The result is undoubtedly Sum 41’s heaviest and most aggressive album in their storied career, while also being its most dynamic and raw.

In the late summer of 2018, Sum 41 frontman, Deryck Whibley, stepped off the tour bus after three solid years of worldwide touring, turned on the console in his home studio, picked up a guitar, and started pouring out song after song. Feeling incredibly inspired from 2016’s critically-acclaimed 13 Voices album and touring cycle, Whibley feverishly started putting together songs from the cascade of ideas flying throughout his mind. Relentless touring and immense energy from some of the largest crowds the band had ever played in front of bred a multitude of ideas that Whibley had stockpiled and couldn’t wait to record. Within three weeks, the majority of the music for the new album, Order In Decline was written.

With much of the music written, Whibley focused his attention on the lyrics. “I’ve always just let words come out and whatever they are, they are,” Whibley remarks, “I usually just follow and let them flow.” Unconsciously, Whibley realized that there was a persistent theme in his stream of consciousness that ultimately became a critical response to the world and society at large. Traveling the world and observing how pervasive division, racism, and hate had become, punctuated by the repulsive social and political turmoil invading his own home nations of the United States and Canada, Whibley found himself writing about a great many things he didn’t necessarily want to write about. “The last thing I wanted to do was write a social or political protest record, and Order In Decline is not that,” Whibley clarifies. Instead, Order and Decline is a burst of uninhibited feeling, a page out of his journal, a window into his soul that reflects on extremely personal and vulnerable events, because as he confesses, “It’s also very hard not to have feelings about everything that’s going on in the world.”

Having come a long way from their hip-hop influenced beginnings, Order To Decline is much angrier and politically charged than you’ve heard the punk icons before. Opening tracks Turning Away and Out For Blood showcase exactly that with rigour. And while Sum 41’s pop-punk melodies will never fully disappear (and neither would we want them to), this album shows mor eof the band’s heavier, stadium-anthem side.

The New Sensation for example reminds of peak Muse without trying too hard to be Matt Bellamy and Co. Similarly, on Heads Will Roll, the band continue to reference some stellar Brit-Rock that demands to be played through big-ass speakers to big-ass crowds.

Whibley insists Order To Decline isn’t political, but in these times it’s hard for a punk band to not address the goings on in this world, and especially in America. So Sum 41 dedicated an entire song to Donald Trump with 45 (A Matter Of Time). The track starts off with a creepy squeaking noise before launching right into angry guitar riffs, as if it’s a call to arms to fight the creepy feeling. And the lyrics are scathingly perfect:

Not worthy of name
A number you’ll get
A symbol of meaninglessness, void of respect
In a matter of time
You’ll get what you earned
And we’ll take pleasure in watching you burn

Similarly in The People Vs … the band shows heavy influences from early Green Day, once again spitting fiery lyrics about a “bad man” but it’s clear who Whibley is talking about. ” I know a bad man when I see his face, and now we suffer as the human race.” the chorus shouts in anger.

But Order To Decline doesn’t just fuel your desire to revolt and let your anger out, it also pulls on your heartstrings. Never There is a beautifully tragic ballad in which Whibley talks about his absentee father. “I never wanted to write this song, it just kind of poured out of me”, said Whibley. “I tried to fight it at first but there was no stopping it. I could tell I was writing about my dad, who I’ve never met and throughout my life it has always been a subject that I don’t really think about or care about. It has never really bothered me and when I started thinking about why it never bothered me, I realized it was because my mum was so great and I have such a loving relationship with her. She was so strong as a single mother for my whole life that I never needed to think about my dad.”

Closing the record is the wonderfully honest and eerie Catchign Fire, in which Whibley opens up about mental health awareness and people he lost to it and wishing he could have done better. Once again it’s despair that Sum 41 wrap up so beautifully in alternative sounds of punk and rock.

Order To Decline is another great rock album of 2019, many of which provide a platform for the anger, despair and need to revolt we all feel. When politics go bad, punk lyrics get epic – it’s the way of the world and we wouldn’t have it any other way.