iii, the newest album from ABTB starts with a rap/rock track. It’s a huge change from the band’s previous hard rock and grunge style. According to the album introduction from Rock’N’Roll Radio‘s Kim Nae-hyun, former vocalist Park Geun-hong left ABTB before the start of the album. This lead the band to bring in guest vocalists, slightly change their sound, and bring in some new energy.
The addition of different vocalists changes how ABTB presents itself. Jo Gyouhyun, known from H a lot, presents vocals that are brighter and much more energetic. His contribution is heard in three songs – “JUMP,” “EMPIRE,” and “SANTIAGO.” It’s almost like a power pop punk vocal over harder instrumentals. Gyouhyun gives ABTB new life. It’s a different version of the band that couldn’t be heard otherwise.
Kim Bada‘s “BLUFFING” is the closest to Park Geun-Hong in the vocal delivery. His distinct and signature vocals bring back the old ABTB sound with the band working to support it. Kim Bada is a longstanding musician who has driven his own journey and the combination with ABTB sounds more like a collaboration than a feature. It’s gone back to the hard rock with a bit more angst.
“Take Me To” raises the tempo to give Kim Bada a little more space to influence the melodies. ABTB harness more technical performances to raise the energy. I like “Take Me To” but it’s not one of the strongest tracks on iii.
Lee Younchan features on “END” and “Gray Boy.” “END” is a slower and ABTB’s ballad-ish rock track. In comparison, Lee Younchan sits between Gyouhyun and Kim Bada in vocal style. It’s brighter than Kim Bada but carries more weight than Gyouhyun. “Gray Boy” is your closest comparison to what ABTB used to sound like. The slow, plodding tempo, almost lethargic instrumentals, and vocals drag across each beat.
Bae In Hyuk is an unknown feature artist. His vocal style is almost like 70s rock. It’s high-pitched, melodic, and piercing simultaneously. It’s like an ABTB tangent that captures the band’s higher tempo energy while restraining itself to allow Bae In Hyuk to perform successfully.
iii is an interesting album because it combines so many different vocalists while also adding and subtracting from the known ABTB sound. I personally like the higher energy tracks on iii, but some people who wanted more of ABTB’s hard rock and grunge sound might be disappointed. It’s an album that marks a transition and I really wonder how these songs sound live.