FIRST LISTEN: Sum 41 – Heaven :x: Hell

Ever since their debut with Half Hour Of Power back in 2000, Sum 41 have been revered as pop punk royalty, you aren’t able to go an “alternative” club night without hearing at least one of their songs. But after 24 years in the business, the curtain is closing on Sum 41, who have announced that this indeed their last album, and that as of 2025, they will no longer be touring.

As such, you’d expect for the grand finale to be particularly impressive, especially when it’s a band that carries such a huge legacy on their backs. Opening track ‘Waiting On A Twist Of Fate‘ doesn’t aim to disappoint, immediately deploying some of the usual pop punk tropes, including rapid drum fills, gang vocals, and soaring yet simple riffs. Let’s be real, this track (and the rest), are far from complex compositions, but that’s not really what anyone tunes in for anyways.

The following tracks ‘Landmines‘ and ‘I Can’t Wait‘ comply to the pop punk status quo in a similar way, brimming with pick slides, punchy drums, and very stereotypical lyrics. It’s important to note that while I’m not saying I want pop-punk songs written about mowing the lawn and filing taxes, it does feel like a band feigning youthfulness when each of the members are over the age of 40 is hardly a graceful way to go. It’s not that there’s a lyrical shallowness, it just becomes a little harder to take seriously as the years have passed.

‘Future Primitive‘ certainly earns bonus points for it’s smile-inducing guitar solo, and both ‘Dopamine‘ and ‘Bad Mistake‘ stake a claim for some of the best tracks of the album early on, but for some, the waning pace of ‘Radio Silence‘ might make little sense for a track found tucked in the middle of the album, but there’s a surprise in store for the unsuspecting.

It might seem ironic that a band that once upon a time released an album called All Killer, No Filler” would go on to release a 20 song album, but it makes a lot more sense upon discovering that there are actually two different albums here: Heaven, and Hell. The first half is a rose-tinted tribute to the band’s early (and glory) days, almost a tribute to pop-punk, as it were. The second half, however, is all about the band deploying some of their heavy influences, to great effect too.

It’s a slow start with ‘Preparasi A Salire” (“Prepare to Climb/Ascend‘ depending on which translator you use), but there’s one thing for certain, Sum 41’s hell is far from cold, with deep, rousing riffs, and a grittier vocal edge that really helps to give the album a second wind.

Rise Up‘ is a prime example of this grit, while the stomping ‘I Don’t Need Anyone‘ embodies a deep anger that compliments this heavier sound, but it still honestly doesn’t feel like the band ever truly leave their comfort zone in the process. ‘Over The Edge’ certainly feels like one of the better written songs in the Hell section of this album, replacing the guitar solos (which are wearing thin on their entertainment this deep into the album) with a breakdown that will certainly raise some hairs, but it’s maybe not enough to get the blood racing.

For better or worse, much of this album feels like it could’ve easily been ripped from the glory days of Kerrang TV. While I’m sure to some that sounds like sonic perfection, I can’t help but feel like that Sum 41’s heavier efforts could have been even better than what they deliver on the second half of this album. And perhaps the less said about their cover of The Rolling Stones‘ ‘Paint It Black‘, the better. But as the anthemic and poetic album closer ‘How The End Begins‘ draws the curtains on Sum 41’s iconic discography, it serves as the perfect conclusion to not just this album, but everything the band has become over their long serving career.

I think it’s apparent by the end of this album that it isn’t necessarily made for the casual listener, it’s a love letter to the fans who have been there with the band for the long haul, and who will deeply miss them when their touring days come to an end at the start of 2025.


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.