The first two songs on Rival Schools' United By Fate sound so much like the work of singer-guitarist Walter Schreifels' former band that they should probably bear the Quicksand label. Perhaps by top-loading his new group's album with familiar sounds and structures, Schreifels hopes to reintroduce himself to the public; after all, it's been six years since Quicksand's last album, and three since its breakup. Not surprisingly, those two tracks ("Travel By Telephone" and "Everything Has Its Point") are the album's best, because they're what Schreifels and his new assembly of veteran performersformer members of CIV, Iceburn, Gorilla Biscuits, and Youth Of Todayplay best: dynamic, melodic, heavy rock. The remainder of United By Fate suffers because it tries to break the post-hardcore mold and take deliberate steps into other arenas. The disc features a melancholy slow-jam (the decent but overlong "Undercovers On"), a couple of straight-ahead pop-rockers ("High Acetate" and the Foo Fighters-esque "So Down On"), and even a cheeky instrumental ("Hooligans For Life"). None are bad, but they're not consistently engaging, either, and they retreat when they should be attacking. Blame it on a lack of footing: Schreifels is used to writing outside the pop idiom, and his first attempts at melodic love songs seem a bit too careful. In the few cases where Rival Schools strikes a balance between the precise aggression that comes naturally and the more mainstream sound that doesn't, United By Fate is great. When it misses, it's not horrible, just maddeningly almost good.