Review Summary: A good fun album, although quite inconsistent, but the album has made up for strong songs such as Almost Easy and Afterlife.
First of all, I know many of the people dislike this album for it's change in style. For me, I brought this album, and at the first listen i did not really like it, but after a few listen i started to appreciate the album, both for it sounds and the technical abilities the band has showed.
For overall sound of the album, it is more of a hard rock album, in which the band implement various elements from various genre from Pantera type riff in Critical Acclaim to Mr. Bungle brass and dissonance in A Little Piece of Heaven. It is a fun album to listen to, and is not the deep and serious music such, that many people adores such as Opeth, Dream Theater, Metallica etc. The band also use harmony vocals to enhance certain part of the song to create a more atmospheric and stronger delivery.
M. Shadows in this album has a full control on his voice and has a develop a gritty vocal style, which work very well for the band. For me I preferred his clean vocal to the scream. Synyster Gates and Zacky vengeance reduced the harmony compare to City of Evil and concentrate more on rhythm section, which is the key for this album. Meanwhile Christ provided some good bass riff for the band, such as in Afterlife and Gunslinger(listen carefully, this song got a very good bassline behind the acoustic guitar). Rev still proved that he is skilful drummer with his blistering drumming and tricks and is key to the sound of the band.
1. For the album opener Critical Acclaim, it starts off with an organ intro before going into the main riff. It is simple but powerful and start out the album quite well. This song is a rant against people who criticised the soldiers in Iraq, in which the band thing it is wrong to attack the people. People often mis-intepret that the band is Republican, but from what I have heard the song is only defending the soldiers not the government by any mean. Anyway the solo is done well, but there is nothing superb about it, however, I like the end of the solo and link back to the main riff. Overall it is a good opener, but not the best song on the album. 8/10
2. The best song on the album, and probably their best song and probably my favourite from them. Almost Easy is about trying to get the loved one back even though it's seem insane. The intro started out the journey and then it fall to the heavy thrash inspired main riff, and then the band take you on the rest of the journey. The fast riff goes well with the theme of the song, and in the chorus the music really work well with the lyrics(comeback to me it's almost easy), the tricks played by the revs on cymbals and the guitar and bass give you a feeling of struggle, which totally fit into the lyrics. The solo is simple but work well with the song, so I'm not gonna bash it for not being their most technical challenging work. Another classic from them 10/10 note: all of my friends got hooked to this song, and they are the type that listen to Dream Theater, Metallica, Paul Gilbert etc.
3. Scream is probably the most simple and repetitive song off the album, with the sliding slapping bass and guitar arpeggio. However, the bass and guitar really fit well together. Overall another good song, not the best but a good listen 8/10
4. Afterlife open with a string before Synister Gates and Zacky Vengeance flow in with a solo, the bass start off the verse and is the lead instrument for the majority of the chorus, before the song goes into an upbeat and memorable chorus. The highlight of this song is probably the guitar solo, which is simply awesome. Overall this song is probably their most technical for the band as a whole, meanwhile the strings helped to enhance the song greatly 9/10
5. Gunslinger is the first ballad of this album, it is a power ballad with soft verse and loud chorus, I really like this song somehow, probably because of how the vocal seems to go with the music very well, and it gave you the atmospheric vibe and a relatively relax atmosphere before breaking into distortion, which is almost always effective 8/10
6. Unbound (Wild Ride) is probably the first song of this album in which I did not really like. Probably due to the overuse of studio technique from fast electronic piano and the children voice. THis is where the studio technique no longer enhance the song, but rather make the song worse and cover the actual key instruments 5/10
7. Brompton Cocktail is quite okay, it contains a good opening riff, but end too short to go into a darker softer verse. Nevertheless the song is good again when the chorus came in in which M. Shadows gritty vocals goes well with the music. 7/10
8. Lost contain some good guitaring with the harmony guitars in the intro. If the song was rated on that it would probably achieve 9 or above, however when the vocal and the verse came in the song kind of fell apart, especially with a pitch effect chorus. Another example of overusing studio-technique. 6/10
9. A Little Piece of Heaven is a 7 minutes long epic story on murder and death the music goes well with the sarcastic and evil theme in the lyrics. Due to the heavy use of brass however, this song almost reduce the actual instrumentalists to nothing. I think that this song would be much better if the band decide to use less brass and more guitar, bass and drums. 7/10
10. Dear God is a country inspired ballad and the final song off the album. Despite the country influence this song did not really sound like a country and more of rock ballad. The guitar here is pure beauty, and with the lyrics it is quite an emotional song, and is one of those that move you emotionally. The solo go with the emotion well and finally fade away to end the album in a relatively epic way, although it has a huge simillarity to Hotel California. 9/10
Overall the album open quite well with strong songs, but the form dropped for track 6-9. To me this is an album where it is quite inconsistent, but the good songs are really good and made up for the bad one. Songs like Almost Easy would certainly be an instant classic. There are too much studio techniques though, and it could have done with more core substance rather than sound decoration. They should take note that string usually work well, but pitch effect and brass may not be the best idea. The albums has provided stronger singles than it predecessor, but is still not at the same level as it predecessor.
Overall rating: 4/5