Review Summary: Somebody got declawed...3 of 3 thought this review was well written
SOiL never exactly had it really easy. After releasing a competent major label debut (Scars), Re.de.fine didn't manage to live up to expectations, resulting in the band getting dropped and the charismatic singer quitting soon afterwards... however, the guys were far from giving up, and after pulling out a surprisingly solid vocal replacement out of nowhere and scoring a record deal with some petite label, they recorded another album before losing a guitarist to metalcore fad moochers Dirge Within. Two original members down, and yet another label change later, the band eventually set off to work on another album...
...and it turned out that the departed Shaun Glass must have been the head songwriter, since the quality of the material took a drastic headfirst plunge. “Tear It Down” starts off with the lone surviving guitarist diluting the power of a potentially effective chug riff (Adam, I am happy you know there's a panning control, but it won't let you give off the impression that there's more of you) before the tune collapses into a flat, passive mess that is completely skip-worthy. When one considers that every single SOiL record up until now had a pretty solid opener with a bit of punch to it, this underwhelming cut sets off an alarm that blasts through the night, unanswered. There is nothing here to help, since the next cuts do not do any better – “The Lesser Man” is passable at best, and seems to slightly hark back to the ancient days of Throttle Junkies with a tiny bit of Stone Temple Pilots mixed in, whilst lead single “Like It Is” is the closest to an old-time SOiL song you get on here... but it sounds like a band sluggishly going through the motions, and it never manages to even marginally get going. The chorus deserves a special smite (you know the title of the song, you can write the lyrics right now... add wannabe angry vocals over a stale and distinctly un-catchy riff, and you have the main “hook” of the song that is supposed to promote the record. Huzzah).
Now, time for the bad news – it only gets less interesting from here, since it's off to ballad land. A well done soft tune can be wonderful, but when it has the level of content this record offers... yeah. The songs blend into each other, whilst a certain minimum of songwriting ability prevents them from completely stinking, they spark a muzak level of interest. If one attempts to pay attention, the lack of heavy becomes apparent – even if electric guitars are utilized, they don't manage to kick up the adrenaline level from the dull, monotony-induced stupor the songs lull you into. SOiL used to be able to craft good rockers and ballads with strong climaxes, but this record offers “heavy” tunes more concerned with weak vocal melodies and softer songs that fail to register at all. The middle part of Picture Perfect floats by, almost as if it wasn't there... even after numerous listens, I have trouble recalling a single particular tune from the long block of ballads – the overall bleak textures blend together, creating one boring entity and making it difficult to successfully pluck a certain song from it. Things improve with “Temptation” – a heavy, tritone-addicted rocker that is by far the best tune to be found on this disc. A successful bond of sinister acoustic passages and huge, drop-tuned guitars flows really well, and even the vocal melodies manage to be above average. Whilst it does work as a swift kick on the buttocks, letting you know that it's almost time to get up and pluck this pile of yawn from your player, it could have worked better as an opener or even True Self mid-album filler (yes... the best tune on here would have been filler on the last album. Ugh). “Last Wish” is surprisingly un-tepid, possibly due to the fact that it's alone and not in a group, and does a passable job of closing.
Picture Perfect isn't Vanilla Ice level of abomination, but it is very, very far from being good. Starting off with distinctly un-heavy and un-catchy tunes that were supposed to be heavy and catchy, the album loses all identity soon thereafter as it drifts off into a gigantic block of painfully unfocused ballads that have a higher likelihood of putting the listener to sleep than offering an interesting, rewarding listening experience. Whilst SOiL managed to successfully replace a seemingly irreplaceable frontman, their luck ran out when they lost their other guitarist. The remaining foursome has serious trouble with writing anything memorable – even the lead single is completely forgettable. Whilst I wish them better luck in the future, Picture Perfect offends by being so goddamn inoffensive and empty.