Review Summary: Though it may be somewhat of a flawed diamond, it has enough gems to make it a worthwhile listen.
Clenching the Fists of Dissent- [L]Machine Head[L] open the album with a slow acoustic piece. After a 2 minute build up, they're off. The next few minutes of the song feel almost as if they were a race, with the guitars and drums all racing for the checkered flag. My only real complaint so far is Flynn's vocals. They seem oddly grating in this section. Around the 4:30 mark, they slow down into a musically complex breakdown. A breakdown, in my opinion, that overstays it's welcome. Then comes a solo. It has a sloppy feel to me, almost as if it wasn't played to a metronome or counted out. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with that. Playing everything to a click track takes away a lot of the life out of a song, in my opinion. The solo transitions into some gang vocals, and then into a soft section featuring flanged guitar and clean vocals, a combination that is littered all over the album. From here on out, it’s straight up mosh material, but nothing that really stands out. Over all, it’s not a bad way to start out the album, though in itself it isn’t a stand out track. It, too me, feels like it should hover more around the 6 minute mark, not the 10:36 it sits at now.
Beautiful Mourning: This is, in my opinion, the stand out track on this album. It starts with a short guitar opening, and then pounds you like a freight train with some moderately paced double bass and deep, bassy guitar. The song itself follows the standard verse-chorus-verse structure for the most part, with the typical Machine Head chug for a verse, and a really nice pulled back chorus with some very tasteful drum work. In fact, the entire song is strikingly tasteful on drums, a virtue lost in a lot of modern metal. After the second chorus, they change the pace by put in a nice riff that begs to be head banged to. Flynn alternates between growling and singing, until they transverse into the solo. This solo is one of my favorites off the album. McClain give the solo a very punk rock backbone while Phil shreds away. Another verse, an outro, and its onto Aesthetics.
Aesthetics of Hate: This song really is full of hate, it is ridiculously angry. It’s probably warranted too, given the songs subject matter. After the flanged guitar opening, it’s a straight up, unrelenting scream fest until 4:20. After the aggressiveness of the previous four minutes, the rest of the song has a strange, psychotic edge, like he’s right there, waiting to snuff out William Grim. The biggest thing of note here is the individual musician’s technical prowess. It’s as if they all decided to play as much and as fast as possible for this one. Though they’re not [L]Between the Buried and Me[L], they can certainly shred. And I must say, this is a blast behind the kit.
Now I Lay Thee Down: When I first heard this, I worried that the quite opening was going to overstay its welcome. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen. They move into a riff similar to the intro, then to the verse. The verse, oddly enough, reminds me of old [L]Linkin Park[L]. The next section is somewhat strange; there isn’t a clear division between verse and chorus. After the second chorus, there’s some nice guitar work, that eventually has harmonies played under it, which were a nice touch. Around the 3:00 mark, they increase their tempo by a good clip, and then drop into a short breakdown. They revisit the intro lick, and then proceed into the solo. The solo in this song is nice, almost sweet. In an odd way it reminds me of [L]Testament[L]’s Souls of Black solo. Another chorus, and the song is over.
Slanderous: instead of a riff, they start this song off with a pickslide. Not a major difference, but variety is always nice. Dave did well here, writing a drum part to a section like the beginning of this song is difficult. That aside, this song was very bland to me. It felt like a Machine Head song, and nothing but. This song is the filler song of the album in my opinion.
Halo: More flanged guitar, and an intro that lasts 4 measures too long. At first the future of this song seems bleak, and then the awesome guitar line hits. It continues into the chorus, where it changes up some and you start hearing some really tasteful bends. This song seems to have a nice firm structure, something I really like when it comes to the lighter forms of metal. The chorus has a hook, it’s not hard to get it stuck in your head. Maybe not the best song on the album, but probably the most radio friendly. It has nice guitar work throughout; my only real complaint is the song length. It’s a lot easier for [L]Dream Theater[L] to get away with 9 minute songs.
Wolves: I felt that Wolves was a lot like Slanderous, It felt like slanderous, it’s a filler song. But it’s problem is different from slanderous, It feels like you’ve listened to this song before on this album. If it weren’t for the recycled riffs, and some lead work that just didn’t work, this would be one of the better songs on the album. As it stands, I could do without it.
A Farewell to Arms: I swear, they wouldn’t know how to start out a song without that flange pedal. All joking aside, it starts with some of the nicer clean vocals on the album. The ride in the beginning is a little too cutting for the section, however. It builds up into a crescendo of noise. I think the transition could have been better, it sounds forced. The song is not asimilar to beautiful morning, minus the hook in the chorus. It alternates between nice clean vocals and heavy sections, though some of the heavier sections lack structure and order, with Is a real shame. On top of that, this is yet another song that overstays its welcome. It feels like it should have been 7 minutes, tops. As an ending to an album, it works, but it doesn’t do much more than that.
Overall, Though its not a masterpeice by any stretch, it is a very good album none the less, and still worth a buy. It's one of the best recently released metal albums in my opinion.