Review Summary: Not the album some Cold fans may necessarily want, but a strong piece of work nonetheless.
Cold was once one of the few more widely respected bands to come out of the nu metal era, due in part to their more semi-atmospheric take and Scooter Ward's excellent vocals. They moved on from that a long time ago to a more alternative rock sound--with mixed results and reception. A Different Kind of Pain at least stood out for Scooter's vocals/lyrics, due in part to them being based off his personal life struggles at the time. But Superfiction--which was supposed to be a comeback album of sorts after a hiatus--ended up being a big disappointment and almost a nail in the coffin for them.
Eight years later(!), and the band finally gave us a new offering. The first time I listened to this one, I was immensely disappointed with it--due to it doubling down even further on the alternative sound, almost to the point of soft rock. As a result, I dismissed the album and forgot about it for awhile. It took about a year for me to come back to it and look at it with a different lens. Further listens yielded much better results.
Despite this album firmly cementing Cold as no longer being a hard rock band, it does have a certain passion and sincerity to it that Superfiction just didn't have--both in its music and in Scooter's vocals. Despite the eye-rolling cliched opener that is "Shine" (not counting the intro), all of this is showcased early on with "Snowblind," which gives us a more ethereal atmosphere along with Scooter using more semi-subdued vocals, which flow together beautifully. Another early highlight is the cover of Snow Patrol's "Run," which arguably outstrips the original just for having a better vocalist.
Despite the aforementioned issue of this album going firmly down the alternative route, the band actually does throw the old-school fans a bone of sorts in "Without You," which does manage to hearken back to the days of 13 Ways. The only other song that comes remotely close to this sound, however, is "Systems Fail," and that's virtually just for having a darker vibe compared to most of the album. It may be a little jarring to the cohesiveness of the album to throw in a song like "Without You" right in the middle of it, but it's a great song nonetheless.
While there are a couple of other songs besides "Shine" that come off as a little cliched or cheesy ("Better Human" and the piano ballad closer "We All Love"), there are still a few other cuts with strong choruses/vocals. "Quiet Now" has average verses, but also has one of the better choruses on the album. Also of note is the penultimate song "Beautiful Life," which also makes use of the piano and sounds like nothing the band has ever done--and yet it works quite wonderfully as a softer cut (even by this album's standards) and arguably should have been the closer itself.
Some fans may still wish for Cold to return to their heavier roots, but this is still a strong album nonetheless with only a few missteps. It also serves as a reminder of how capable Scooter Ward is of carrying a band with his vocals, regardless of the genre. The biggest source of frustration here for some may be the musical direction the band has chosen to go in--but for what it is, it's a quite well-done work.
Song Highlights: "Without You," "Systems Fail," "Run," "Snowblind"