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Their best album yet? - 82%

Twisted_Psychology, June 1st, 2009

Once again, we find everyone’s favorite whipping boys in the middle of another identity crisis. Fortunately, this one is nowhere near as shocking as the jump between "Ascendancy" and "The Crusade"...

On this album, we are treated to a sound that could be best described as a cross between the two previously mentioned albums. The screaming vocals and harsh/soft contrasts that made up the bulk of "Ascendancy" have been brought back while the muddy production and melodic vocals/guitar riffs found on "The Crusade" remain intact. The album itself is also made distinct by means of more technical instrumental and some of the most pretentious lyrics that guitarist/vocalist Matt Heafy has written to date.

Like "Ascendancy" before it, most of the songs seem to have pretty similar structures. They typically make up of aggressive introductions and screamed verses, cleanly sung choruses, and heavy breakdowns that typically lead to more technical solos. Of course, there are a few exceptions with songs that reverse the formula with clean verses and screamed choruses.

Thankfully, there are a few exceptions to this rule. The opener "Kirisute Gomen" packs in a powerfully building introduction, fast paced verses and pre-choruses, and a fairly uplifting chorus. "Insurrection," "The Calamity," and "Of Prometheus and the Crucifix" sound like they could’ve been taken from "The Crusade" with consistently melodic vocals and thrashy guitar playing. I must say that I was also rather surprised by the album’s title track. I was expecting it to be an epic fail when taking the twelve minute song length into consideration, but it manages to stay interesting all the way through. The verses feature some sludgy guitar work and solid vocal contrasts, the chorus is the expected sing-a-long like the ones before it, and the song’s climax features what may be Heafy’s most powerful vocal performance to date. Maybe people would like him more if he sang like this more often...

Just as the band’s musical aesthetics have been reworked, the lyric ideas have also been changed for this effort. While there are a few songs that focus on the personal/political themes of the band’s past ("Throes of Perdition," "Down From the Sky," etc), most of the songs take on a more epic atmosphere with themes based upon Japanese shoguns ("Kirisute Gomen," the title track) and Greek mythology ("Torn Between Scylla and Charybdis," "He Who Spawned the Furies," "Of Prometheus and the Crucifix," "Like Callisto to a Star in Heaven"). Given my extensive study of Greek mythology, I found the lattermost theme to be quite intriguing. Of course, it’s also the easiest theme to screw up and the song titles and phrases do get rather awkward on occasion. I’m pretty sure "Like Callisto to a Star in Heaven" is the most ridiculous song title that the band has ever come up with...

It may not have as many hits as the previous albums, but this may be the band’s most consistent effort to date.

Pros:
1) Catchy songwriting and a few surprises thrown in the mix
2) Interesting lyrical themes
3) The band remains technical and talented

Cons:
1) Awkward song titles and occasionally pretentious lyrical phrases
2) Heafy’s vocals are still an extremely acquired taste
3) For the most part, the song structures are similar to one another

My Current Favorites:
"Kirisute Gomen," "Throes of Perdition," "Insurrection," "He Who Spawned the Furies," and "Shogun"