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So, after the band spent several albums plodding around in the ultimately worthless depths of forgettable groove metal, Warball sees Vicious Rumors taking a much needed step in the other direction, back towards their USPM roots. A good thing, too - from the moment Sonic Rebellion opens the album by immediatelysmashing your face in with a barrage of technical leads and catchy riffs it is abundantly clear that Vicious Rumors is perfectly capable of reliving the style of their earlier albums, in all its explosive glory.
And for the most part, this album pulls off the return-to-roots fairly well, keeping the momentum up for the first half of the album with an admirable slew of classic VR-styled tracks, albeit with a few minor missteps (the chorus of Dying Every Day simply doesn't work all that well, and Warball drags on a bit too long with its crawling pace). The style is deliciously late-80's, with lots of Digital Dictator-esque gang shouts and rocking riffs that will have you headbanging in no time. The production is nice and raw, while still crisp and clear.
Unfortunately, the second half of the album sees the band stumbling and seemingly running out of steam, before suddenly falling off a cliff. Crossthreaded is good enough, but sports vocal work done mainly by Geoff Thorpe which, while Thorpe is certainly a reasonably good vocalist, simply doesn't make sense when you have James Rivera available. Wheels of Madness is the last truly awesome track of the album, sporting a catchy chorus and some truly astounding leads.
Windows of Memory, however, sees the band attempting a soft, serene ballad and not really succeeding, coming off as sappy and forced instead of emotional and moving. This certainly isn't on the level of Children, or even When Love Comes Down. A Ghost Within follows, introduced by some spooky atmospherics, yet even when it erupts into a galloping monster it is hampered by the really oddly overdubbed vocals, with almost every line in the chorus doubled by James Rivera's falsetto. The man has a great voice, but the execution is simply grating and it greatly detracts from the song. Oceans of Rage ends the album about as poorly as possible, with Thorpe on vocals again (why are they doing this?), really bland riffs, and, to top it off, some thoroughly awful screaming throughout.
So essentially what we have here is a great return-to-form that sputters and dies at the very end. I don't know what happened could effect such a sudden drop in quality towards the last few songs, but regardless it's not enough to really bring down the album. Avoid the last three tracks (two of which are mediocre, the other terrible) and you have a winner.