Sound: Living Sacrifice is one of the true forefathers and defining acts of Christian metal today. They stand strong in a scene permeated by whiny metalcore acts with a lack of both conviction and creativity. These guys constantly set a high bar for themselves, and with their latest release, they pass that bar with room to spare. The frontman, Bruce Fitzhugh, lets out vocals that would leave most men with bleeding throats. He and Rocky Gray (former Evanescence drummer) also form a formidable pair on the guitar. Though their riffs aren't as complex as others in the same genre they manage to make them all sound powerful and heavy. Lance Garvin does a magnificent job of approaching the percussion with creativity. You won't find any blast beats (over-used these days in my opinion), but he sets an amazing groove with his use of the toms and likes to utilize things like steel drums into his playing to make it more dynamic. Arthur Green's bass playing, while good, generally isn't very present unless the guitars are more focused on the high end.
As far as individual songs go:
01. Overkill Exposure: rapid fire and relentless, good opener, sets the pace for the rest of the album.
02. Rules of Engagement: arguably one of the best songs on the album. Catchy chorus and riffing.
03. Nietzsche's Madness: thrashy intro, good breakdown at 1:40, strong on the drums. One of the stronger songs on the album.
04. Unfit To Love: good guitar intro and riff between verse/prechorus, average song overall, heavier towards latter half.
05. The Training: good guitar interlude at 2:50, atmospheric sounding(interlude), average overall.
06. Organized Lie: chugging intro accompanied by drum fills, followed by good thrash riffs throughout, catchy chorus, good tremolo solo.
07. The Reckoning: hard-hitting intro, good breakdown at 2:20.
08. Love Forgives: good message, but a little boring as far as instrumentation goes.
09. They Were One: excellent chorus, good vocals mixed with good high-end guitar part in the back, breakdown at 1:57.
10. God Is My Home: good dynamics and good song, but it can feel a little long at times. Fadeout at end is a good segue to last song.
11. Apostasy: only song with an actual slow part, good build in the intro, pulls in the listener, middle has an epic feel, drops back down to a serene outro. Good closer.
At the end, my main criticisms are that a riff here and there are similar even if the song gives it a different context, and also that they don't have as much of their signature crunch in most of the songs which often adds a good amount of ferocity. // 8
Lyrics: As strong Christians, Living Sacrifice's lyrics are generally based off of their religious beliefs, but there are plenty of messages for the non-Christian as well. "Overkill Exposure" is about how humanity is starting to be numbed by violence, and "Rules of Engagement" is about the hopelessness and trauma that soldiers have to endure in the field of battle and the lack of control that they have over their decisions. "Nietzsche's Madness" is sort of a shot to the face of Frederick Nietzsche who claimed that "God is dead". Fitzhugh emphasizes that life has purpose and meaning as opposed to random meaninglessness. "Unfit To Live" is a song against both racism and abortion. The rest of the songs are more heavy on religious affiliation. To avoid anti-religious flaming, I'll just say that the material in these songs is excellent, and if you want to understand the Christian message/lyrics that they portray, you should look them up. The focus of the album seems to be an address to atheism and secular humanism.
Bruce Fitzhugh's growling vocal ability is definitely a focus on this album. His vocals while violent and gravely, are still able to be understood to the discerning ear. As far as clean singing goes, Fitzhugh does not do much if any at all. He is vocally backed on a few tracks, most notably by David Bunton of The Showdown on "Rules of Engagement" and "They Were One". The instrumentation complements the vocals and songwriting very well. // 8
Overall Impression: In terms of what Living Sacrifice sounds like, it is hard to compare to any one band, but they are similar to Sepultura with a little dash of old-Slayeresque thrash in a song here and there. The songs that you should hear from this album would be "Rules of Engagement", "Nietzsche's Madness", "Organized Lie", and "They Were One". The best part of this album to me is the catchy riffs that they have in most of the songs and the thrash sections. The worst part to me is the lack of the defining crunch they have had in their other recent albums, but they make up for that in other areas. I bought a digital copy of this, but let's I did have a physical copy, I would definitely buy it again, assuming I couldn't manage to hunt down the perpetrator. I definitely recommend this for any self-respecting metalhead. // 8