Sound — 8
Well this is AiC's first studio album in well over a decade, and without Layne so obviously there is going to be a somewhat significant change in sound. For one DuVall's vocals sync up with Cantrell's in such a way that a lot of people might think Cantrell is the lead singer now. Which is the only place I'd say the band is worse. It's still good, but i feel Layne's unique voice added another dimension to the music. Cantrell's guitar tone's have also changed a decent amount during the hiatus. I'm thinking it's mainly due to using Chorus effects. That thicker more metal like distortion that is heavily featured on albums like Dirt isn't really a big part of this album. They still have a decent amount of songs that are real heavy though. Their sound hasn't changed so radically that someone would think it's a new band or anything. I'm sure any AiC fan who heard this would instantly recognize it. Overall I'm gonna give the sound an 8. Personally I think it's far better than most of the bands of my generation, but I like the sound of some older grunge albums more so that's why it isn't higher.
Lyrics — 9
Lyrically this a fairly good album. Lyrics are usually the part of music a criticize most harshly. I find most younger/newer band to have very immature lyrics. Mainly oriented around the same topics (primarily love) which really gets old. I don't want to listen to a whole album full of full of shit love songs. This album touches on a lot of topics. A lot of it seems to be about coming back after Layne's death and persevering. Obviously it's written in a style that never directly mentions that so anyone can relate to it. A lot of it is really about the highs and lows of life and how you reach those places. Take for example Your Decision which is a softer mainly acoustic song that talks about the small decisions you make in your life that could make it good or bad, and how people don't knowingly choose a path of ruin but how it happens gradually without one knowing. The singing sounds a lot more like songs sung by Cantrell. If I didn't know DuVall was in the band I honestly would think it was just AiC minus Layne. It works good though. The only think lost in the singing that I was a big fan of is the grit and emotion conveyed in Layne's voice.
Overall Impression — 9
Overall I'd say it's a very good album. It still leaves a little something to be desired, but that's purely because of the expectations I've created from their prior works. It's different from those but still quite similar. This album doesn't have as much of the dynamic shifts all in one song (like in Heaven Beside You), that I miss. Instead there are a few soft songs, and the rest of the tracks are distorted from start to finish. It's difficult for me to pick out my favorite tracks from the album but if I had to, I'd go with Last of My Kind, Lesson Learned, When the Sun Rose Again, and A Looking in View. It's hard to find tracks that really stand out as being either better or worse than the average track. I enjoy every song. It's a solid album, if it were lost of stolen I'd definitely replace it.