Sound — 7
It's been 4 years since Fuel has released a studio album of original material, and the band's latest release Angels & Devils is not the most satisfying follow-up. First off, you have to wrestle with the fact there are a few newcomers in Fuel. The distinctive voice of former member Brett Scallions has been replaced by Toryn Green, while drumming duties have been placed with newcomer Tommy Stewart. While both Green and Stewart do put their heart and soul into Angels & Devils, they are limited to how much they can do with the songwriting, which sticks with an all-too-familiar pop-rock formula. The main problem with the new CD is that too many of the tracks seem interchangeable with other rock songs out there -- which actually could play to Fuel's advantage. Barring a few f-bombs, the whole album is radio friendly and could feasibly get regular airplay. Whether we're talking about Scars In The Making or Wasted Time, the album is filled with songs that are more power ballad than rock song. And while it's true that Green has a great voice, but there was an edginess in Scallions' vocals that could give you chills in songs like Hemorrhage (In My Hands). While the new album's opening track Gone is fairly high energy and Green is at the top of his game, things tend to get slowed down way too rapidly. A series of ballads follow soon after Gone, and they tend to blend in together. Although the 2nd track I Should Have Told You features a cool breakdown courtesy of guitarist Carl Bell, but it's still a fairly laid-back, forgettable tune. Once you get to the 6th track or so, Angels & Devils does see an improvement, thanks to added guitar work from Bell. Hearing Bell's lead work in the midst of fairly repetitive songs is a godsend, and Bell provides memorable solos in songs like Angels Take A Soul. The production value of the songs is fantastic, and the sound is at its peak on Angels Take A Soul. The album also features guest appearances from drummers Tommy Lee and Josh Freese, who both came in to lay down a few drum tracks. While the guests did not necessarily make a huge dent in the sound, the new lineup featuring Green and Stewart does sound extremely tight.
Lyrics — 8
With the exception of the ballads, the lyrics are one of the strengths for Angels & Airwaves. The standout track is Angels Take A Soul, which is the most darkly introspective song on the album. Green sings, With all I am; I stand alone; In fields that I have grown; But if there's nothing left to hold; Let the angels take a soul. While none of the songs have mind-blowing lyrics, Fuel does a decent job of keeping the working pretty interesting.
Overall Impression — 7
It can't be easy picking up the pieces after losing 2 of your members, and guitarist Carl Bell has to be given credit for apparently writing the bulk of the album's material. Bell is right on target with a song like Mess, which revolves around a driving, distorted guitar riff and should absolutely be released as a single. It just would have been nice for Bell to add just a few more aggressive rock tracks to the playlist. There just aren't enough songs like Mess, and the album comes across as more of a Top 40 playlist than a true rock album. This could work in their favor and earn them an even larger fan base, but the band should still not be afraid to release more than just the run-of-the-mill ballad on the next album.