Sound — 10
The best way to describe the sound this album achieves is this: Imagine you are laying back relaxing on a beach listening to some really nice ambient music. Imagine that the music has you so lost in it's beauty that you are completely relaxed. Then out of curiosity, you open your eyes, and no longer is this a relaxing beach; now you have a tsunami headed towards you. This album goes from mellow, to straight out chaos on the drop of a dime. Then you close your eyes hoping it's dream, open them, and it's that nice relaxing beach again. The dynamics of the sound on this album are absolutely amazing. They use the mellow ambiance to make those tense, powerful, chaotic moments all that much stronger. This album isn't all ballads like some reviews are stating. Sure, it isn't your average metal or rock album, but since when has Hurt EVER boxed themselves into that? By my count, there is only one true "ballad" on the album, Assurance. While there are a handful of mellow songs, they all have some tense moments to distinguish themselves from the rest of the "ballad" pack. There is a mix of stringed instruments, a resonator, your normal rock band instruments, and some well placed backing vocals. The production and thought that went into this album is absolutely superb.
Lyrics — 10
The lyrics. The heart of the beast known as Hurt. I don't like to box a band into a comparison with another. But just this once, I'll do it. The lyrical style is very similar to Tool. That is not saying they are stealing from Tool, or that they are unoriginal; because that thought is completely wrong. The reason I say that is, you don't hear very many bands with intriguingly deep and emotional lyrics. There is no set verse/chorus structure. J. Loren writes his songs as poems, very beautiful poems. Then the band creates the sounsdscape to go along with that poem. This album has some very poignant lyrics that show just what J. was thinking at the time of writing them. There is still a lot of metaphors here, but he doesn't hide everything. The chorus to "Talking To God" is a prime example of that. He hurtfully belts out, "How can you talk to God? How can you talk to God? How can you talk to God, when you won't talk to me?" The vocals on this album, just as with Vol. I, can be bone-chilling. J. Loren's voice sends shivers up and down my spine like no other vocalist out there. His pained, expressive singing voice is unmatched today. He goes from a soulful whisper, all the way up through a blood-curdling yell. He hits everything in between as well. One of my favorite songs on the album is "Better". A song that starts out mellow, and just gains in urgency and strength on through the end. The chorus really, really sticks with me; "Cause they say it gets better, before it gets worse. You know it gets better, so of course it gets worse. | Did it make you feel better, right before it got worse? I used to make you feel better, but now it just hurts..." Just an extremely pained and brutally honest retrospective song.
Overall Impression — 10
This album is the next step in the evolution of, IMO, one of the more important bands out there right now. Call it what you want. Whether that be soft-rock, adult-contemporary, art-rock, progressive, acoustic, ballad, hard-rock, alternative, it just doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is that you be honest, and call it what it is; which is great music. If you want to listen to a few songs to see the complete range of what this album has to offer, I would suggest: Aftermath, Better, Loded, and Alone With The Sea. Those songs show you the range of the album, and the range of the musicianship and vocals as well. This album is the best album released since I was born 22 years ago. My father agrees on that with me. My father is 56 years old, and he hates most of my music. When I had him sit and listen to this album with me, he sat in shock and awe that there was a band out there making music so inspiring and beautiful. When the album closed, with "Thank You For Listening" and it's extremely guttural scream along with it's very good lead guitar work. All he could do is sit there with his jaw dropped open and say, "That is the best album I have heard since I was a kid." I don't care what type of music you generally listen to, I really don't. Just please, please give this band a chance; you will not be disappointed.