Sound — 9
Well, I've now had about a year or so for this album to really sink in and get properly digested. Unlike the previous PTH albums, "Scurrilous" is not a concept album, and many of the lyrics were written by frontman Rody (as opposed to bassist Arif). The basic soundscape of this album is somewhat more sparse than "Fortress" was, but this is certainly a positive. With the absence of heavily applied synthesizers, the guitars seem to have more pop and it is easier to hear exactly what is going on with them. The bass is, pleasantly, more prominent in the range, allowing for an excellent showcasing of Arif's melodic abilities. The drumming is, as always for PTH, excellent. The overall sound of this album is both more polished and simpler than previous efforts; there seem to be fewer parts going on, but what is on record is much clearer and better presented than on previous PTH recordings. Song by song: 01. "C'est La Vie": French for "that's life", this song is an awesome, albeit somewhat depressing opener (thematically, not musically). The sound is definitely different from "Fortress", and the assault is absolutely imminent. 02. "Hair Trigger": Featuring guest vocals from Jadea Kelly (from "Kezia"'s "Divine Suicide Of K."), this is easily my favorite song on the album. Its got all the technical brilliance that PTH is known for, but it almost progresses more like a well crafted pop tune in the sense that every lick has a place. This song, though not short, is the most concise statement on the album. Kelly's vocals going back and forward with Rody's at the end of the song are beautiful - I would actually liked to have heard her more. 03. "Tandem": Probably the only song on the album that I don't like. While the musicianship and singing on the song are excellent, there is something about the song that grates on me; I think the song could have been better, and that bugs me. A lot. 04. "Moonlight": Absolutely cool intro. For me, this song demonstrates PTH's newfound restraint; there would have been a lot of opportunities to really go mad in this song, but they don't. Instead of going mad with their instruments, PTH churn out a solid rock tune. 05. "Tapestry": Not the best song on the record, but still a good listen. A few moments of brilliance on bass, but the song just doesn't seem to have the sticking power of some of the others. 06. "Dunsel": Classic PTH! Wildly fast and technical one moment, and slowed right down and melodic the next. This song is full of twists and turns to the point that it becomes almost dizzying. Also on this song we can hear just how tight PTH have begun to become- they are simply locked together! Some awesome, soaring sections throughout the song too! 07. "Reign Of Unending Terror": Not the fanciest song on the album, but a couple very tasty licks and wicked twists. During the middle section in particular, the musical shift displayed by the band is just awesome, it transforms an average song into a very cool one. 08. "Termites": Again, we're looking at a song that perfectly demonstrates PTH's growing ability as song-writers. Termites is interesting because of the sheer number of variations of a central them the song presents. The syncopated rhythm work on the "devils choir" section is also mind-blowing. 09. "Tongue-Splitter": I liked this song because of the greatly slowed melodic sections throughout, which help to break apart the sheer onslaught of notes throughout the album. Not the most memorable song on the album, but certainly not a lacking song. 10. "Sex Tapes": Featuring Chris Hannah of Propaghandi, one of Rody's main influences as evidenced by the similarity of their deliveries, this song is awesome. The Rachminoff-esque interlude midway through the song is just breathtaking- it really shows that these boys have compositional chops to go along with playing ability. Having Hannah sing some frankly vulgar lyrics is just icing on the cake. Overall, I think this album shows a consolidation of ideas and an increased focus on songwriting rather than technical mastery. As a result, this is the most polished, catchy and exciting PTH album to date. Yes, the emo-hardcore band from "Kezia" is gone from good, and the synth crazy prog of Fortress has been set-back, but instead we get a balls-out rock record with absolutely stellar musicianship and composition instead. Its not without its lumps, but this is a very good sounding album.
Lyrics — 8
Rody will always have a tough job being the frontman of such a gifted group. With such complex music, it can often be difficult to come up with vocal lines that not only fit the music, but that are also able to contribute to the songs and make them better (James LaBrie...). Rody, for the most part, it quite successful. Owing in no small part to his seemingly ever-increasing vocal range, he is able to come up with fairly memorable vocal lines for most songs. There are, of course, slips, but they aren't so bad or so common as to be serious detractors. Additionally, Rody employs a much greater variety of vocal techniques on this album. His signatures soaring, high-pitched vocals are still here plenty, but he uses a gruffer, lower attack much more frequently than before. This is a great addition to his arsenal, as it allows him to cater his voice to songs better. However, there is almost no pure screaming, as found on Fortress. Instead, there are various degrees of pushed, for lack of a better term, vocals. I'm personally quite happy with the change- the kid has a great voice, I want to hear it - but some fans will be disappointed. Lyrically, the album is a bit more of a crapshoot. Previous albums (apart from A Calculated Use of Sound) were written by bassist Arif, who only wrote 3 of the songs on the album. The rest were penned by Rody. While it can be difficult to tell sometimes who wrote what, there are moments when Rody's limitations become clear in the way of reduced sophistication. Some of the lyrics are simply better than others. Also, the change in lyricists resulted in many of the songs being about more "day to day" themes than previous PTH albums (Getting slaughtered by Ghengis Khan is no longer a daily worry). This is both pleasant, in the sense that I no longer need to use a dictionary to understand the lyrics, and occasionally a let-down because Rody can sometimes deal with subject matter just a little too bluntly.
Overall Impression — 9
I very much like this album, much more than I did initially. It is a massive departure from "Fortress", and it doesn't even sound like the same group of dudes who recorded "Kezia". However, it is a stellar album. The musicianship is top-notch, the singing is great and the production is, mercifully, transparent. I, for one, am thrilled that PTH are learning the art of song-craft: creating songs with consistent and powerful themes, rather than making a collection of cool riffs work together. Certainly, some fans of the band will miss the over-the-top lunacy of Fortress, but I genuinely believe that this is a better album. There are a couple less great songs, but generally, this album will get stuck in your head. A first listen will be utterly exhausting, but perseverance will be rewarded with an excellent musical experience.