Sound — 7
The band has definitely went through some changes and development since the release of End Of Silence. They have a sound that is familiar, yet different at the same time. You feel like you've heard it before, but you can't just place where and from whom you've heard the sound before. It was a different sound when they came out, especially for Christian hard rock, and much of the sound is still intact. It was dark, melodic, and emotional when other Christian rock abounded in a more punk style or grungy alternative style. Pounding, low-tuned, crunchy guitars roar with the ethereal sound of a string section and pumping rhythm section behind them. Michael Barnes fronts the band with a not groundbreaking performance, but a pleasing tone to his singing voice and decent range. With that said, the sound is a bit lacking compared to the energy and soul of their last two albums. The sound is still aggressive and dark, but noticeably subdued at the same time. It screams of an abundance of studio production. There was production in all their albums, but the glistening and polished feel of these tracks remove rawness that should be there at times. Evanescence with a more powerful drummer (or could that just be the production?) and a male singer to front came to mind a few times. It would seem that they are trying to pull more radio listening fans, which isn't that bad in it's own right. It's simply disappointing to me, when they sounded so fresh and vibrant during their first two albums. Other negatives I feel that should be pointed out is the simplicity. This is their third album of riffs, power chords, and use of a string section to carry most of the lead melodies and parts. It's an effective sound, but they need more diversity. Those guitarists are really holding back. The riffs are a bit more interesting this time around when they come up, but at least one good solo to break the monotony wouldn't hurt. Finally, the singer seems to be holding back on some of his range on this album. His voice is still strong and smooth as ever, but it seems like he held some of the higher range back. This is possibly to make live performances easier (I write and understand this is a legitimate reason). Well, I guess it's time for some positives. There are more tones and textures from the guitars. It's not just distortion all the way through. We hear clean tones on Buried Beneath and on Best Is Yet To Come, both with a nice dose of reverb and delay. Who We Are has a tremelo drenched riff as the intro. The aforementioned song also has some delay soaked high note parts. It's mixed quietly, but it sounds like tremelo picking. They also mixed up the playing and there are octaves and more intricate riffs. Although, the album is noticeably softer, Feed The Machine is a great opener and probably among their heaviest songs. It almost sounds like industrial metal. As stated before, Michael has a strong singing voice as usual and those voice lessons really helped bring out his enunciation and clarity. The drumming isn't groundbreaking, but it is strong and interesting enough not to sound bland. Finally, as annoying as the mainstream qualities seeping into the sound can be, there are some addictive hooks in the music. You'll find yourself nodding along to some of the songs (although the One Republic style beats on a couple songs are pretty blatant and obnoxious). Overall, it's not outstanding but a solid effort.
Lyrics — 8
The lyrics are actually quite good on this album. Some of them are pretty direct, but they weave in some interesting wordplay so it doesn't sound trite. Much of the message is centered around and directed at people not finding their own identity and doing anything to follow the crowd. Instead of doing what they know is right or what they personally prefer, they compromise themselves to appease the crowd. Feed The Machine and Faceless provide examples of this theme. Let It Burn is probably my favorite song that adheres lyrically to this theme. "Can you stand the pain? How long will you hide your face? How long will you be afraid? Are you afraid? Will you play this game? Will you find a way to walk away? How long will you let it burn? Let it burn." There are other messages. Not Alone demonstrates a more faith based message as it depicts what God is saying to all the people lost in life. A non-believer can take this as someone talking to a friend. Hymn For The Missing seems to detail a person in the verses and shows God speaking in the chorus. The singer is quite skilled among many whiny and "forced voice" singers in rock nowadays. My own problem on this album is he is holding back some notes in his range that he can definitely hit. He hit them before his voice lessons so he can definitely hit them this time around.
Overall Impression — 8
I would say there are some similarities between older Linkin Park, Evanescence, and some Chevelle. They have their own thing going though, even it is starting to sound overly polished and more radio friendly. Feed The Machine, Lie To Me, Let It Burn, Watch You Crawl, and The Outside are the songs I tend to favor on this album. I've already stated that I dislike the frothy qualities they are starting to adopt in their sound. I like the strong melodies and the more interesting riffs they wrote this time around. If it were stolen, I would ask my friend to burn me another copy. Just saying. I already have it on my computer though.