Sound — 6
Some may consider it unfair, some may go as far as to call it biased, but there will always and only be one project which Robert Plant will forever to be associated with: Led Zeppelin. What it comes right down to is that despite the fact that Plant has been dedicated to his solo career longer than the majority of our readers have even existed, it is downright impossible to think of such seasoned efforts as "Pictures at Eleven" and "Now and Zen" before "Physical Graffiti" and "Led Zeppelin IV" when the name Robert Plant is mentioned, so such comparisons are defensible. That being established, the performance found on the iconic rock frontman's new solo album will most likely leave both casual and dedicated listeners more than just Dazed and Confused.
"Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar" marks the first Robert Plant studio album to feature The Sensational Space Shifters as his defending roster, and similarly marks the return of the world-music fusion approach that was previously implemented on his 2005 effort, "Mighty ReArranger," minus the occasional ventures into country territory. The majority of the material found on this effort has an apparent lack of direction, often alternating between distorted progressive rock and Peter Gabriel-esque compositions, with an array of electronic elements and symphonic arrangements scattered in between.
Despite the varied instrumentation, there are also moments which represent the heaviest material Plant has ventured into in recent memory. The eerie overtones in "Turn It Up" sound like a half-demolished carousel waiting for somebody to finish the job, yet manage to find a bizarre cohesion when paired with slamming distorted guitar and the seemingly ageless vocal moans of Robert Plant. "Pocketful of Golden" reinstates the familiar Celtic elements and modest synthesizer additions which previously decorated the Led Zeppelin-favorite "Houses of the Holy," and almost screams for a blistering Jimmy Page guitar solo.
On the lighter side, "Little Maggie" shows Plant revamping an Appalachian folk song with otherworldly rhythmic patterns and impressionable fiddle playing, whereas "Rainbow" could almost effortlessly be implemented into mainstream radio rotation with it's Coldplay-esque atmosphere, which is attributed through a repetitive complimentary guitar lick, steady percussion work, a tasteful incorporation of electronic elements and a melodic chorus highlighted with soaring vocals. In what is a vastly varietal release, Robert Plant somehow manages to keep the end result afloat; largely because of his vocal performance.
Lyrics — 7
Frustratingly for those rock listeners who continue to acclaim for a Led Zeppelin reunion that lasts longer than the course of a (spectacular, might we add) one-off concert, Robert Plant has maintained the strength and range which defined his earlier works. Albeit he isn't always willing to gallivant it at the same intensity or as frequently, there are plenty of moments on "Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar" which boast a commendable vocal and lyrical moments from Plant. The aforementioned "Turn It Up" is a strong example of both, which shows the vocalist nailing some relatively high wails while tackling the subject of false preachers who exploit a person's faith for money. As an example of the lyrical content on the album, here are a few lines from the track: "A touch of serendipity/ A little stroke of luck/ The radio inside this car/ Brings guidance from above/ The smallest contribution/ Will keep me in safe hands/ I'm calling 1-800/ I ain't leaving it to chance."
Overall Impression — 7
There are occasions where the wayward instrumental arrangements makes one song drown into the next, resulting in what sounds like an unusually lengthy composition, however when Robert Plant reaches his stride on "Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar" it's undoubtedly stand out.