Sound — 8
Punk rock and thrash metal are just the perfect genres for each other. Fast and unrelenting, more complex than it looks on the surface, but simpler than some would say. And one of the seminal bands in the crossover thrash genre that blends these two genres is the revered Suicidal Tendencies. Twelve albums into their nearly thirty-six year career (yeah, let that number sink in for a minute), the band's style has changed very little, and remains faithful to the band's blend of punk and thrash, and fans who enjoyed 2013's "13," their first album since their 2000 record "Free Your Soul and Save My Mind," will not find them reinventing the wheel on this record. Sole founding member Mike Muir remains on vocals, as well as Dean Pleasants on lead guitar, who joined the band in 1996. Rounding out the lineup are newcomers Jeff Pogan on rhythm guitar, Ra Díaz on bass, and the highly-renowned Dave Lombardo on drums.
Most of the songs on this record are anchored by fast riffs, though there are some uncharacteristically slower moments like the first section of "Get Your Fight On!" and "Still Dying to Live," and some somewhat sludgier tracks like "Damage Control." For the most part, the album is full of pissed-off punk/metal, and if there's one track that just about sums up this band's ethos, it's "One Finger Salute." The opening track, "Clap Like Ozzy," is a near-perfect blend of hardcore punk and thrash metal. "The New Degeneration" is a real headbanger. The title track has a more bluesy rock feel to it while still retaining the heaviness and attitude they're known for. "The Struggle Is Real" is probably the most thrashy track on the record, and it's guaranteed to get the mosh pits going at live performances. "The World" is an uncharacteristically soft tune and ends the album on a sort of strange psychedelic note.
The performances by the musicians on this album are great. Dean Pleasants rips and tears his way through many great solos on the album, and proves that he's equally capable of noisy speed picking as he is of melodic, fluid playing. Ra Díaz gets some really excellent bass lines throughout the album, and despite being one of the newest members of the band, he really takes the spotlight on many of the album's songs. Jeff Pogan locks in quite well as a rhythm guitarist, with some incredible riffs. And Dave Lombardo needs no introduction, his rep sheet including lengthy stints with Slayer and Fantômas, as well as work with bands like Testament and Apocalyptica, and of course, his playing is on point throughout the album.
Vocalist Mike Muir and veteran producer Paul Northfield (Rush, Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, Infectious Grooves, and longtime co-producer with Suicidal Tendencies) have worked to make this album simple, meat-and-potatoes, and it really works to let the instruments cut through the mix very well. There are some tracks with a bit of an extra layer of lead guitar or gang vocals, but overall, it's just a basic guitar, bass, drum, and vocal mix, and I love productions like this because they prove that less is indeed more.
Lyrics — 8
With a mission statement like "One Finger Salute," it's clear that this album has some very pissed-off lyrics. And in songs like "The New Degeneration," Mike Muir asks us where the anger and the demand for change is. There also darker tracks like "Get Your Fight On" which proclaims that "if you're waiting on a hero we'll all be dead...," and "The World," which feature Mike crooning verses like:
"I take your suffering and I eat it like dessert
I'm not a masochist I just can't stand to see you hurt
But every time I think of you my heart and mind disagree
You know I'd love you, why won't you love me?
The voices in my head keep me up all night"
Muir's vocals run the gamut from a thrash metal bark to gang shouts to even some gentler melodic singing. His voice is surprisingly versatile, and he's got a wonderful tone to his voice whether he's singing over a thrash riff, a punk riff, or even the gentler acoustic guitars in "The World."
Overall Impression — 8
Quite recently, it was announced that this could be the last Suicidal Tendencies album, and if it is, then it's one hell of an album to go out on. It's a really enjoyable listen from start to finish, and its simple, fast, thrashy sound is guaranteed to get fists pumping and listeners chair-moshing. The riffs, the solos, the vocals, the production, all of these elements conspire to make a killer album, one that sits perfectly well in this long-lived band's discography, and while there's nothing ultimately too surprising about this album for fans of the band, there's definitely enough quality to keep any fan satisfied. One thing to mention is that this is an enjoyable album to listen to whether or not you realize that the legendary Dave Lombardo is hitting the skins. There will undoubtedly be some Dave Lombardo fans who will check this out based on that fact alone, and the music actually stands on its own well enough that it's not really important who played the drums on it. That's a testament to the quality of the band when a high-profile name joins and it's not something that detracts from the band or the individual. And Dave does give an incredible performance. For fans of crossover thrash, you can't go wrong with this album. Great record, check it out!