Sound — 4
After leaving Tooth & Nail Records on a high note with their aggressive fifth album, "Welcome to the Masquerade," Thousand Foot Krutch's recent years of working independently have been used for tinkering with their sound. Their sixth album, 2012's "The End Is Where We Begin," not only made a large effort to infuse more orchestral elements into the band's metal style, but also brought back a lot of the rapping vocals that the band used in their earlier material. Following that, their seventh album, 2014's "Oxygen : Inhale," took a more commercial-friendly route, toning down on the metal strength and the rap vocals from the previous album, and focusing more on easier guitar melodies and frontman Trevor McNevan's crisp vocals.
Loosely running in tandem with the previous album's title, Thousand Foot Krutch's eighth album, "Exhale," has the band walking back to their stronger rock side in similar spirit to "Welcome to the Masquerade." But although they start off on a strong foot, where the riffs in the opening stretch of "Running With Giants," "Incomplete" and "Give Up the Ghost" are tougher and more active than anything in their last two albums, they start to go downhill from there, churning out a handful of tedious songs stuck in single-riff cyclicity ("A Different Kind of Dynamite," "Off the Rails," "Can't Stop This") and other cases of double-dipping songwriting ideas (like the same canned "hey" chants that appear in "Push" and "Adrenaline," or the triplet rhythm of "Born Again" coming off as a weaker echo from the more impressive "Lifeline").
TFK also try to invest further in the rock appeal of "Exhale" by including more guitar solos, but with those only manifesting as simple melody carriers in songs like "Give Up the Ghost," "A Different Kind of Dynamite" and "Adrenaline," it's not much of a noteworthy element. Worse than that, bassist Joel Bruyere doesn't bring forth any standout riffs compared to the great activity he had in "Inhale," and McNevan's vocals sounding more processed and less kosher this time around (ex: "The River") also makes for another step down from the previous album.
Lyrics — 6
With "Exhale" containing more rap-rock style vocals in it, McNevan subsequently flaunts his boisterous lyrical side more often in the album, although he wears out that side fairly quickly, whether by way of rhyme scheme exhaustion (heard in the perpetual AAAA patterns in the verses of "Push"), boilerplate hype ("If you want it, then we got it / We won't let up 'til we get enough / Adrenaline overload" in "Adrenaline"), or dated references ("When it's on, I stand tall like King Kong" in "A Different Kind of Dynamite"). But with one hand still firmly gripping his more heartfelt side, McNevan still manages to bring out a fair share of lyrics that articulate his Christian faith with more vulnerability, heard in the inquisitive "Off the Rails" ("Is it more than I can take? / Or is it everything I'll ever need?"), the call for aid in "Lifeline" ("Give me a reason I can believe in / I need it all this time / Send me a lifeline"), and the uplifting "Give Up the Ghost" ("I've met God and I saw life / And he saved mine a million times"). It's far from new ground covered by McNevan, but at the very least, it's dependable.
Overall Impression — 4
While the role of "Exhale" as being the yang to the yin of the previous lightness of "Oxygen : Inhale" is evident, the album doesn't make a strong case for itself in TFK's expansive catalog. With only a few choice songs being outweighed by a bigger number of duds, the album's span is far from being worthwhile, and with older TFK albums providing stronger metal offerings, rap rock offerings, or post-grunge offerings, "Exhale" simply pales in comparison to plenty of its predecessors.