Sound — 10
Simply put, this cd sounds like it was produced by a whole new band. Gone are the somewhat simplistic song arrangements, guitar parts, and chord structures of They're Only Chasing Safety. Gone is the single, shrill pitch of screamer Spencer Chamberlain. In place of all these things is a sound that is vastly more mature that anything Underoath has put out in the past. Right away, the opening track, "In Regards To Myself" lets you know this band now means business. The guitar riffs are much more complex this time around, as the opening song shows. The guitarists play with dissonance in a lot of their riffs, in the opening track, and especially in the amazingly heavy "Returning Empty Handed." The keys are much more of an accent to the music this time around, adding ambiance to everything. Aaron's drumming remains a highlight. He can come up with incredible drum patterns that break the mold of conventional rhythms. As a whole, this record sounds as if every single band member was truly working to create a unified whole. Albeit, a much heavier whole.
Lyrics — 10
The lyrics are very well written. They do not possess and standard ABAB rhyming couplets or the like, but they still flow so well that they sound perfect. Spencer proves himself to be an admirable lyricist, penning words that have nothing to do with surface-level emo whining, and are all about acknowledging and overcoming our internal struggles as human beings. The interplay between Spencer and Aaron is simply beautiful, too. Many times overlapping the guttural screams of Spencer with Aaron's strong and clear singing voice, both singers demonstrate immense skill. Spencer even contributes some clean vocals occasionally. The biggest improvement in the vocal range overall belongs to Spencer. No longer is he limited to a single-pitch shriek. He now fills the record with low, gut-wrenching growls, mid range barks, forceful yells, and high-pitched shrieks. The versatility he displays is astonishing, and most of all, dynamic.
Overall Impression — 10
I have no reservations whatsoever about putting this album in my top 5 of all time. I personally don't think Underoath will ever top this one (and they most certainly didn't with "Lost In the Sound of Separation"). My personal highlights from the album would have to be "In Regards To Myself," "There Could Be Nothing After This," "Returning Empty Handed," and "To Whom It May Concern." I can't find a single thing I hate about the cd; every single track is perfect to my ears. I would buy the album again even if it weren't lost or stolen. Even if Underoath has turned you off in the past, please give this one a try. I guarantee you'll be impressed in some way.