The album kicks off with “Volatile” and it’s exactly that…with an opening cry of “Fuck the world!” Robb Flynn is clearly full of piss and vinegar here, and the music matches his lyrical frustration pound for pound. Inspired by the state of the world we live in, it’s decidedly chaotic and aggressive and really hits home the sense of dissonance plaguing humanity right now. Musically up-tempo and riff-heavy with layers of thrash, in ways there are parts that can be likened to early SLIPKNOT in ways…this is a solid start. The title track follows up and so soon we find ourselves with a drastic change of pace, but it’s surprisingly welcome…it’s incredibly smooth and polished with rich melodies and a real sense of drama in tone, but while it does retain the trademark snarls of Flynn, the tender piano led sections are genuinely moving; a fitting title for a track that clearly deals with a lot of pent up emotions and issues with the world…and an interesting change of direction.
The highlight’s don’t end there either…”California Bleeding” has slight nu-metal qualities, especially within the hook-laden chorus and, more recognizably the lyrical style…it reeks of nostalgic, early 2000’s angst but it’s not hamming it up per se…before “Kaleidoscope” barges in with its frenetic, fast-paced thrash metal onslaught, though the chorus still uses a decent hook, but possibly the biggest surprise here comes courtesy of “Behind The Mask”…for Machine Head have delivered…a ballad. What apocalyptic fuckery is this I hear you typing angrily…but bear with me; you need to listen to this. The simplistic acoustic number is rich in delicate melody and Flynn’s vocal performance is actually quite impressive, opting for purely clean harmonic vocals instead of his usual growls. The change in tone here will offend many purists but this is a very well written, stripped back song that despite lacking in their typical weight, manages to add plenty of depth to the album structurally. “Eulogy” too is another wonderfully subdued piece of music for the most part, with two thirds of the track opting for a dreary, despairing closing number, which again is a welcome change.
The album isn’t without it’s downfalls mind you…firstly I must mention the length, it’s 15 tracks at 75mins which is a hefty listen…they could have cut the track-listing down a little for a more easily digestible listen…”Triple Beam” again champions the nu-metal revival with its semi-rap inspired lyrics…lacking the quality of the aforementioned, realistically with about as much appeal as, say, POD in places, or even INSANE CLOWN POSSE…make of that what you will…and then we come to “Bastards”…the message may be strong and it’s clearly emotional but…the best way I can summarize this is if…fuck…um…I don’t even know? Say JOHNNY CASH had a bastard failed abortion with the DROPKICK MURPHYS? I’ll leave you make your mind up on this one, it’s giving me a Machine Head-ache…overall a solid album but it has its controversies and question marks. Flynn has stated no fucks were given making this, it’s unapologetic in its creation and delivery, and that’s exactly the feeling you get as a listener, so he’s succeeded…so its debatable in a sense that, it’s very possibly their best album since The Blackening…