And I say all of that after 11 studio albums.
This is the first album with new drummer Mike Mangini, following the departure of Mike Portnoy. Portnoy had wanted to take a 5-years break, and when the rest of the band refused, he quit. Something must have been done right, because this album garnered the band their first Grammy nomination this year in Best Hardcore/Metal performance for "On The Backs Of Angels."
And on that note, let's get to it. I'm listening on Spotify here if you'd like to follow along.
"On The Backs Of Angels" starts things off in this hauntingly beautiful way, much closer to what I'd expect from the band, give my allusions of their name. There's an odd twist of darkness within it, but we're being eased down, not plunged. There's an electric guitar that serves as this bridge all the way in. Ever read Dante's Inferno? This would provide an excellent opening soundtrack, especially given that it's about eight minutes long.
These songs are very, very long. In fact, the entire album runs at 77 minutes. It's tough to not get distracted (as I have), but then a song like "This Is The Life" happens, where it has a strong start, then mellows down to really concentrate on the lyrics at hand. It's actually really nice and sobering even, as you listen. It's like everyone is taking a minute of reflection, both through the words, and then through their individual instruments. It's probably most appropriate for a down time, but there's still an acceptance of your life regardless.
"Bridges In The Sky" kicks off with what I can only venture to guess is an ogre/troll groan. It's followed by a chorus of voices chanting, sort of, and now the only thing I can thing of is Lord Of The Rings. Funny how much this album is making me think movies. The rest of it launches in with the full band, but the beginning set the tone for this epic and dark journey.
A song under 5 minutes? No way... Okay, sorry, this is actually a pretty introspective number we get for "Far From Heaven." Actually... it's incredibly deep and sad and sweet all at once. "Nothing you can do to change me but accept me as I am." There's more, but you should give it a go yourself.
"Breaking All Illusions" brings it back to the harder way of things, picking the pace way back up for another twelve-minute thriller. I mean, it settles as the words are whispered, until it builds again, altogether this time in tone. The cool thing I'm catching about these longer tracks is that there is an arc throughout, almost creating a story if you were to take the time and go through them. It's tough, but not impossible, or a bad idea.
The final track is "Beneath The Surface." It's this incredibly heart-wrenching song of letting go. There is this odd little electronic portion, but then it reverts back into the quiet let go, eventually giving to an outcry of desperate hope from the pain. This one will wipe you out.
Added To My Playlist:
- "Build Me Up, Bring Me Down"
- "This Is The Life"
- "Far From Heaven"
- "Beneath The Surface"
What an album. I mean, some songs were just tough to fully concentrate on thanks to length, but when numbers hit, tehy really did. There's nothing very happy here, but this is something you need once in a while. It's just this great collection of sound in different ways, proving what this group is capable of.