It's unfortunate that Zakk Wylde wasn't involved with this album, but I guess it's also an opportunity to change things up a bit, avoiding monotony. Either way, this album is full of great guitar riffs and solos, and progressive, thought-provoking, institution-questioning lyrics. A lot like Black Rain and Down to Earth, this has a very arena-rock mannerism about it. It's fist-raising, battle-cry-screaming music.
Some of my favorites...
"Let it Die" - This song is very idealist (and I mean that in the sense of admiration, not cynicism.) It's a revolutionary call to stand up and unite in equality, make it happen no matter what. It's talking about the beginning of a golden age. "It's a revelation - celebration - graduation..." seems to refer to mankind evolving to a new and joyous level of conscious understanding. This has been predicted in secret by people for thousands of years, and I'm proud to hear it in modern metal music, blasting out of speakers where everyone can hear it. The riffs are a little sluggish, or ham-fisted in some places, but I can live with it.
"Soul-Sucka" - This one moves even slower and it's not terribly exciting, but it refers to something we've all experienced, so points for relatability. It's about the will to stand-up to oppression, to defend one's rights. That determination is always welcome.
"Diggin' Me Down" - This is definitely one of my favorites from this album. Each low, palm-muted machine-gun blast from the bass-drum and rhythm guitar in unison is lick a sledgehammer strike on the secterian chains that constrain the mind. It's eloquent and unabashed blasphemy. One of my favorite lines is "How will I know you, mister 'Jesus Christ'? Have you already been here once or twice?" which refers to all of the previous mythological figures from whom the church pieced-together the bible's version of Jesus. It's as if Ozzy's asking, "why should I be more willing to praise and gratify *this* religious figure, when there've been so many others before him with the same mission and qualities? I cannot even tell where he ends and his predecessors begin!" It's got great pounding, syncopated prog-chords which are given extra color with wandering hammer-on/pull-off riffs, pinch-harmonics, clean-tone and acoustic guitar in places.
"I Want It More" - Another favorite. The guitar here is easily some of the most exciting and attention-grabbing of the album, which makes it one of the most fun songs to listen-to. At first glance the lyrics seem very competetive, but it may also be an attempt to show how competition is innately in vain, where its premise is that one person or group will be the winner, but in fact the competition never really ends and there are no winners for that reason. That makes sense with the lyrics, "How much is enough now? What was lost?"
"Latimer's Mercy" - I can't tell exactly about what this song is. What I like about it is the punishing quality of the musical flow. It's like being hit with sonic-tidal-wave after crushing sonic-tidal-wave. Because it's so rough, it has a way of making the body let-go and relax by contrast and reflex. Better to be soft and let the waves wash *through* you than to stay rigid and absorb their full force... Which is just as well, because too much rigidity in mind, body and spirit has been a consistent problem for society. Hey, there ya go - heavy metal: it's good for your health. =P
Overall I give this four stars. There are very few songs I wouldn't keep, and only a few more that I wouldn't recommend.