This album was unfortunately not good, and this is coming from someone who more or less enjoyed Smoke + Mirrors, even if that album was no masterpiece.
Now what makes this album so much worse? I think it’s a combination of things, but at its core, it’s how basic it is. Smoke + Mirrors at least had something interesting going on in the songs, the quirks present there were a much needed extra layer.
Here, we have a platter of electronic arena rock anthems. The drums snap along, empty, almost like the clicking of fingers, which are also present here. Each song seems determined to have this booming beat that never lets up. Dan Reynolds’ hoarse vocals don’t seem to compliment the songs, but instead seem to be turned on like a switch when he notices the song is supposed to go harder. (Not that his vocals are bad, I like them).
The songs come in, fade out, and then the next one comes in. There’s no sense of progression, in the album, or the bands musical sensibility. Most of the songs feel like they’re here because they needed a space to fill, rather than feeling like their presence was demanded. Most of it is utterly forgettable.
I don’t think a single lyric grabbed my ears and demanded me to appreciate them. Listen to the chorus of Rise Up, and you’ll see the chant-style lyrics sound like something a seven year old came up with as he was trying to think of words that rhymed together.
Given Reynolds’ struggles with depression, you would hope he could come up with some more profound or meaningful lyrics. But he constantly dishes up the same clichés and tropes that can be found on any other of the self-empowering anthems on the radio.
The only song I’d probably listen to again is Thunder. There are clicks in the background, and repeated, glitchy, changing vocal pitches of the word /thunder/. It’s not exactly inspired (if I hear the clicking of fingers on one more song…), and most of what Reynolds says during the entire song is /Thunder, feel the thunder/Lightning and the thunder/, but I enjoyed it.
I may have been overly harsh. But this album was just really mediocre.