To start of, a disclaimer, something that not all of you might know. My other favorite bands are wayyyy different from AB - metal, symphonic, larger than life, often progressive kinda stuff. It seems weird for a rock band to be in that company, but if you know I appreciate the lyrics, melodies and freshness in songs and albums - not so much then.
SONG BY SONG
Show Me A Leader - What I liked about this song was the intro, mostly, and the breaks in the chorus. Solo parts were nice as well. All other complaints that I had when I heard it for the first time stuck, though: it's all loud, the lyrics are meh, melodies alright but nothing special. I'd probably rate this one 6/10.
The Writing On The Wall - Heard it twice and before the third time could barely remember how it went. Loud af again. I'm not a fan of Myles' delivery in the verse - it's like he levitates somewhere between rock and metal. A lot of going on in the bridge, followed by a nice solo. I like the melody of the chorus but by the end it becomes too repetitive and kinda defeats the purpose. 6.5/10
The Other Side - This one is a bit more up my alley. Appreciate the mean sound of the song opening and Myles' vocals. However the first few listens, after the verse it kinda dissolved into a "regular" AB song, everything by the book. The chorus was a bit disappointing too, repeated a lot, and I didn't care much for the bridge. Still, better than the first two: 7/10
My Champion - uh-oh, skip track. I really, REALLY have an aversion towards radio-friendly songs, in any genre. I know it's a single and a pretty good song for what it is. However, it's bordering cheesy which is not a good sound for me, but due to Myles' nice vocal melodies and their musicianship, I give it 5/10.
Poison In Your Veins - Another pre-released song that I didn't care much about, though I've given it a fair chance. EVERYTHING in it, every melody, every individual part, sounds like something I've heard before, but I just can't pinpoint it. And there's something about that chorus that's really bugging me. 5/10 as well.
At this point I was starting to despair on my first listen-through: 5th song, and still nothing I really liked, nothing that would make me say yeah my AB boys are back? Cradle rectified that a bit, though. And by this time you get used to the overall loudness and lack of dynamics and you get quite tired, at least in my case. First time I almost wanted to stop there and rest my brain for a bit.
Cradle To The Grave - Looked forward to this one. Like the intro, though it still reminded me of something. Loved Myles' voice in this one, and the melodies are nice. Finally a chorus I liked. Very interesting bridge, though a bit all over the place like all the previous ones, and great solo. "Nothing lasts forever" part surprised me, a welcome change to break up the regular AB song structure I'm used to, though just for a bit. And lyrics were the best on the album so far. Rated it 8.5/10
Losing Patience - Cradle got my hopes up, this one let 'em down. Not a fan of the effects on Myles' voice, or the lyrics (as generic rhymes as they can get). Melodies are fine but there's just SO MUCH going on due to this mix that the brain fatigue is coming back. Liked the chorus somewhat, but overall, the song was predictable and bored me quickly. 6/10
This Side of Fate - I find it funny that people have been telling me to sit tight for a Muse-influenced song, since I DESPISE Muse, but I thought, maybe they've done it their own way. The opening sounded like AB enough and reminded me of Fortress (before the noise kicked in). Still, I appreciated the proggy-ness of the melody and composition, quite refreshing.
That is, until the Muse part kicked in. You guys call it influence? It was Muse with Myles' vocals. Got pretty mad the first time tbh - they have enough creativity not to imitate other (worse) bands. It ruined it for me. Sorry AB. 5/10 for the musicianship in the rest of the song, the solo and that sweet Myles' note.
You Will Be Remembered - This one probably took the worst part of my anger after TSOF, but I still can't warm up to it. Cheesy, bland, uninteresting and really of 0 importance to me as a non-American (and someone who doesn't glorify soldiers or war for that matter). 4/10
Crows On A Wire - Another song I looked forward to. It gave me a nice riff, gave me some unexpected vocal melodies. Good tempo, found the chorus a bit weird, but I appreciated it being a bit unconventional tbh after all those songs I could feel where they were going. Also there's not that much noise on this one. Some of the notes of the solo feel a bit buried in the mix though. Finally an interesting, good bridge! He changed up the lyrics in the chorus :O It's sad that I started getting thrilled about these things. Still, good song: 8/10.
Twilight - wasn't sure whether I liked or hated the beginning of this one. I think it suffered mostly from overproduction - if it were a bit toned down like Crows, I would have liked it more. Solid song overall, nice melodies, but nothing that vowed me, apart from the solo. Still, after getting frustrated with some of the songs, I settled with that. 7/10
Island of Fools - The one I looked forward to the most. Sick, mean riff. Good verse, awesome chorus. IT'S THE TWELFTH SONG OF THE ALBUM THAT'S THE FIRST I LIKED MORE THAN THE SINGLE OFF FORTRESS. Sorry, I had to caps that. You all know how much we end up "loving" the singles. Still, great song. If it were on Fortress I'd probably give it 8.5/10, but on TLH it stands out so much it's easily 9.5/10.
The Last Hero - Despite it being the "epic", after having heard it twice and now coming back to it, I couldn't remember what it sounded like. It might be the fatigue, but it does absolutely nothing for me. The melody in the chorus is nice, I guess. Really not a fan of the guitars in the transitions here (dunno the correct term). Solo is the highlight, as is most of the guitar work. I don't know how to rate this one - it reminds me of CoA in the sense that it did very little for me, though CoA is a much better song. 7/10? I guess that's the fairest I can be.
Last of Our Kind - Oh yeah (I needed a memory refreshment on this one too). So many familiar parts. Chorus is probably the only part I liked. Not much else for me to say here. 5/10
The third time I've listened through it in one sitting, and the third time it's given me a headache. I almost couldn't wait for it to be over - not in the sense that it's bad, it's just that there are so few opportunities for your ears and brain to rest. Perhaps if I listened to the songs individually, more things would stand out.
There were so many "no compromises" and "sacrifices" and whatnot in the lyrics that it all lumped together. I feared this ever since the topic of the album was unveiled. It just doesn't cut it for me.
I don't think I'll ever muster the strength to listen to TLH in its entirety again. Cradle and Island are the only two songs that are as good as the rest of the AB catalogue, perhaps with the addition of Crows and The Other Side, and likely the only four songs I'll want to hear again. The rest of it, just... no. And I'm really sorry about it. I WANTED to like this.
To clarify - it's not the change of direction that's put me off (so a different case than you, Monty). I LIKE change of direction, I'm used to it. To me this is nothing new, an attempt of a beefed-up Fortress, but they tried to beef it up in all the wrong ways. I'm done with this overproduced sound, though. Really, it hurts my head.
Gah. It still ended up harsh.
TL;DR: Didn't like TLH at all.