The Turn


Think Loud, 2014

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


In a surprise move, Live returned in fall 2014 with their eighth studio album and easily their best since 1997's Secret Samadhi. It is also the first disc without lead singer Ed Kowalczyk, who left the band during its hiatus after the 2008 tour.

Although the band’s previous four albums had a couple of decent songs, each one was progressively less exciting and hungry, treading previous ground without offering anything new, and Kowalczyk evidently wanted out after 2006’s Songs From Black Mountain, if not before. The remaining three members sued Kowalczyk to keep the Live name after the split, but there was no more music from the band for six years.

But in 2013, the musical core of the band found singer/guitarist Chris Shinn (formerly of Unified Theory), and the partnership breathed new life into the ghost of this alt-rock post-grunge band. The end result is a disc that retains the sound, spirit and drama of Live’s best work, and even though it lacks the killer songs of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Throwing Copper, it has that journeyman veteran feel and a renewed vigor that has been missing from the band’s music for a while.

Shinn sounds a bit like Kowalcyzk in places, with two major differences: the first is how he never overpowers the song but instead strengthens it, and the other in his lyrics, which never resort to the embarrassments of Ed's worst moments. That is, he is a worthy newcomer to the band, one who understands the Live sound and approach and honors it while putting his own spin on the material.

That spin includes pushing the band’s aggression to the forefront on the opening tracks “Siren’s Call,” which burns from the speakers with a sound reminiscent of Korn or Deftones, and the metallic clangor of “Don’t Run To Wait,” an explosive, bravura anthem that is as heavy as this band has ever been. Things then settle into more familiar territory, the songs using layers of guitars and audacious, soaring hard rock melodies (the assault of “Natural Born Killers,” the dark, driving, biographical “The Only Way Around Is Through,” which could have come off Copper) to establish that Live is back and hungry.

“Need Tonight” is interesting, the acoustic guitar picking providing a haunting offset to the insistent rhythm section before descending electric guitar power chords hammer home the chorus. “The Strength To Hold On” is Shinn’s best performance, a soaring arena-ready anthem of the classic Live sound with a little Stone Temple Pilots feel for good measure. “He Could Teach The Devil Tricks” is solid as well, while the closing acoustic ballad “Till You Came Around” is moving without being sappy.

As with a lot of albums that favor grandeur, the songs must be solid enough to support the weight of the noise, and this doesn’t always rise to the challenge; much like Secret Samadhi, it sounds better than it actually is in spots (positioning it as a sort of follow-up to the band’s ‘90s run of albums). But I’m buying into it, just because the band is too after all these years. This is an album you'll want to return to, particularly if you're a fan of the band or ‘90s alt-rock in general, and here's hoping a couple of the songs will get picked up on a modern rock radio station somewhere and expose a new generation to the band.

Rating: B

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© 2014 Benjamin Ray and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Think Loud, and is used for informational purposes only.