This Bands's early goth roots, remained a fabric of who they are even amid the arena rocking of "Sonic Temple" Their 12th album finds the band still strong with a darker and rawer sound. The key to their success is dependent on how well Astbury's vocals hold up at the age of 60. Billy Duffy has less on the line as his guitar tone has only continued to improve the years. Three songs into the album and I am very confident, as Ian is strong, his trademark croon which at one time positioned him to fill in for Kim Morrison, for a Doors reunion of sorts. That Doors like element is still in play here, though the music has a more passionate creepiness to it.
Former Robert Plant bassist Charlie jones fills in nicely, with a great tone and a smooth playing that allow for him to melodically embellish these songs that do not find him limited to just holding down the bottom. "Knife Through Butterfly Heart" is somewhat Zeppelin like in its steamy power ballad dynamics, though far from what Astbury saying in interviews that this was going to be a blues album, that is not the case though certainly an influence. The slithering groove found here are better than anything I have heard from the band since say "Ceremony" . Former Testament / White Zombie drummer John Tempesta continues to earn his place in the band.
By "Mirror" the fact that things are dark and steamy makes up for the fact the songs begin to gradually reach beyond the hard rock edge of the band's peak years. Astbury's smooth croon glides like velvet when the songs give him the space to do so, though largely his success as a singer is attributed to their punchier moments. This song does have a powerful dynamic shift and build, even when their grandiose thinking goes beyond radio hooks. One thing I like about this album is lack of it's Rolling Stones swagger that we got lots of on albums like "Electric"
"Outer Heaven " is the first song that begins to sound like filler to me, sonically it shares many of the sounds that have worked for them on this album, it does not feel like they are as emotionally invested in this one. That is even with the Jammy part that unfolds as the song progresses. They break out acoustic guitars and symphonic backing for the title track. It reminds me more of something Nick Cave might do. It begins to congeal two minutes in. There is something about it that makes it feel like a James Bond theme song to me, the electronic pulse helps to empower the groove of the last song and make it more vital. I will give this album a 9.5 it's one of their strongest efforts in sometime,