I like the album very much.
It gives me the feeling of higher resolution compared to previous albums. My senses might be fooling me, but I get the impression that there is more musical detail, and more musical skill, in this one that in previous albums. The composition, styles, Rob's vocals, and the guitars. It makes for very good replay value!
It's not more of the same as before. It breaks with all previous albums, and I like that. I like hearing new sounds from the band, instead of repetitions of the great themes perfected in Redeemer, or more political songs. Paradoxically, then, Phantom Shadow is also wrapped around the same storyline that Rob has been sneaking into songs forever, and the album truly is a key that makes me second guess so many of their earlier songs. It tickles my imagination and lets me paint a whole story. And it is deliciously full of SID and epic, like some truly ancient tracks like Bouff and the Sidologies. It is core MaSu values with a serious upgrade.
Throne of Games – finally made me start thinking of the balance of values in MaSu's songs on internet, gaming and the future. Either the song is actually sloppy (opening with low-quality Japanese in a bored voice when this has been done so much better before) or it's meant to be ridiculous without actually sounding bad. Gaming is great, but not an excuse to be pathetic.
Europa – the female vocals are beautiful and I'd love to hear more of it. It's one of the songs I find myself listening to on repeat. The fret screeches are unfortunate, sometimes I really notice and sometimes I don't. When you notice it, it does destroy the song and seems a major mistake. Hopefully this can be fixed and re-released.
The Bigger They Are the Harder They Fall – clearly one of my favorites, a flawless SID battle tune. The SID is truly one of the things that really sold me to this album.
Hubnester Rising – the song on this album, even without SID. I love how it erupts at 4:05, and the epic guitar sounds. There is strength throughout the piece, but what I love the most is the very rising of that strength, the phoenix-esque becoming of something greater. Is he turning into a motherfreaking metal dragon space station?! I would know better, I suppose, if I had been digging around for details on the graphical novel, but now I start to fear my own imaginings would be impinged, ha!
I wish I knew some more details, like some backstory on the characters and who are featuring/singing in each of the songs. I do feel that the lyrics have suffered somewhat from being so related to the over-arcing story, but I actually don't mind this so much. The album is very much a whole, a "larger than this track", less so a set of shiny pieces to be enjoyed in isolation. When I listen to one, it points to the others in the set and I want that immersion.
Definitely buying the CD now.