Five Crooked Lines

Finger Eleven

Bicycle Music Group/Concord, 2015

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Finger Eleven returned after a five-year hiatus with a beast of a modern rock album, one that owes a strong debt to Ozzy Osbourne's solo career while firmly fitting in to the current hard rock scene. That it was recorded and mixed in two weeks is a miracle in today's landscape, but indicative of the band's singular drive this time out.

Session drummer Chris Powell steps in to help this Canadian band, which recorded this album in Nashville but doesn't really have any hallmarks of the music usually associated with that city. This is still post-grunge metal, but the Black Sabbath and Ozzy influence is far more prevalent this time around, from the singing to the chord changes. There's an attempt at a followup to the band's big hit "Paralyzer" called "Wolves and Doors," but it is a watered-down imitation with insider lyrics about the music business that doesn't inspire, although that solo is pretty sweet.

Opener "Gods of Speed" is a frenzied, old-school metal opener that announces the disc with flannel and beer, while "Save Your Breath" is the most Ozzy-tribute-ready song on the disc. But this is all a lead-in to "Come On, Oblivion," a dense, prog-metal piece with a strong Peter Gabriel influence that sounds like little else this band has attempted. Anyone wondering how Gabriel would have covered the Black Sabbath catalog has their answer here, but the confidence and roar of the guitars are all Finger Eleven, and it's one of their finest moments on record.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Putting it in the middle of this disc was a risky move; it would have worked as a closer, but in the middle it acts as a natural end to Act One, and so the song starting off Act 2 had better be good enough to keep your attention. Unfortunately, "Not Going To Be Afraid" is about as generic as it gets. The tin can drums and strangled vocals of the title track are better, but "Absolute Truth" stands above both as a late-disc highlight, mixing Paranoid-style guitar with psychedelic influences, particularly the echo-laden vocals in the lead-up to the chorus that swirl and punch simultaneously. One is never sure where the song is going next, and it's one that warrants repeated plays simply because of that; it packs a lot into three minutes and then gets out, leaving you wanting more. 

"Lost for Words" and "Criminal" are solid album songs, fitting into the overall scope without really standing out; only "Blackout Song" is an annoying misfire, its wails and cursing and monotony inspiring nothing but the "next" button (especially because "Absolute Truth" follows it, and it blows most of the other songs here away). "Lost For Words" and closer "A New Forever" also bring in a Pink Floyd influence, with the latter using downplayed vocals, a repetitive muted guitar riff, a Gilmour-inspired solo and a spooky vibe to great effect. It reminded me a bit of "Welcome To The Machine" as seen through The Division Bell, but again, it is solidly a Finger Eleven song that uses its influences to create something original, modern and classicist all at once. 

In just two weeks, Finger Eleven not only created a solid hard rock album but perhaps the best album of their career. They are at the point in their career where they can take musical risks and a hiatus and emerge even stronger, and though the music is somewhat of a departure from their norm, it's exactly the album they needed to make and it's worth your time.

Rating: B+

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