New Horizons

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The third studio album from Texas-based, post-grunge/emo-metal outfit Flyleaf is also the band's last outing with longtime vocalist Lacey Sturm, who announced her amicable departure from the group just prior to New Horizons' street date -- the band tapped Kristen May, formerly of Kansas City indie rockers Vedera, to take Sturm's place on the road. More streamlined than 2009's erratic, yet electrifying Memento Mori, Sturm's last hurrah with the band boasts some truly sublime moments early on, effectively capturing the essence of what makes Flyleaf so compelling. "Fire Fire," with its mammoth chorus and barely contained rage, makes for a stunning opener, utilizing every facet of Sturm's formidable howl while allowing the band the freedom to punctuate those caterwauls with meticulously crafted sonic blasts that never sacrifice melody for power. When holding true to those tactics, as they do on standout cuts like "Cage on the Ground" and the soaring title track, Flyleaf manages to transcend the many trappings of the genre (clean verse/explosive chorus/rinse/repeat) by masterfully exploiting them. Heavier, less immediate offerings like "Green Heart" and the gargantuan "Freedom" impress as well, revealing a nervy, studious musicality that many of the group's contemporaries lack, but midtempo, paint-by-numbers inspirational jams like "Broken Wings," "Saving Grace," and "Great Love," despite their good intentions, take the wind out of the appropriately titled New Horizons' sails, allowing those aforementioned trappings to direct instead of produce, resulting in an occasionally thrilling, yet ultimately uneven set from a talented band in the midst of a huge transition.

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