Their last release before becoming one of the first bands to abandon the concept of the traditional studio album, Twilight of the Innocents is also Northern Irish outfit Ash's first new material since the departure of bassist Charlotte Hatherley. Recording as a trio for the first time since their mid-'90s number one 1977, their sixth and final LP wisely avoids attempting to recapture the raw energy and punk-pop sound of their teens, and instead focuses on a mature, emotive, and cinematic direction which showcases frontman Tim Wheeler's underrated songwriting abilities. There are still flashes of the Californian hair metal leanings of its predecessor, Meltdown, such as the crunching riffs on the muscular "Blacklisted," and the Guitar Hero-style solos on the ska-tinged "Ritual," while their indie rock credentials still remain fully intact, as displayed on the anthemic opening number "I Started a Fire," which recalls the raucous blues of Kings of Leon's "Sex on Fire," and the grungy Foo Fighters-esque "Shattered Glass." But elsewhere, Twilight of the Innocents feels like it should have been the natural successor to 2001's return to form, Free All Angels, thanks to its blend of high-octane power pop (the thumping indie-disco of "You Can't Have It All," the driving "Palace of Excess"), melodic midtempos (the jangly "Dark and Stormy," the Brill Building-ish "Shadows"), and widescreen orchestral ballads, (the gorgeous piano-led "Polaris," arguably their finest single, and the epic prog rock inspired closing title track). Wheeler's lackluster vocals remain a constant hindrance, his thin, reedy tones often struggling to make any impact above Michael Brauer's emphatic production, while the formulaic "End of the World" sounds like a lazy retread of early hit "Goldfinger." But overall, Twilight of the Innocents is a reassuringly strong collection of potential hits which, as the band claim, turns out to be their last conventional album, it's a pretty accomplished swansong.
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien