From the aggressive, angst-ridden tone of opener "Remedy," it's clear that Year of the Spider will be a dark, hard-rock journey.

From the aggressive, angst-ridden tone of opener "Remedy," it's clear that Year of the Spider will be a dark, hard-rock journey. Much of the material is steeped in themes of death and illness, with songs addressing band members' personal loss ("Cure My Tragedy") and the world's loss of Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley ("The Day Seattle Died"). The disc is also colored with tales of professional tensions, betrayal, and relationships gone awry. The surging, single-worthy "Suffocate" is about a stifling romance, while "Kill the Music Industry" is a teeth-gnashing rant about the current state of music. While such non-stop intensity might have made Year of the Spider too heavy for comfortable consumption, the band performs with such brute force that every song becomes a trigger for refreshing catharsis. Factor in a bevy of sticky, radio-ready hooks, and you have an album that is likely to be one of the summer's top hard-rock releases.—LF

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