A textbook case on how to do everything the suitable way, Opiate is finally coming out with a full-length on its own terms -- on its own imprint label that's part owned by Concrete Management and Vans Warped Tour/Taste of Chaos creator Kevin Lyman -- after negotiating with several majors didn't come up to the mark. At this moment, everything is firing on all cylinders for this band: on the road with Drowning Pool, booked for another Vans Warped Tour, and now ready to release this superlative album. With several lineup additions and subtractions, Opiate sounds more formidable than ever, and the heavy industrial vibe that fueled OFM's earlier Goodbye EP has dissipated into a more mainstream but no less mesmeric attack. Much of the credit can be given to Jim Kaufman's topnotch production (with the exception of the Ed Stasium-produced/Charlie "Nine Inch Nails" Clouser-remixed "Heaven"). He paces this album like a killer live set, even allowing for short instrumental intermissions to let the listener catch a breather before jumping into the next direction. The other key ingredient, of course, is vocalist Ron Underwood, who gamely sells every bleeding observation, every morbid obsession, with believability. And unlike most singers who mine the dark side to the detriment of humor, Underwood's comically bewildered delivery on "Step Up" invests genuine pathos in what would've otherwise been nothing but a cheap shot at Mr. Suburbia. Something is happening, and OFM knows what it is. Here's the proof. (www.opiateforthemasses.com)
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