This album reminds me of The Art of Balance and The War Within. Matt's growls are more prominent, the gang vocals are back, and the album is heavier. Retribution was more straight up thrash, and I'm glad the band is moving back towards their earlier sound. This album does have more poppy cleans and catchy choruses than their earlier work, but I can't complain about this - the music industry changes and the band has to evolve with it.
Lyrically, Fire From the Sky has an interesting story behind it. Several songs address an "apocalypse," or "doomsday," and there are even some references towards the end of the Mayan calendar. We all know that is bogus, however its still interesting food for thought. The title track is about a dying star undergoing a supernova and destroying planets. Brian has always been one of my favorite lyricists in metal. His lyrics are intelligent and his degree in literature gives him a definite advantage.
There is also more emphasis on the interplay between Brian and Matt's vocals. On Threads of Life, Brian did most of the vocals, and I always thought this was a mistake. Matt has a very good voice, both cleans and growls, and I would say his cleans are better than Brian's. This album also has him growling more, something that was very sparse in their last two releases. Jon provides some backing vocals also.
Adam Dutkiewicz of Killswitch Engage produced this record. A longtime friend of the band, he did a stellar job and helped some with the recording process. I mention this because the acoustic beginning of "Blind Faith" sounds eerily similar to the beginning of "Just Barely Breathing" from Killswitch's 2002 Alive or Just Breathing. This is most likely a coincidence, but overall one can tell the Killswitch influence on this record.
The only problem I have is that I would have liked the songs to be a little longer. This album is, however, about the same length as The War Within, the band's best selling album. Retribution had several songs over 6 min, so the band is very capable of longer songs. I'm assuming it was planned to write shorter, high impact, songs. I also would have liked the clean vocals to be a little less produced. The cleans at the end of "Divide and Conquer" come to mind. There is nothing better than the raw, natural sound, of someone's voice - something autotune can't achieve. I am reminded of the "Welcome to the Machine" cover, and the beautiful, natural sounding vocals.
Overall, I would recommend this release. It's a huge step back towards the Shadows Fall several fans love.