Scott Stapp and Art Of Anarchy came together in 2015, committed to fusing a creative connection that was organic and real, not just for the purpose of creating an album, but instead, to create music about reclaiming life and reclaiming the exuberance of being in a band. “The Madness” is more than intricate, dazzling solos from Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal of Guns N’ Roses, the driving bass of John Moyer from Disturbed, the outstanding guitar and drums of founders Jon and Vince Votta, or the unmistakable baritone of Creed's Scott Stapp. This is a band alive again, its vigor and voice moving from echo to embracing every breath, and the heartbeat pulses in every note.

Journey to the depths

Throbbing bass and brutal honesty begin the stirring journey of the album with “Echo of a Scream.” Many artists have walked the two steps forward, one step back path more than once through recovery, but none have shown the irrefutable conviction and courage to rise from the landscape of haunting underbellies of surviving abuse, addiction, and confrontation with mental illness that Scott Stapp has proven again and again. Fierceness and faith surge in this fighter. No matter how the distortion drowns out reason, with the insistent call that “this is the end” through staccato riffs, the reply of “I’m not listening” assures that this fight for life has just begun.

The energy really begins to blaze with “1000 Degrees,” as Stapp’s resonant tones summon images of a funeral pyre, against Vince Votta’s drumbeat.

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“I burn everything that comes close,” the lyrics warn, yet a spark of life comes with “I live, I burn, I breathe at 1000 degrees.” The album revolves on this gulp of breath. Some of the most fertile soil can be recovered from scorched-earth. With time and healing, life rises from cinders. The front man’s emotional and vocal prowess matched with Thal’s twin-neck power chords make this track remarkable. “No Surrender” lays out the choice even more bluntly between “the lifeline” and “the flatline,” and the resolve in “you get up no surrender” sounds the clarion call.

“The Madness” portrays the duality of illness and addiction, still reaching for the constant light on “the other side” through the struggle. The title track and its video convey the all-out passion in this man who lived the journey. There is no stand and sway to background scenes here. Passion pours through every breath. Nothing is going through the motions. “The truth, the lies, the shame, the glory/The love the hate, an endless story” are all part of life, healing, and recovery, so worth the trek across the chasm.

The turn to the light

A trilogy of hope, forgiveness, and commitment comprise the next three songs. “Won't Let You Down” plants love’s anchor with its promise “you and me, what we could be, is what I'm fighting for” as a pledge to tomorrow. “Changed Man” further evolves as a genuine love song, and the earnestness of the “wish to God” as the first chorus opens is unflinching. The plea has been heard before, but not with this gut-level sincerity. “A Light In Me” is another rocking gem that confronts the truth that deciding to win the battle doesn’t make the dark shadows disappear, but the sense of the unquenchable light within illuminates a path onward.

“Somber” and “Dancing with the Devil” have both been beloved B-sides for Scott Stapp fans, and the full studio effect and slower tempo onto this kind of musical canvas is worth the wait. This treatment makes the contrast and force of “reflection” and “deception” all the more impactful. “Dancing” is a rousing rocker, even summoning a Native American feel in its chants.

“Afterburn” closes out the journey, with an assault of sound and echo as the song opens. In aviation and propulsion terms, the purpose of the afterburner is to provide increased thrust, giving push to soar. Clearly, with its new formation and spirit in collaboration, Art of Anarchy is poised for new heights.