The so-called "tough guy hardcore" subgenre is a pretty limited one as far as songwriting is concerned. Generally, it's too much muscle and not enough brains. Bands like (new) Throwdown feel the need to make themselves out to be the manliest of men by ripping off Pantera and throwing in as many cookie cutter breakdowns as possible. This is where Bury Your Dead have always been a little special to me.
Even with subpar production, their first album is fantastically fun. They changed up song tempos, added extra little spices like breaks from screaming and throwing in a shouted "yeah" or my personal favorite "fuckin' tie 'em up, baby!" The second album, and Victory Records debut, saw heightened (understatement) production and a little more monotonous songwriting. Even though it wasn't as varied as its predesessor, the album was still insanely fun. Some say its production was over the top; I dissagree. There was nothing added, just straight up clarity of all 5 instruments and vocals that sounded like a wrecking ball coming out of my Infinity Kappa 3-way car stereo speakers.
Enter the present day with a new album and concept. Beauty and the Breakdown is also a step in a different direction for BYD. Gone are most of the really fun vocals/lyrics, insanely fun dance parts and, most disheartening, insane spastic drumming from Mark Castillo. This new direction is a more straightforward metalcore approach. While not entirely in the category of Unearth or As I Lay Dying, it is most definitely a step in that direction. Most of the songs are stripped-down chug-fests with simple drumming. There are also a few attempts at melodic guitar work that sound like it could easily have clean vocals on top ("Let Down Your Hair," for instance). It just doesnt fit the songs as well as "Magnolia" worked on the previous album. This new approach hurts the album. BYD's heaviness has always came from the spastic drumming and dance parts and without them the album lacks.
The production has also taken a step back, understandably since many complained about the previous effort, and even I'll admit the guitars sounded (only slightly) goofy or off-kilter. Instead of the beefed up production, the band has decided to add little electronic parts here and there throughout. Again, this is not BYD. It sounds out of place to me. It sounds like they are trying to make music that isn't natural for the band.
It isn't all bad though, thus the decent rating. I still enjoy it if I don't compare it to their other records. It's definitely brutal and I do enjoy turning it up until my ears ring. Many of the songs have a lot of energy, like "House of Straw" and "Twelfth Stroke of Midnight" -- it's just not the same energy I'm used to from the band. It's more guitar-driven energy. It's also refreshing to listen to "Trail of Crumbs," which sounds like it would fit right at home on Cover Your Tracks.
All in all, if you haven't liked the band in the past, you still probably won't like them. If you don't understand the genre, you probably won't like this. BYD has never been about writing technical songs. They aren't about writing pieces of art. Nor are they about writing poetic pieces. This is music that's supposed to turned up to loud volumes and make you want to dance and break stuff. Period. If that isn't your cup of tea, this record won't change your mind. If it is, pick it up and enjoy. Just don't spend too much time comparing it to the band's other work.