The first ten plus listens, my chin was getting a lot of scratching. I let it. There have been HWM albums that take some time to gear into. Many of those have turned out to be my favorites. The biggest leaps to this from “No Division”? No immediate “us against them” anthems. Less screaming and gruff yelps. Fewer change-off vocal volleys between Chuck and Chris. The lyrics are getting less site specific (say, like Gorilla Biscuits) and more open to interpretation (like Fugazi, but a little more focused. For example: “oh, but fucker, yeah, you’ll get yours”). Then it took me by surprise. I was humming the line, “who are we but savages hooked on accessories” out from nowhere. I found the instrument melody to “A Clear Line” strung through my head when I was taking a shower, rinsing me along with my soap. I began to enjoy what I suspect was evidence of a larger recording budget. All the little cycling sound effects. The bell sounds. The embedded voice tracks. I heard the texture they added to the songs instead of being annoyed that I wasn’t getting exactly what I was expecting; which was HWM’s past. Fifty listens in, “A Flight and a Crash” doesn’t only stand with my favorite HWM albums, it quite possibly stands at a larger musical crossroads. They’ve stretched the fire of hardcore into the smoldering embers of emotion and didn’t puss or art or tinker themselves out. They didn’t give me what I wanted, necessarily. They gave me what I needed. Which is the album they needed to make, not the one I expected to hear. Excellent.