I have enjoyed every Assemblage 23 album, but I have not enjoyed them equally. While I found Storm and Meta to both be very good albums, I found that when I wanted to listen to A23, I usually reached for Defiance, and to a lesser degree Failure and Contempt, first. I expected my reaction would be much the same with this album.
I was pleasantly surprised, however. While it is undeniably the Assemblage 23 I know and love, I feel like there's some real growth here. Tom extends his vocal range here quite a bit, which differentiates the songs nicely. The lyrics combine the introspection of most of his previous work, but with a few more songs pointed at the external world (in the vein of Madman's Dream on Meta).
The music also sounds different, but I can't really put my finger on how, exactly. All the pieces of each song seem to fit together more cleanly, and convey a bit more feeling than previous efforts. And while the overall sound seems a little brighter, it never crosses the line into poppy, and doesn't clash with or overpower the lyrics. In general, the whole effort just feels more mature and well crafted than previous albums.
My biggest complaint with electronic music as a whole is that it can at times tend to feel flat and lifeless. A23 as a whole, and most specifically with Compass, completely overcomes these problems, injecting some real feeling into the proceedings.
All in all, I suppose the biggest indication of success in an album is how much one listens to it, and I have been unable to stop myself from listening to this album repeatedly, which is pretty much the highest praise I can give. I honestly think it has displaced Defiance as my favorite. Definitely highly recommended!