The pre-release hoopla surrounding Revelation, Third Day's eighth studio album, was eerily reminiscent of the hype behind 2004's Wire, the band's would-be crossover breakthrough. A breathless Billboard cover story even reported Revelation had all the makings of a disc poised for the big leagues, seemingly unaware that a similar machine pushed Wire to be a general market success four years earlier, to little avail. That album did go gold and cemented the foursome further in Christian circles, but a crossover it wasn't — indeed, it was the same old Third Day, except rockier and with lyrics that were not as overtly spiritual. The particulars of Revelation are awfully similar. Produced by modern rock guru Howard Benson, recorded in Los Angeles, and boasting guests that would make the mainstream press stand at attention — among them, Flyleaf's Lacey Mosley, American Idol's Chris Daughtry, and pedal steel maestro Robert Randolph — Revelation finds Third Day trying new things, but not to the extent that they sound like a different band. If anything, it seems like the change of setting and the added star power intimidated them for the better, inciting them to not settle for the middle of the road or the pat-answer anthems that dogged them post-Offerings — the turning point where the band went from a Southern rock powerhouse to an adult contemporary one. It's like the Atlanta natives are back to their good old selves, rocking out not because they're trying to appease corporate rock types, but because they've once again reconnected with the conviction and assurance that was prevalent in their first few albums — even their faith is worn more proudly on their sleeves as a result. It's a muscular, anthemic sound — unquestionably populist, yet the closest Third Day has come to replicating the Southern-fried goodness of Time, their master opus and one of the best Christian rock full-lengths of the '90s. Believe the hype: Revelation is the best album Third Day has released this decade, as well as a long overdue return to the unbridled fervor that characterized them in their early years.