The working title of this album was Litany, hinting that the song "Litany" recorded during the Lifeblood sessions was originally intended for inclusion. The track, however, only featured as a B-side to the "Empty Souls" CD single.
Lifeblood was recorded at studios in New York, Wales and Ireland by Tony Visconti, Tom Elmhirst and frequent collaborator Greg Haver. Two tracks recorded during the Lifeblood recording sessions ("Antarctic" and "The Soulmates") remain only on the Japanese version of the album.
The album includes a song about Emily Pankhurst ("Emily"), a leader in the British woman's suffrage movement, but otherwise, the band's earlier political lyrics have been replaced by personal reflection, such as on the band's past ("1985") and former member Richey Edwards ("Cardiff Afterlife"). The album is also a departure musically, replacing the band's traditional guitar walls with more subtle and melodic playing, emphasis instead being given to keyboards and synthesizers. This results in a softer sound, something Nicky Wire described as "elegiac pop" throughout the recording process.