Deciphering the Scarecrows
Posted July 19, 2013
By MaryNikkel_NRT, Staff Reviewer
Scarecrow has been a slow-building storm for Decyfer Down. After weathering the transition from original frontman Caleb Oliver to TJ Harris during production of 2009's Crash, fans settled in to wait on an uncertain future release. After four years, the band is delivering the long-promised follow up with the August release Scarecrow.
From opening track "Memory," it's clear that this album is going to carry a level of grunge and twang in the guitar tone not heard on previous Decyfer Down releases. This may be largely due to the fact that this album is the first that is truly in the hands of TJ Harris, and he directs it more towards a scorching, distorted grit than towards the smooth dark-edged sound of Crash. "Westboro" establishes that the band isn't afraid to talk about what's getting under their skin, as the song denounces the hate-filled behavior of an infamous church. The lyrics equate the church's behavior to building a hell on earth rather than the kingdom of Heaven.
"My Worst Enemy" paces itself a little more evenly than the first two tracks, giving itself more musical breathing room as it explores the theme of spiritual self-destruction. "Say Hello" features heavily distorted riffs by guitarists Brandon Mills and Chris Clonts alongside some of the stronger songwriting on the album, wrestling with trying to let go of a harmful past relationship. "Say hello, cruel irony," the song mourns with a lingering, regretful melody.
"Bleeding Lies" is one of the slower selections. This is another song of introspection, the singer recognizing that he has become exactly the man he shouldn't be while inviting truth to perform its healing surgery. This song utilizes the upper stretch of Harris's range well, stretching the melody upwards in an anguished plea. Rock single "Fight to Win" follows, grinding out a riff to support an anthem for when right and wrong go head to head.
Title track "Scarecrow" is perhaps the strongest offering, using the image of a hollowed out, rotting scarecrow to mirror the empty judgment and scornful pride of leaders abusing their power. The scathing chorus spits the words "scarecrow, save yourself! / Hollow soul, I don't need your help."
"The River" deviates from the status quo. From the first verse's sliding dual guitar bed it's clear that this is more country-influenced than the rest of the album, drawing both musically and thematically from some classic folk and southern spiritual themes. "Take me down to the river / wash the dirt from my hands. / I've been traveling so long in this foreign land," the song prays.
"Some Things Never Change" is the song of a prodigal, outlining the path of a heart always wandering from God's will yet always being drawn back by God's grace. The album's Christian rock single "So In Love" closes out the collection. Given that this is by far the most accessible track on the album it's a good choice for a single, straying at times into territory close to worship as it earnestly declares the beautiful need to find our identity in Christ and His love alone.
After Decyfer Down's long silence, it's good to hear new material from the rock outfit. This album shows lead singer TJ Harris truly taking the band's direction into his hands, owning a sound that has progressed from but still ties into the original sound of 2006's End of Gray. Although the pacing is at times rushed and the songwriting is a little hit or miss, the hit moments certainly drive home. Thematically, the album boldly strikes a balance between calling out the prideful while also recognizing a personal need for grace, backing it up with aggressive guitar grit and striking melodies.
Song to Download Now:
"Fight to Win" (Get it on iTunes here
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