Everybody always associates contemporary Christian singer/songwriter Ray Boltz with his gentle church worship standards, "Thank You" and "I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb," but another facet of the hitmaker's career people are just realizing is his record label ownership. It was only two years ago that Boltz switched his artist hat to that of an A&R man, combing the country for a diverse line-up of acts he thought would best impact the church's many musical tastes.
When it came to having an alternative rock and roll sound, the group GS Megaphone hit his radar screen thanks to its aggressive power and brute melodic strength, along with drummer Randy Shreve's ability to write spiritually minded declarations of truth. The group's debut recording, Out of My Mind, may not have caught on fire as much as Boltz would have hoped, but three Dove nominations and a fair amount of critical acceptance (championed in particular by HM Magazine) showed his investment had indeed paid off to a certain degree, leaving enough interest for GS Megaphone to create a second record.
Titled Beautiful World, take two builds upon the stylistic and lyrical compositions of its predecessor, incorporating Eastern ethnicity (circa the Jimmy Page/Robert Plant Unledded era) into its heavy melodic base and turns the themes toward finding Christ's love amidst the turmoil filled world in which we live. Take, for instance, the nail-driving acoustic/electric blend of the title cut that, according to Shreve, "reminds us that in the midst of all the pain, fear, terror, and turmoil in the world, sometimes we just need to step back and enjoy this beautiful place God has blessed us with." The message comes across loud and clear, though the song's distracting qualities include an overly noisy mix and raw instrumental tendencies that could easily be mistaken for an independent band rather than a nationally signed and distributed act.
Such red flags resurface on the follow-up low-quality cut, "The Enemy in Me," which again sounds independent in its performance and production, unfortunately detracting from its message of a father seeking out the best for his family. "Your Song" sounds more like an unpolished leftover from Soundgarden's early days in the Seattle scene rather than a polished cut worthy of this album.
Even more disappointing is the muddled metal rocker, "Comeback," where GS Megaphone sounds like a poorly rehearsed Metallica and Led Zeppelin combination cover band at best, making it nearly impossible to focus on the song's redemption theme. Occasionally off pitched harmonizing on the acoustic "Personal Renaissance" is also far from becoming for the band, as it further stunts members' ability to address renewal and rebirth.
The two most palatable songs on the record are its Egyptian influenced finale of praise, "Sing Until the Song Sings You," and slithering monster rocker, "Venom," which for the first time showcase a certain degree of originality and the deeper skillfulness of the band. These two cuts also show Shreve's writing at its strongest, touching on Christ's tendency to break us in order to make us stronger throughout the first while dealing with spiritual warfare on the second. Several lines within "Venom" are brutally honest and vulnerable in their address of Satan's many stumbling blocks: "Your poison was effective I must admit/I was afraid to love, I was afraid to hate/I was afraid to fail, I was afraid to win."
What GS Megaphone lacks in musical sharpness, they at least partially make up for with songwriting craftsmanship that will most likely cause listeners to think about their own spiritual state. If the guys can hone their musical chops to sound slightly tighter and not bask in the irrelevant grunge/metal blend of the past, then they can quite possibly build up their own reputation and the credibility of Spindust Records simultaneously. In the meantime, if you're looking for a hardy alternative rock-based project with value all across the board, consider checking out the brand new re-issue of Pillar's Fireproof, or the recently released Justifide album, The Beauty of the Unknown.
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