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Conquering Metalcore | Posted October-12-2023
What You Need To Know

Dominion is War of Ages' 10th studio record and was released in partnership with Facedown Records like most of their music to date. They are a long-time staple in the Christian metal scene and continue to craft excellent Christ-centered metal. Dominion is a concept album, one of the firsts for the band to create - focusing on themes found in Revelation.

 

What It Sounds Like

War of Ages continues to center their music on a perfect balance of hardcore influenced metal music, leaning more into the hardcore style than metal, usually. From crushing breakdowns, energizing guitar solos, and soaring vocals, this record has all the foundations of a great metalcore record and hits all the right notes. Every fan of modern metalcore will find a song to love here.

 

Spiritual Highlights

One of my favorite aspects about War of Ages is their relentless passion for the Gospel. All their records are filled to the brim with mature and unabashed influence from the Bible. Some songs are more focused on relational struggles or mental battles, but you will never leave a record with hearing praise to God. Dominion is no different even focusing on judgement and damnation from the book of Revelation - which makes for a much more adamant songwriting perspective.

 

Best Song

Dominion is easily one of the best records in the War of Ages discography. From the soaring, gang vocals in the songs' choruses, to the blistering screams and growls, and all the filthy instrumentation. I think one of the best songs to exemplify the album's themes, showcase the band's incredible musicianship, and hit hard with the vocal style is "War."



As expected, it highlights the war that comes with Jesus' return, but with a somber proclamation that "there is nowhere to hide/no place to hide from truth" and praising His power with "war is His banner of conquest/destroying all who stand in His way!"

 

For Fans Of

Demon Hunter, Phinehas, Convictions

 

Bottom Line

Dominion is proof that bands can continually grow and evolve over time while they still create music that is fresh and invigorating. There are few bands that are as bold in their faith as War of Ages and can still make the songs sound mature and relatable. The praise found in the songs' lyrics easily encourage Christians and hopefully can turn the hearts of unbelievers with the unmatched talent found in the band members. In memory of their late drummer Kaleb Luebchow, this record will be a testament to his legacy and musicianship. After 10 albums and 20 years, War of Ages is still one of the best metalcore bands on the scene today.

 




 

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Rated Highly | Posted September-28-2023
What You Need To Know:

Rated R is a bit of a tongue-in-cheek name for RED. They are not bringing explicit lyrics or suggestive material with this release, rather, in their own words, it's the most unique and self-identifying music they've ever been able to make. This is the second record they've made off of a record label and the first that is fully created in-house.

 

What It Sounds Like:

Rated R features the most polished mix that I have heard from RED. From the first note and vocal run, you can tell this sounds different, in an effective way. Vocal styles range on this record more than others, too. The core of what identifies RED in a sea of hard rock still remains, though. As usual with RED, some songs are heavier with more screaming and lower tunings, while others lean into the melodic elements they masterfully weave.

 

Melodic songs like "Your Devil is a Ghost" remind me of songs like "Shadow and Soul" or "Already Over." Then you have the more straightforward hard rock songs that RED will always be known for, like "Minus It All" and "Cold World." There is something for fans of RED, new, and old, here. Unlike the original previous record, Declaration, there is a stripped-back ballad, "Tell Me How To Goodbye."

 

Spiritual Highlights:

RED has always written their songs from the relatable struggles of life that they maturely write about, but do not shy away from encouraging listeners with the underlying themes of faith and hope. They are not often the kind of songwriters that make their faith well-known on the surface of the songwriting, and Rated R is no exception.

 

The stories and themes of Rated R surround personal, internal battles, including feelings of apathy, loneliness, and surrender. Songs like "Last Forever" speak of this surrender with "I'm Calling Out Your Name" in the chorus, followed by "Emergency" calling out "I'm in my head again/without you I have nothing left/stay with me/rescue me!"

 

Best Song:

Even with a very enjoyable and tight collection of ten songs, some stand out more than others. The opening song, "Surrogates," sees the band trying a more experimental musical and vocal approach, which is fun. "Tell Me How To Say Goodbye" is a standout as the softest, most melodic song on the record, though isn't entirely as laid back as older ballads of theirs. But I love "Emergency." This closing track is climatic, and hopeful, and demonstrates the great musical expertise that we know RED is capable of.

 

For Fans Of:

Demon Hunter, Thousand Foot Krutch, Breaking Benjamin

 

Bottom Line:

RED's newest chapter in their independent musical journey is an immediate hallmark in their nearly 20 years as a band. But, a couple of the songs will blend right into their discography, which isn't entirely bad, but they don't stand out much. Rated R exemplifies RED as their best, a mix of soaring melodies, intense rock music, and mature lyrics that will meet you where you're at.

 




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Deeper Waters: Drowning in Excellence | Posted August-08-2023
What You Need To Know

 

Cliffside, an independent metalcore band from Vancouver, Canada, released their debut Wilderness EP in 2019 to positive critical reception. After writing during the pandemic and refining their sound, Cliffside released their first full-length record, Deeper Waters.

 

What It Sounds Like

 

In their first release, Cliffside has demonstrated incredible mastery over progressive metalcore and now Deeper Waters. Undeniably, they have made improvements in every aspect since the Wilderness EP. The result is a metalcore record full of intense breakdowns, commanding vocals, and tasteful riffs around every corner. Some of the current metalcore giants, such as Erra and Polaris, heavily influence the sound. Whether the influence is positive or generic, I love their mature take on the modern metalcore sound.

 

Spiritual Highlights

 

The band writes about various subjects, such as fatherless upbringing, substance addiction, and apathy. But the best part about listening to Deeper Waters is that you can hear the compassionate voice of faith and hope despite life's spiritual and physical struggles.

 

The title, Deeper Waters, has a double meaning. It can refer to the times we get pulled into the deeper mess of life's burdens and troubles, but it also offers the encouragement of grace. Grace can also be a deeper water that we dive into when we are hurt. The deeper we go, the more uncomfortable we can be, even if it's exactly what we need. Every song builds on these concepts, resulting in a mature, relatable, and encouraging record with hope and faith throughout.

 

Best Song

 

The whole record is a homerun with no filler songs. Most songs follow a formula similar to modern metalcore, with a catchy, bouncy chorus, lots of guitar riffage between verses, and heavy breakdowns. One of my favorites is "Greyscale," a prime example of their musical ex. Lead guitarist Joel Issler proves to be one of the best guitarists in the modern metal scene, with his chops on display here. The drums command your attention, while lead vocalist Taylor Thomas' vocals are undeniably as powerful and developed as many vocalists who've been doing this for years. The message of falling into apathy but pushing on for recovery is very relatable, too.

 

For Fans Of

 

Bloodlines, Wolves At The Gate, Then It Ends

 

Bottom Line

 

Deeper Waters is the ultimate expression of what a debut record should be - full of creativity, musical excellence, and expressive, mature songwriting. I know bands who have been making metal for 20 years who don't create music this great. Cliffside does a great job of writing about several relatable themes but keeping a coherent message of hope despite addiction, loneliness, and abandonment.



The only complaint I have is that there are some cliché lines of lyrics, and sonically, it would blend into a similar band's sounds if you weren't paying attention due to the apparent inspirations. But if four years is what it takes to get another record of this magnitude, I'm more than willing to wait. But let's hope there's less of a wait next time for new music from Cliffside.

 




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Cultist: A Future Cult Classic | Posted July-25-2023
What You Need To Know



Cultist, a Christian deathcore band, released their second full-length record, Slow Suicide, under Facedown Records. Cultist is one of the heaviest bands on the roster, with several singles preceding the band's exciting album. Something more special about Cultist is that it has been a one-person project primarily led by musician Jon Davenport.



What It Sounds Like



Slow Suicide is an aggressive, non-stop, heavy musical journey through faith and life. Every song in the album's 27 minutes is full of mosh-pit fuel and deathcore excellence--or, as they dub themselves, "Spirit-filled beatdown." The brooding, distorted music lends itself to the crushing vocals that vocalist Jon Davenport puts down.



Spiritual Highlights



You can find plenty of spiritual depth and maturity in Jon's songwriting. He did an excellent job writing about spiritual struggles, mental health, and life's hardships while having a biblical foundation to depend on. The self-titled track opens with a focus on suicidal struggles. "Preacher III" condemns Christian leaders who are wolves in sheep's clothing, a common topic in Christian metal. "Memento Mori" is a despondent view of end times, recognizing that "Heaven is when there is no more death."



"Hell of My Design" tackles a daily struggle with faith, echoing the Apostle Paul's struggles with "I've lost count/how many times did I pray/only to wind up in this same place." The next song continues this with a feeling of guilt, "I Fear Your Silence" is about worrying about what a seemingly distant Father would say when we return to prayer.



"Suffering by my Own Hand" acknowledges that our struggles are often our own and prays, "Father, I'm sorry/Lord, I Repent." The lead single, "Let Me Feel Everything," is a call for help, for a sympathetic heart. And the closing track, "Last Breath of a Dying God," is a beautiful surrender with the closing lyric of "Take me when there's nothing left."




Best Song



Each song on Slow Suicide is on full-throttle-beatdown at its finest. The standout song, "Let Me Feel Everything," takes on an outstanding balance of songwriting, highlighting the mental and spiritual struggles while calling for help. Musically, the song is brutal, and the lyrics are raw. The vocals are satisfyingly heavy and are well-enunciated, especially in the song's chorus. If you want an idea of how heavy Cultist can get, listen to this song.



For Fans Of

    

Impending Doom, Earth Groans



Bottom Line



Cultist's Slow Suicide puts their excellence in beatdown metal on full display. Although Cultist may not introduce any groundbreaking elements to the genre, it certainly delivers a powerful experience to your ears. The music has some variety, though, such as an extra double kick, rhythm changes mid-song, and an incredibly haunting atmosphere.



Slow Suicide only falls short in sticking to its guns, which isn't even wrong. I'm excited to see where Facedown Records and Cultist will go with this impressive debut to launch forward.


 



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Skeleton Psalms - Full of Musical Expertise | Posted April-26-2023
What You Need To Know

What can I tell you about Disciple that would do the Christian rock legends justice? The Tennessee-founded, southern, hard rock band has been releasing Christ-centered music since 1993 with two indie cassette-only records until they started working with the great producer Travis Wyrick. Currently, they are able to produce music in house with lead guitarist Josiah Prince's own skills and studio (The Ranch). They are partnered with Tooth and Nail Records for distribution. Skeleton Psalms is the band's thirteenth studio record releasing April 28, 2023.



What It Sounds Like

The albums opens with "The Executioner" which offer a great example of what to expect from Skeleton Psalms. The record offers some of the best production I've heard from them since the band started producing in-house/independently. The arrangement of the songs and music styles offers fresh, yet familiar, hard rock that Disciple excels at.



Additionally, the music and vocal style is reminiscent of older Disciple records, such as Horseshoes & Handgrenades and new music like Long Live The Rebels, even a song or two harkening This Might Sting A Little style. Overall, it is a great blend of aggressive music, soaring vocals, and catchy choruses that we've grown to love with Disciple.



Spiritual Highlights

There has been no shortage of spiritual depth and messages to Disciple's music over the years, and that continues to be the truth here. Each song has lyrics that directly reflect some biblical Scriptures (which you can find in our lyrics section for the record). Kevin Young's poignant and in-your-face songwriting continues to create vibrant imagery and foundational truths in every song.



Whether it's comforting messages from the perspective of God to His children or bold proclamations of faith in Christ, this record is full of the songwriting that Disciple utilizes to deliver the Gospel messages.



Best Song

One of the standout tracks to me is "Scapegoat," and I can't wait for you to listen to it. This song has the grit of an old Disciple song, almost as if pulled from This Might Sting A Little, and blends into their modern rock age. There are musical quirks and the vivacious, fast-paced vocals make it a more unique song on the record. Plus, Disciple often shines best when the striking, heavy songs have a fitting lyrical theme--and one that spits on the devil's reputation is definitely welcome.



For Fans Of

Skillet, Seventh Day Slumber, American Arson



Bottom Line

There is always anticipation to listen to a new release from a band that has been around for a long time like Disciple. The small differences in their self-produced records versus studio records are easy to miss, but they add up. Don't miss this one; Skeleton Psalms is easily one of the best in their thirteen record-spanning discography.



There are songs like "Bad Words," "Scapegoat," and "Bow Down" that bring an old-school flair to their modern hard rock style, meanwhile songs like "Promise to Live" and "For the Life of Me" bring the tear-jerking ballads that they can craft well. My critique would be on the choir-like openings to the first two songs that feel out of place compared to the rest of the record. Any fan of hard rock, especially Christian fans looking for empowerment in their faith, should not miss this great rock album.


 



 

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OMNI Pt. 1 - A Great Farewell in the Making | Posted April-03-2023
What You Need To Know

Project 86 is releasing their final music in the form of a crowd-funded, 2-part album titled OMNI. The first of the two full-length records is out now, OMNI, Pt.1. It is one of the heaviest and most conceptually driven albums in their history. The final chapter of Project 86 has begun.



What It Sounds Like

Andrew Schwab, the lead singer, explains in an interview with As The Story Grows that a nodule in his throat began growing around the Truthless Heroes record (2002). During the pandemic, he finally sought out a throat specialist and discovered no nodule. With the relief, he pursued new vocal styles. The result is incredible: the best and most natural sounding heavy vocals from Schwab.



Additionally, the musicianship is tight and as pounding as it's always been, but the signature post-hardcore influence is nearly gone, with metalcore taking over. The new style features chuggy guitars, new vocal styles, and double-bass at times. It's not relentless, though, as there are some transition tracks which are less songs and more of concept album supplements. Overall, it sounds apocalyptic, as the concept is meant to be.




Spiritual Highlights

Andrew Schwab has talked about his faith in the past, and it always finds a way into his music. On OMNI, the themes are of a dystopian future, in an old-school way, much like you'd find in classic sci-fi films. This includes 2 main perspectives, the "OMNI" corporation and the other from the people oppressed by it.



Because of this design, there is not many biblical lessons or references to draw from, especially in direct quotation or implication. However, I found myself often comparing the viewpoints of the oppressed as that of humanity under the dominant curse of sin and death.




Best Song

The new stylistic changes and metalcore influences make it more difficult to decide which songs are best, when they all sound so different than what we've grown to be familiar with from Project 86. There is the singular ballad, "Tartarus Kiss" that offers the melodic side we love from the band. Being conceptual, the band has a fantastic closing song, "Tears in Reign," that serves as a climatic ending and closes a unique listening experience from front to back. The lead single, "Metatropolis" is great on its own, however, too.



For Fans Of

Disciple, Spoken, Norma Jean



Bottom Line

OMNI will be the most unique and metalcore-influenced record of Project 86's career. This double record will go down in heavy music scene history as one off the best final albums for a band. It is a difficult task to create something different yet familiar that will intrigue and impress fans, and Project 86 have nailed it. I thought there were a few too many transitional tracks, one or two would have been fitting. But in the scope of 2 records in OMNI, they will likely earn their place. Fans of hard rock or metal will not want to miss either parts of OMNI.

 



 

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First Things First: First of Many To Come | Posted March-21-2023
What You Need To Know



Rock band Consumed By Fire are rising stars in the Christian music scene. They've released music since 2015 with hits like "Lean On Me" and "I Need You, God." Most notably, recently, their breakthrough song, "First Things First," plants them firmly in the radios of Christian households. Their newest EP, First Things First, named after that lead single, includes more passionate rock songs.



What It Sounds Like



The band opens with a more rock-centered song, their second single, "Goodbye Ole Me," which features a more energetic musical style while retaining their commitment to holy truths. The rest of the record follows the lead single, "First Things First," in musical approach. Their music has a strong percussion element, similar to bands like NEEDTOBREATHE and Ashes Remain. The group's
consistent musical style complements their spiritual message perfectly, resulting in a cohesive and impactful listening experience. Fans of modern Christian contemporary music will enjoy this EP.



Spiritual Highlights



The lead single, "First Things First," is an exemplary track to show the band's focus on scriptural truths and relative songwriting. The opening song, "Goodbye Ole Me," echoes 2 Corinthians 5, as new creations in Christ.
"Hope Says" is another standout track, featuring a more contemporary sound that encourages listeners to persevere through life's challenges by placing their hope in Christ, as described in Romans 15:13. Consumed By Fire ensures that their music is rooted in biblical foundations and is sure to resonate with many believers.



Best Song




"First Things First" played a crucial role in establishing the band's reputation in the music scene; without it, they may not have received the warm welcome they deserved upon the release of their EP. It's the best song on the EP, too. The soft songwriting approach to life's struggles while harmonizing with slowly captivating music makes for an encouraging and beautiful song. It's an EP highlight, without a doubt.



For Fans Of

    

Needtobreathe, Ashes Remain, Collington



Final Word



Consumed By Fire delivers an EP that reaches out to those needing encouragement in their faith. The songs within remind us to focus on Jesus, endure with hope, and continue to place faith in God to get us through life. The opening track needs to be more accurate in musical expectancies, as the rest of the EP is less energetic and more consistent in its own style. But the piano rendition of "First Things First" is a beautiful and intimate closing track, ending on a good note. Christian music fans have a new and relatable EP to encourage them throughout the year.


 



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World gone Cold Debut Review | Posted March-01-2023
What You Need To Know:



It's not often that a supergroup forms in the Christian-based music community, let alone one composed of rock or metal musicians. World Gone Cold is just that, though. With a partnership with Rockfest Records, the band formed with members from P.O.D., The Letter Black, Demon Hunter, Disciple, and Inhale/Exhale. This is their debut, self-titled EP.



What It Sounds Like:



This self-titled EP takes the strengths from its members and forms a cohesive and well-mixed hard rock/metal sound. Blending elements from hard rock and metalcore genre, the result is a very enjoyable sound that does not remain stagnant. The bridges are the heaviest parts, with aggressive vocals and nasty breakdowns. The choruses showoff the vocalist Ryland Raus' range well - catchy melodies and powerful screams passionately on display.



Spiritual Highlights:



The lead single, "Opposites Attract" gives the listeners an accurate expectation of what the rest of the EP is about. The main focus here is on relationships in our lives. Each songs explores a different situation or perspective on a struggling relationship around or in us. Some of it is written introspectively, but most of it on the topic.



The songwriting is honest and mature, which is always welcome, nothing sounds cliché or forced, and as a result it is very relatable. However, in terms of spiritual depth, there is little. The EP overall sounds like a band on Fearless or Rise Records, which is not a bad thing. But in comparison to other, fellow Rockfest Records artists, the spiritual content seems lacking. There was little to have me consider my spiritual relationship with God or explore questions of my faith.




Best Song:



Besides the exemplary lead single, "Opposites Attract," I really enjoyed "Left To Save." It leaned more heavily into the metal side of the project with grittier vocals matched with noteworthy pounding drums from Yogi Watts. The bone-chilling chorus hit home the most, reaching out with "tell me I can walk away/from all this pain and misery/there's something I can say."  



Spiritual Highlights:



Demon Hunter, Beartooth, Fit For A King



Bottom Line:



World Gone Cold's debut is a record that many listeners will find solace in with regards to their relationship struggles in life. There is evident synergy with every member involved in this supergroup and the result is an explosive debut that is sure to get the attention of the metal music scene. Given their home at Rockfest Records and most members' Christian band's roots, I was hoping for some deeper songwriting that touched on our spiritual journey. The result in undeniable talent and enjoyable heavy music that will find its place in many playlists this year.

 



 

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Holyname - Holy Drone Violent Worship | Posted January-21-2023
What You Need To Know:



Holyname is a band formed through and debuting with Facedown Records. They formed in 2021, comprised primarily of Tommy Green (formerly of Christian metal icon Sleeping Giant) and his friend Joe Holt. After several singles, this is the band's self-titled, debut album and it features a handful of guest vocalists, familiar to fans of Christian metal.



What It Sounds Like:



The band described their music as "holy drone violent worship." Essentially, that is accurate when you understand it and hear the music. "Holy" music is definitely the first and foremost important aspect; a strong focus on Christian faith is evident. The descriptor of "drone" is of the structure of the songs. Often, the songs repeat their truths, much like the style of old hymns.



"Violent" is used as one of many words used to describe the music of hard rock or metal music. There are screams, growls, breakdowns, and all you'd expect from great metal music. And it is "worship" at its core - lyrics wrote like prayers to God and about His people.



Spiritual Highlights:



Tommy Green originally wrote the song "Meet Me Somewhere Quiet" and covered his brother-in-law's song "Fall On Your Knees" to kickstart the project during the 2020-2021 lockdown period. But this was more than just a fun project. Tommy has been going through a difficult time of trials and questions about his charismatic Christian faith. The depth, imagery, and songwriting of this album are reflections on his newfound love and following of the Eastern Orthodox Christian faith.



Each song is vivid in spiritual imagery, even though some of it may be lost on the average, modern Christian denomination follower, as they are based in Orthodoxy. But regardless, his grief and broken-heartedness allowed him to write songs that redirect our focus from struggles and pain to hope and love for God. Combined with his past in the music world, and this revitalized passion, the record produces an intense, theological focus on God while creating unique, memorable music.



Best Song:



The song that best encapsulates everything this record is about would be "Fall on Your Knees." For starters, it features one of the strongest guest vocalist spots with Brook Reeves from Impending Doom closing the song out powerfully. Then, the songwriting is drone-like worship at its finest, immersing the listener into the song and lyrics. And it truly feels like you are singing along to a heavy hymnal of adoration to the Lord. There's not a dull moment in the 8 minutes and it is a prime example of heavy worship.



For Fans Of:



Demon Hunter, My Epic, Mothaltar



Bottom Line:



Facedown Records has had its fair share of unique bands, some of them exclusively forming in or through the label, but nothing quite like Holyname. Even though they remind me of other Facedown bands like My Epic or Everything In Slow Motion, they still stand alone.



I would have loved more songs like "Fall On Your Knees" or "My Way" as the project seems to excel at the longer, droning style of their music. Some of the shorter songs feel rushed and the guest vocals often steal the spotlight. I highly encourage any Christians who are struggling in their faith and have questions to wrestle with the content found within these songs - you will be encouraged. Holyname is a peculiar, yet exceptional band that delivers timeless, reflective truths for all its listeners. Holyname is an instant classic in Facedown Records history and will be a hallmark for future releases.


 



 

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Then It Ends: Chasm Review | Posted January-10-2023
What You Need To Know



Then It Ends is a Christian-based metal band partially made of members from the former bands A Past Unknown and Dividing The Masses. They released their debut album, Restored, in 2020. A year later, they released their first EP, Solace. The band recently released their second EP, Chasm. It's their first release to include guest vocals.



What It Sounds Like



Chasm follows the sound that Then It Ends continues to masterfully craft. Their style of metalcore is memorable and rightfully has seen their fanbase explode in the last two years. Crushing metalcore elements are on display, such as killer breakdowns, brutal vocals, and aggressive music. These four songs range in their mix of melodic, catchy choruses, and hardcore verses.



Spiritual Highlights



Then It Ends has made it clear from their debut that biblical truths are the foundation for their music. With Chasm, it appears that the band has shifted its focus to explore themes of mental health and similar struggles, while still maintaining a positive and hopeful message.



The EP, Chasm, opens with the title track, which deals with the theme of abandonment and betrayal, and encourages the listener not to follow in the footsteps of those who have hurt them. The song "Anxiety" delves into the topic of anxiety, which serves as a powerful reminder of the trials and struggles people go through on this topic. My favorite line is "I have hope/I have all I need/to not be stuck in the mindset of misery."



"Bitter" is the softest song on the EP "Chasm," but it still maintains the band's heavy metalcore sound. The song deals with the theme of recovering empathy and gaining new perspectives after a period of bitterness and pain. Its vulnerability is sure to resonate with many listeners and adds a dimension to the band's EP that can be appreciated by all type of listeners. The last single on the EP is "Lifeless" which concludes the EP with a similar theme to the opening track "Chasm," showcasing a full-circle story of struggles, healing and hope. This song is a confrontation of abuse or addiction with the sobering end "I want change/but I don't want to change."



Best Song



Then It Ends is known for its strong melodic elements and "Bitter" is an excellent example of this aspect of the band's music. Each song on the EP showcases the band's powerful songwriting abilities, exploring universal struggles and emotions in a way that is relatable and mature. The emotional depth of "Bitter" is particularly striking and highlights the band's honesty in their music. This song will be a standout in my playlists and I am sure it will be in many metalcore fans' playlists.



For Fans Of



August Burns Red, Convictions, Bloodlines



Bottom Line



The band's strategy of releasing singles that create an EP is a clever approach for the current streaming market, as it allows them to consistently release new music that is easily accessible to listeners. The music is positive, relatable, and founded on biblical themes, and the band's faith is an important aspect of their work. While the band's debut record had more direct references to their faith, their recent work still conveys a sense of hope and positivity. Then It Ends is a highly respected and watched metalcore band with a promising future.

 



 

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