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Disciple have decided to tweak their sound yet again. The question is, was it for the better? Well that depends what you like best about the brand of hard rock they bring to the table. In their self-titled...

Catch for Us the Foxes | Posted August-27-2008
Flashback to roughly one year ago. I was recommended to check out this beautiful, artistic Christian band called mewithoutYou. Alright, sounds interesting. The reviews I had read from a few trusted sites made it sound promising. I check out a track. Music sounds beautiful, guitars and piano are a nice touch and the atmosphere is phenominal. I'm anticipating the vocals because that usually makes it or breaks it for me and when they finally come in... I can't stand it! What is this mess? The guy isn't screaming but he's talking out the lyrics, which are so deep I don't know what they mean! Then the chorus comes in and he switches to yelling... ugh... it must end...

Over the course of the past year I'd wait a few months then give them another try. I'm not sure if it's because I want to like them or the music outside of the vocals sounded so promising. I managed to complete a few tracks but still couldn't handle it. Then came about a month ago when they came up in a conversation and I had forgotten about them. So, sure enough, I decided to give them another try. I braced myself for the vocals and... I could tolerate it now? It still wasn't entirely sticking but hey! I could tolerate it! I found this gem online for a cheap price and anxiously awaited it's arrival. Boy, am I glad I stuck with it because it's one of the most beautiful and original pieces of music I have ever heard.

What's it sound like? Uh, well, that's a bit difficult. Aaron Weiss, the lead vocalist and writer, is the best lyricist and poet of our time. Yeah, there are Christian themes but he oh so cleverly drops the references in amidst real life stories. He's so deep with his ideas it may very well blow your mind... or at least make you cry. The music frequently has heavy guitar riffs, and addictive ones at that, along with phenominal bass lines ('Leaf' and 'Seven Sisters' come to mind) to craft each song. The only downside to those vocals, even if you do grow to like them, is it tends to sound the same across each song even though his pacing is different and the music entirely is. That's just because that vocal style is near impossible to have variety across 12 tracks. Aaron does have a great singing voice that he uses in the somber album closer, 'Son of a Widow'. It perfectly fits the mood of the music. And while this isn't a concept album, it does seem to have a common theme in a few of the songs dealing with the album title and 'foxes in the vinyard'.

If you can get past the vocals you have a very rewarding and challenging experience ahead of you. I finally did to where they don't grate on my nerves and I couldn't be happier. Keep giving them a try and don't give up on them. Hopefully it clicks and it's almost like a whole new world of music is opened to you. It's a beautiful one.

Gems of this album are: 'January 1979', 'Torches Together', 'Leaf', 'Paper Hanger'

Overall - 9.3/10

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Jars of Clay | Posted August-19-2008
This is one impressive way to start a career. Right off the bat it seems like Jars of Clay were hitting on all cylinders. What with the beautiful harmonies, atmospheric music, poignant lyrics, and passionate vocals, it'd be immediately hard to think of them outdoing themselves. Of course, they did later in their career but they started out of the gates running. The touch of female vocals with the slow build up and explosion on 'Worlds Apart' or the eerie children laughter before 'He' shows they were serious about making a quality piece of art and not just selling as many records as they could. Sure, there's a nice flow of pop music here and there that remain stuck in your head long after you've finished listening but just as important is the use of different sorts of instruments and a powerful piano presence as with 'Blind'.

Let's talk about 'Worlds Apart' for a second though. It is, without a doubt, my favorite Jars song and for good reason. It's actually the same reason Jars of Clay are my all-time favorite band. I just connect with them on a personal level that goes beyond the music. As the song builds up to it's ultimate climax my heart pounds and I just feel God's presence. The lyrics are so honest that it smacks me across the face. Let me give an example here:

I look beyond the empty cross
Forgetting what my life has cost
And wipe away the crimson stains
And dull the nails that still remain
More and more I need you now,
I owe you more each passing hour
The battle between grace and pride
I gave up not so long ago
So steal my heart and take the pain
And wash the feet and cleanse my pride
Take the selfish, take the weak,
And all the things I cannot hide
Take the beauty, take my tears
The sin and soaked heart and make it yours
Take my world all apart
Take it now, take it now
And serve the ones that I despise
Speak the words I can't deny
Watch the world I used to love
Fall to dust and thrown away
I look beyond the empty cross

As Dan is singing that he gradually grows louder and the rest of the band becomes more prevelent. I don't expect everyone will connect the same way I do but we all have those songs and albums that just leave us speechless. This is mine.

Overall - 9.8/10

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DecembeRadio | Posted August-19-2008
There are debut albums that blow your mind away and leave you begging for more. Others do everything good enough to get by and show potential for the future. We won't mention the other possibility but this self-titled debut is the second type. DecembeRadio have a classic southern rock vibe about them. They have the powerful riffs, the lead singer with a slight drawl to give it some flair, and the occasional guitar solo to propel the song forward. I think they could've used more guitar solos so long as they used them right in the context of the song as they are lacking here. There's also an arena rock anthem, 'Love Found Me', that would feel right at home on any Lynyrd Skynard disc. The choruses are downright catchy and fun to sing along with to the end. Ok, so we got that. What else do they bring to the table?

Well, they don't bring anything new. They just do what's been done before and put a faith based spin on the lyrics. There's no doubt the lyrics will hit home to many people as they are very honest and forthcoming. Anyone who's experienced hard times at the hand of addictions will relate to either the first song, 'Can't Hide', or 'Drifter'. The latter of which is a powerful song lead by acoustic guitar in which the lead character is looking for a home, or a place of safety, after being on the end of the rope. A lot of different people going through different situations can certainly relate and vocalist, Josh Reedy, is excellent at pouring emotion and passion into every note sung. With a lesser vocalist this band would struggle but thankfully they don't have to worry.

While they may not offer any new twist on the genre, they certainly stand out on their debut album. Thank Josh's vocals and passion for carrying the band to a level beyond generic. That being said, they still have a lot of work to do to make an impact in the industry. At some point they will need to think outside the box to stay relevant but for the time being this is a solid debut release and there's potential for so much more.

Gems of this album are: 'Love Found Me', 'Alright My Friend', 'Drifter'

Overall - 9.0/10

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The Fires of Life | Posted August-14-2008
Wow. Sometimes the simplest of music can be the most powerful. It can also have the most depth without having a thousand instruments going on at once. The lyrics of Cool Hand Luke are a major reason for the depth of what, on the surface, may seem simple. The acoustic guitar is a focus in a good amount of the songs and sets the tone for a very atmospheric and moving album. Radiohead and Tool were definitely influences as well. In 'Rats In the Cellar' you can pick up some Maynard vibes vocally. Make no mistake though, Cool Hand Luke have their own sound and do get in your face after starting songs off slowly. There is just some great build-ups to high climaxes that really work. The pseudo-love song 'Friendly Jas' is a good example of this as it just explodes halfway through.

I really feel I should talk more about the lyrics though. I can't overstate enough how amazing they are and contribute to this being a great album. This is a Christian band and the lyrics reflect as such so I suppose if you can't relate you won't find them amazing like I do. The best example is 'The Zombie Song', a title that seems weird when you look on the back of the CD case but once you listen it all makes sense. Mark compares some people's walk with Christ as if they are the living dead, going through the motions and taking for granted all they have been given. In the aforementioned 'Rats In the Cellar', which they cite a C.S. Lewis work as inspiration, Mark sings of mistakes we try to hide in the dark but ultimately get exposed as they need to be in order for us to move on and overcome. 'Cinematic' is another moving piece that compares our life to a movie on the silver screen. One verse claims: "I want to live in such a way/That when I'm gone my friends would say/That if my life was turned to film/I'd be standing on a mountain shouting victory in the end". At the end there are great thought-provoking questions sung: "What if it ended here?/What if the credits rolled now?/What would the critics say?/Would it be the biggest let down?"

The bottom line is this is a challenging, deep album that is so very rewarding if you take the time to dig a little. It's honest and thought-provoking in all the best ways and made all the more potent with the beautiful composition of the music. Though it's a bit of a softer album and at times that can lose the listener's interest if they aren't paying full attention it can be addictive just because of the vocals and piano melodies. And to those who dig deep enough this may very well be considered an artistic masterpiece as Mark paints a new picture with every song's imagery.

Gems of this album are: 'Rats In the Cellar', 'Cinematic', 'Friendly Jas', 'The Zombie Song'

Overall - 9.4/10

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Twilight | Posted August-06-2008
Future of Forestry is a very interesting band to me. They have elements of secular bands like Radiohead, Jimmy Eat World, and The Shins with some of the electronic beats and the overall atmosphere of this album. Also, the lead singer, Eric, sounds like the singers from Jimmy Eat World or Strata in that it can be very soft at one moment and be belting out some very heartfelt lyrics the next. There's no whining in his voice and it sounds very sincere.

The music in general fits the CD insert where there is a picture of the ocean and four of them on a plateau overlooking. There's definitely a 'spacey' vibe through the album. If you are the type that just feel certain albums are 'winter' albums then you might agree that this is one of them. That doesn't mean it's a depressing album, but that's just the mood the music sets. Songs like 'Twilight' and 'Speak To Me Gently' are perfect examples of this as Eric soothingly sings the verses over keyboard notes that somewhat remind me of The Postal Service. The focus seems to be on the melodies and the textures of the song to create that atmosphere.

The lyrics for the majority of the CD don't come off as being outright Christian until you get to the last two and then the Lord is mentioned as well as Jesus. The rest of the songs you can piece together what they might be singing about but it isn't in your face. They kind of let you draw your own conclusions and be wrapped up in the delivery of the lyrics. If I were to say there were any cons to this album it would be that some of the songs kind of lose me in between choruses. It's great to have a song build up to a powerful chorus but you can't have the build up be too slow to where it drags on. For that reason, my attention was lost for a moment and naturally it picked up when things got going.

All in all a very strong debut effort where the music takes precedent and while doing what they love they sing about what they love. There doesn't seem to be a hard formula for songs and that's refreshing to me. Maybe it's not original in the grand scheme of things but for Christian music it sure is and it could possibly start a new wave of music in that scene. I'd say they have a lot of potential and I really can't wait to see what they come up with next.

Gems of this album are: 'Gazing', 'Twilight', 'All I Want'

Overall - 7.9/10

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If I Left The Zoo | Posted July-31-2008
Jars of Clay have made yet another strong album with their third offering. So far they haven't run into a rut of similar sounding music like most artists do by this point either. They still use a plethora of instruments wonderfully put together to make unique songs to each other. Plus Dan's voice just keeps getting stronger as the years go by and the passion in it is unmistakable. Also, unlike typical JoC fashion, there are no standout tunes. There is nothing that's so catchy you have to hear it over and over again. Instead the whole album works together as one piece of art and each song compliments the next. This is ultimately what making an album should be about in my eyes (ears?). Sure, there's a few upbeat songs here and some ballads there, but they are like none I've heard before. I suppose this is the album that shows JoC becoming less 'poppy' and more subtle.

That said, there is a different JoC staple here. Upon listening to the album you'll feel refreshed and uplifted, which is also how it should be. They aren't preachy, necessarily, but rather they just evoke an uplifting spirit in their music and the lyrics aren't depressing. After going through their discography I still find this to be one of their best albums as a whole. Their constant progression is what has helped them stand the test of time.

Gems of this album are: 'River Constantine', 'I'm Alright', 'No One Loves Me Like You'

Overall - 9.3/10

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II | Posted August-19-2008
Ladies and gentleman, my face has successfully been melted off again and this time it's by the hands of Maylene and the Sons of Disaster. It all started by me going to Best Buy on lunch break and just being unable to leave that store without something in my hands (bought of course). I'm weak, I know. Anyhow, upon remembering Best Buy sometimes has a horrible selection of music and finding absolutely none of my first ten preferred purchases I remembered this band. I remembered not really caring much for the tracks I'd heard off that CD but I decided to go on a mission to expand my musical horizon... or something like that. I took the plunge and bought II without looking back and I don't regret it in the least.

It's hard to compare their sound to anyone else since I've never heard Southern Rock done this brutal. The singer of ex-Underoath fame, Dallas Taylor, brings his harsh vocals to the table to be combined with some of the catchiest, face-melting guitar riffs I've ever heard and insane drumming for a unique brand of, uh, metalcore southern rock? Or at least that's one way of putting it. Either way, the vocals were the hardest thing for me to get used to and they turned me off of the band a couple times prior to my giving in and buying it. Dallas doesn't really scream so much as 'yell' the lyrics. Even though I've grown used to it over time it's still the only drawback of the album and this band. His yelling is all at the same tone for the most part and can get old quickly. One bright side was the second to last track, 'Tale of the Runaways', which features a very strong singing performance by Dallas. It makes me cry a little on the inside knowing he has that ability but doesn't use it.

Ah well, I digress. There's far more positives than negatives with II that make it one of my favorites. I'd say 90% of this album is all about rocking your face off and the other 10% is the slow ballad at the end followed by the closer, a very atmospheric instrumental. These riffs are going to get your heart pumping and your body grooving before all is said and done. Let's not forget the amazing guitar solos that bring to mind bands like Lynard Skynard as well as Metallica. There's some massive shredding going on and I love every minute of it. These guys are all top notch musicians with a wealth of talent they put to good use.

What you get with Maylene's sophomore album is a fast-paced, aggressive southern rock album that is incredibly consistent. Lyrically it seems to center around the concept of old western themes but if you take the time to dig a bit deeper you'll be surprised at how much thought is put into them. There are some vague references to their faith and God but that doesn't appear to be their focus. I can chalk this up as one of the more original albums I've listened to in recent memory.

Gems of this album are: 'Tale of the Runaways', 'Raised by the Tide', 'Plenty Strong and Plenty Wrong'

Overall - 9.5/10

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Vices | Posted July-29-2008
I don't know what it is about this album but I keep coming back to it. When I first got it I listened to it often over the course of the first couple months. After that it kind of got lost in the shuffle of a ton of new music and I wasn't in the mood for it. Sure enough a craving for Vices got me crawling back to listen to it endlessly for the second time. That tells me that there's something deeper about their music than I first realized. It tells me it can and will stand the test of time. That only happens to albums that are classics to me. Maybe it'll go on the backburner again someday but like the beating heart in that ol' Edgar Allan Poe story, it'll drive me insane and I'll have no choice but to give in for another listen.

Dead Poetic mix heavy riffs with great vocal melodies(he has both a high voice and a brooding deep one) to deliver the sometimes very cryptic lyrics. The music may not be original but it doesn't need to be. There's substance here that they crafted that goes beyond what any shallow pop music can. The songs aren't exactly catchy either, yet they are memorable in their own ways. The one thing above all else is they do an excellent job of setting the atmosphere for a song. If Paralytic' or 'Copy of a Copy' doesn't stir your soul I don't know what will. Whether it's the solemn keyboard notes or the haunting effects on Brandon's vocals you are sure to feel the mood they are trying to convey. For the most part that's an urgent and desperate one. This is, without a doubt, one of the darkest albums I've heard from a Christian band though it's still not depressing to the point where it's a problem.

Fans of their older music might hate the switch from the hardcore screamo Dead Poetic were doing to this more melodic and thoughtful hard rock, but when all is said and done they created a truly artistic album. One that may go down as one of the best swan song albums by a band. They reinvented their sound and perfected it all in one attempt. I could be alone in my opinion but I just connect with Vices and that's what music is all about.

Gems of this album are: 'Copy of a Copy', 'Paralytic', 'Animals', 'Pretty Pretty'

Overall - 9.6/10

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This is an Outrage! | Posted July-29-2008
Anberlin hyped up on Red Bull. That's a simple phrase to describe this debut by Capital Lights. It's power pop that rarely gives you a chance to breathe and think about what is being sung it's so fast. Just flip through the lyric book and it's amazing to see how many lyrics are crammed into 3 minute songs. That's a tribute to the vocalists smooth and rapid delivery of every lyric. His voice is kind of similar to Anberlin's only not as 'whiny' sounding. Rest assured, it's perfect for this style of music.

I'll be honest, before this album dropped I had heard 5 of the songs on their Myspace and loved every one of them. I was hyped for the release and thought it might even top Anberlin's work. Once I got it and anxiously unwrapped the plastic I popped it in and was slightly disappointed by the time it was done. I got exactly what I was expecting in terms of the 12 tracks of rapid fired power pop but it didn't hold up so well as an album full of it.

The songs kind of run into each other since the pace is frantic and rarely lets up (except the ballad 'Mile Away' which is done very well). The choruses are all insanely catchy and have a buildup to a great climax but the formula seems to get old quickly. What's more is with every listen the music is less impressive than the time before. Sure there are great synth beats that make you want to dance and some standout moments, but as a whole it's not deep. You can pretty much grasp everything Capital Lights have to offer on the first couple listens.

There's no doubt it's a solid debut and worth owning but don't expect anything incredibly deep lyrically or musically. Speaking of the lyrics, they rarely have anything to do with God (except 'Return') and pretty much center around relationships. That's all well and good since the music is positive and upbeat but again, not much substance here. It is what it is though and that's a good album of catchy, power pop tunes that stick in your head for days on end.

Gems on this album are: 'Out of Control', 'Mile Away', 'Let the Little Lady Talk'

Overall - 8.8/10

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Scars Remain | Posted July-02-2008
Disciple has come back heavier than ever. Whoever said bands mellow with age? Instead this is arguably their biggest 'melt your face off' album yet! Track after track your ears are assaulted by a barrage of incredible guitars, hyperactive drums, and ripping vocals. Make no mistake, there's still a great amount of singing by the ever talented Kevin Young yet he doesn't hold back the screaming. One song, 'Fight For Love', is roughly 85% screaming and I usually hate that type of stuff but for some reason I love it here. That's probably because of two reasons. One, he doesn't sound like a gorilla, and two, you can understand what he's saying.

What is he saying? Well you see, that's one of the reasons why Disciple is one of my favorite bands. They do an excellent job of melding the heavy with Christian lyrics. What's more is they aren't even afraid of using the name 'Jesus' in their songs. It may sound like aggression to a few people but in some cases, as in 'Love Hate (On and On)', he sings of the frustrations of how hateful people are to each other. This is all fueled by some of the heaviest guitar and bass riffs you've ever heard and the aforementioned insane drumming.

Of course, with the heavy you need the breather moments where your heart can rest. Only thing is, with the two ballads they do have your heart is going to be pulled in another direction. Kevin has a great voice for the softer, melodic singing and everyone else does a good job of setting the tone for the songs. Although the most powerful song is left off the regular edition so if you can you must get the SE for 'Things Left Unsaid'. You may just end up weeping.

Disciple pulls all the stops out on their 6th official release and thankfully there's no signs of them letting up. And if you have a chance to get the special edition do it. You won't be disappointed. Christian message? Check. Powerful ballads? Check. Melt-your-face-off rock? Double-check.

Gems of this album are: 'Scars Remain', 'Fight For Love', 'Love Hate (On and On)', 'Things Left Unsaid'

Overall - 9.7/10

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