MattDurlin_NRT's Music and Book Reviews
Return To MattDurlin_NRT's Profile
    Join The NRTeam
Latest Music and Book Reviews
Red For War by Zahna Red For War by Zahna
What You Need to Know:
Suzy Martinez is back with the debut from...
Legacy by The Protest Legacy by The Protest
What You Need to Know:
Fresh off signing...
Unshakable Heart by Mark Unshakable Heart by Mark
What You Need to Know:
After a 27-year run with southern rock and worship band

Showing 1-10 of 6 |   
Debut Rocker Declares War on Life's Challenges | Posted September-05-2018
What You Need to Know:

Suzy Martinez is back with the debut from her new hard rock act, ZahnaRed For War has already garnered national attention on the mainstream rock charts, as Rockfest Records continues to demonstrate it has significant staying power in the Christian rock space.

What It Sounds Like:

Suzy Martinez shows off her vocal range and impressive control out of the gates on “Unshaken” and “Misery” with a sound that will remind fans of a female-fronted RED. Zahna features Martinez’s powerful vocals – both when she sings and when she screams, demonstrating beautiful command over her voice.

Rock fans will not be disappointed with both the style – which incorporates all the important aspects of a solid hard rock album with heavy guitars and steady, driving percussion – or with the lyrical content that address difficult subjects that are often well addressed by rock and hip hop. “Divided Nation” is one example of this depth of conversation, speaking about how separated among political lines we have become in America.

Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

Red For War was born out of a season of challenges for Martinez, which naturally leads to deeply spiritual highlights throughout the record. 

"I can let this bitterness fester inside of me, or I can fight the devil," Martinez says of recent trials which inspired the project. "Every disappointment is just a setup for something greater--not because we deserve it, but because we're children of God. We have that right as daughters and sons of God. At the end of the day, we win, no matter what."

Was I Bad” is among the most impressive rock tunes on the album, but also encourages listeners to remember that we are not our past mistakes, and provides a message of hope:

Look at my past / All the broken pieces that didn’t last / All the voices saying I was bad / And everything I am is wrong  and You’ve gotta take my falls / ‘Til you’re buried in these walls / I hope it’s a battle that you can win.

The final track, “Edge of the Earth,” is a rock ballad with a theme of redemption and grace that will speak to all of us on allowing God to take our sins to the edge of the earth:

Your love poured out / And darkness has no power At the edge of the Earth.

Red For War delivers on spiritual matters and dives deep into topics of emotional battles within as well as the hope we have in a saving grace.

Best Song on the Record:

Underneath” is a single that had a strong debut and continues to impact both Christian and mainstream charts, making it one of the top tracks on this project.

Another favorite is sure to be the in your face “Your Gun My Knife,” which is a powerful tune that challenges the traditional decision tree and impact of money within the music industry.

Zahna delivers a smashing, successful debut, easy and enjoyable to rock out to from front to back.

For Fans Of:

RED, Lacey Sturm, ILIA

Final Word:

Suzy Martinez, the former lead singer of ILIA, crushes the debut project of Zahna by smashing the Christian and mainstream rock charts.

Listen on iTunes and Spotify.

Comments (0)  |  Add Comment   | Is This Review Helpful? Yes | No
Leaving a Legacy of Powerful Purpose | Posted July-12-2018
What You Need to Know:

Fresh off signing with Rockfest Records and hitting the road on the City Rockfest Tour, The Protest drops perhaps the most anticipated rock album so far in 2018. Following the success of Great Lengths, their 2014 sophomore album, the band has been reflecting on how they want to be remembered. "What kind of legacy do we want to leave behind--ours or God's?" says guitarist Adam Sadler of the album's inspiration. "I want people to know we love Jesus and I hope our music will impact them for His glory.”

Legacy is an album that addresses deep spiritual and heart matters such as having a purpose, fighting through difficult times, and leaving a positive legacy that points people toward heaven.

What It Sounds Like:

With Legacy, The Protest brings the energy with edgy and powerful vocals in the form of on key singing combined with impressively controlled screaming provided by lead vocalist Josh Bramlett, backed by the driving rhythm from his brother and drummer, Jarob Bramlett. The vocals and drums are brought together for a complete vibe when mixed with the impressive licks and thick, heavy rock chords by guitarists Adam Sadler and TJ Colwell.

Rock fans will be pumping their fists and banging heads to this album on repeat, and at one of the 150+ live shows performed by the band on an annual basis.

Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

There are deeply spiritual and difficult themes addressed on this project that will serve to give listeners renewed strength. “Take My Heart” is a song that reflects the heart of the album and the members of The Protest. This song is a cry to God to meet us in the depths of our struggles, lift us up and take our hearts to fresh life.

In addition, their website puts it quite well, saying “their new single ‘What Else You Got’ is a fist-pumping anthem about never backing down and fighting on despite adversity. It's sure to be used as a rallying theme song for college and pro sports in the near future. The song is the fastest rising of their career and  debuted at #39 on the Mainstream Rock Indicator chart and #23 on the Billboard Christian Rock Chart.”

The debut single from this record carries a theme about staying focused amid the best shots from outside forces. The chorus encourages fighters to carry on despite facing challenges from all angles.

Best Song on the Record:

Seldom does a band release a record that is thoroughly enjoyable to listen to from front to back, but that is precisely what The Protest has done with Legacy. This presents the unique challenge of choosing the best song, but the third track on this album has rock song of the year potential. “Knockout” starts off with aggressive vocals on a verse leading into a fun and energetic chorus. The rocking tune is capped off with a tight solo (duet?) by guitarists Adam Sadler and TJ Colwell to provide the finishing touches of a sure-to-be fan favorite at live shows.

For Fans Of:

Disciple, Project 86, Spoken

Final Word:

The Protest has delivered a memorable third full-length album complete with catchy hooks, deeply spiritual lyrics, distinguished vocals, driving beats and fantastic guitar licks. Legacy is hands down the best hard rock album released so far in 2018 and is ready to take on all future comers for rock album of the year.

Listen on iTunes and Spotify.

Comments (0)  |  Add Comment   | Is This Review Helpful? Yes | No
Unshakable Solo Debut | Posted June-26-2018
What You Need to Know:

After a 27-year run with southern rock and worship band Third Day, as one of their founding members and guitarist, Mark Lee is embracing the next chapter of his career by exploring a new style of music. Unshakable Heart is his debut EP featuring a touch of his southern roots and a whole lot of acoustic goodness.

What it Sounds Like:

Unshakable Heart is a departure from what Mark Lee had been delivering as part of Third Day. This EP allowed Lee to explore more of a folk rock and acoustic blend. 

Hurt Road” is a song that was written along the same theme as his recent book of the same title. This tune leads off the crowd-funded EP with a catchy melody and a message about how in order to become what we are called to, we may have to first walk a difficult path. The title track, “Unshakeable Heart,” is more of a country-folk song – something that might be heard over a meal at Cracker Barrel.  It is a relaxing tune to enjoy while driving on country roads on a Sunday afternoon.

Third Day fans will recognize the last track, “When the Rain Comes,” which is an acoustic remake of the same track from Third Day’s 1999 studio album, Time.

Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

The most radio-friendly song on the too-short debut from Mark Lee is also one of the most impactful songs from a spiritual standpoint. “Do Not Be Afraid” is a song about trusting the Lord, with the chorus encouraging listeners to give their concerns over to God.

In all, the album is sure to allow for quiet moments of reflection while enjoying excellent music.

Best Song on the Record:

For fans of southern rock, “Glorious One” is the best track on the album. It brings a bit of extra edge with a well-balanced bass line throughout that drives the pace and features an instrumental break that leads into a bridge where Mark Lee shows off his vocal chops.

For Fans Of:

Third Day, Burlap to Cashmere, Jars of Clay

Final Word:

Unshakable Heart is a solid solo debut from Mark Lee as he closes the Third Day chapter and ventures into the next chapter of his career. The title track, and Third Day cover, will keep longtime fans engaged, while the others bring in new fans.

Listen on Spotify and iTunes.

Comments (0)  |  Add Comment   | Is This Review Helpful? Yes | No
​Evil Is Put in its Place | Posted April-24-2018
What You Need to Know:

Stryper has been a staple in the Christian metal genre for over three decades. Despite a tumultuous press reaction to the controversial album title (read about its history in our interview here), God Damn Evil does not disappoint for longtime fans and newcomers alike looking for a perfect blend of hard rock and hair metal style.

What it Sounds Like:

God Damn Evil leads with a mysterious pianissimo intro that allows for a crescendo into heavy and driving instruments, anchored by longtime drummer Robert Sweet and recently-added bassist Perry Richardson. This gives way to the familiar vocals of Michael Sweet and sweet licks by Oz Fox on the lead guitar. Fans new to the band will be sure to appreciate the progressively harder vibe of this album compared to the 2015 release Fallen. Longtime fans will be comfortable with the vocal style as Sweet delivers classic Stryper, reminiscent of fellow classic acts like Whiteheart and Petra. 

Spiritual/Lyrical Highlights:

Despite criticism about the album title, Stryper takes a no-holds-barred stance on their faith with this album. The title track explains the choice as an in-your-face rejection of the evil present in the world, echoing that only by the grace of God do the people of earth have salvation. Verse three talks about this grace: "The only saving grace is love / And we know where that lies / It's what we feel unworthy of / So we don't claim the prize / We never claim the prize."

"The Valley" is one of the spiritual highlights. This song is based on Psalm 23:4, a fight song that provides hope for those who are battling a dark season in life with the lyrics "I've spent my life trying to be / A soul of light in the darkest sea / Where with my shield for the final fight / I won't back down; I won't bend or kneel / Yeah, though / I walk through the valley / Of the shadow of death / I fear no evil."

God Damn Evil deserves full attention from the Christian community as a record filled with deep and essential praises to God and a powerful message of hope for the world.

Best Song on the Record:

"Sea of Thieves" is an impressive heavy metal track with one of many slayed solos by guitarist Oz Fox and the deep, meaningful lyrics which define God Damn Evil.

For Fans Of:

Petra, Whiteheart, Aerosmith, Poison

Final Word:

God Damn Evil is a thrill ride of hard-hitting heavy metal that is sure to please longtime Stryper fans as well as a new generation of Christian rockers. 

Listen on Spotify and iTunes.


Comments (0)  |  Add Comment   | Is This Review Helpful? Yes | No
A 20th Anniversary Gift That Delivers | Posted December-11-2017
For two decades, Project 86 has been an industry leader in the alternative rock genre. Their 10th studio record, Sheep Among Wolves, has been highly anticipated by P86 fans after a successful PledgeMusic campaign provided contributors the opportunity to hear the record in progress before it was mastered and polished.

The band promised a genre-defying 20th anniversary follow-up to their first two independent fan-funded releases, Wait for the Siren and Knives to the Future. Sheep Among Wolves delivers, featuring the intensity and musical depth that has defined Project 86 and ending 2017 on a high note for rock listeners.

The album starts off heavy and raucous with borderline metalcore tracks "Mhs," "Dead Man's Switch" and "Imaginary Me," featuring Darren King laying down thick guitars with ominous and mysterious but tight chord progressions while driving and heavy rock grooves provided by drummer Ryan Wood hold these tunes together nicely. All of it is blended perfectly with passionate and familiar vocals from frontman Andrew Schwab, serving to get your heart racing as this record takes flight.

The opening set is followed by what may be the best track on the entire record. "Freebooter" is a well-balanced hard rock song that slows the tempo down slightly, starting with softer verses and crescendoing into a chorus that will have you singing along.

The title track, "Sheep Among Wolves," is a rock anthem with the theme of the track tying the message of the full project together. You can read a recent interview with NRT's Associate Editor Mary Nikkel to hear more from Andrew Schwab about the concept of trying to differentiate between the "sheep" and the "wolves" around us.  

The album lyrically and musically takes listeners on an emotional journey from an intense start to melancholy hard rock to an eerie, mysteriously victorious feeling in the end. Project 86 explores deep topics of living in faith while navigating the terrain of evil, allowing listeners the freedom to interpret the meaning of each song for themselves.

The Bottom Line: Project 86 delivers a 20th anniversary celebration in time for the holiday gift-giving season that is sure to please a supportive fanbase while earning new listeners along the way. Sheep Among Wolves is a good mix of songs from the full spectrum of hard rock sounds that have defined Project 86 over the last two decades.

For Fans Of: Disciple, War of Ages, Decyfer Down

Songs to Download Now:

"Freebooter" (Get it on iTunes here.)

Comments (0)  |  Add Comment   | Is This Review Helpful? Yes | No
Thrashing Music Filled With Hope | Posted September-13-2017
While riding the momentum of the Unleashed Tour with fellow Christian rockers Skillet, Spoken released their ninth studio album, aptly titled IX, on September 8.

IX features ten tracks and starts out with thrashing guitars, heavy beats from the drums and melodic-yet-fierce vocals on "This is Not the End," a song about perseverance and hope--a common theme throughout the record. The chorus sums up the message of hope: "This is not the end I know you'll make it / Through the unknown to where you belong / This is not the end I know you'll make it / Finding the hope in where you belong."

This is followed up by what is sure to become a fan favorite, "Stronger," which is another in-your-face rocker about overcoming life's challenges to be "stronger than you were before." Throughout IX, Spoken continues to drive home their message of hope with driven melodies and intense vocals. "Silence" is a cry of desperation for the band, asking for help to "see the world through their eyes."

One of the heaviest tracks on IX is "I Will Not Fade." This hardcore anthem punches fast with smashing vocals introducing a striking song about second chances to rise above mistakes instead of fading away. The following tune slows it down a bit with "Remember the Memories," challenging listeners and fans to contemplate what legacy will be left behind.

Every great rock album not only speaks to their hardcore fans, but also features radio-friendly rock ballads. Spoken comes through on this album with "The Light" and "Sleepless Nights," two easy-listening melodies to close out an otherwise heavyweight record. If there were any critiques of this record, it would be that the last three tracks were ballads, which leaves listeners wanting more heavy material at the end.

The Bottom Line: Restoration and hope are prominent themes throughout IX, a passionate, hard-rocking album sure to satisfy heavy musicl fans while speaking to the soul. 

Song to Download Now

"Stronger" (Get it on iTunes here.)

Comments (1)  |  Add Comment   | Is This Review Helpful? Yes | No
Showing 1-10 of 6 |   

Christian Music, Facebook Christian Music, Twitter Christian Music, YouTube Christian Music, Instagram


Christian Music

©2020 NewReleaseToday
A Division Of NRT Media Inc.


Discover New Artists
New This Week
Coming Soon
NEW! PodCasts
Free Music
Album Reviews


New Music
Movies / Media


Music Videos


Concert Reviews
We Love Awards


Privacy Policy
Terms of Use
New Music Email


Music Studies
Artist Training