Who We Are: The Head Review | Posted October-22-2020 What You Need To Know
Fireflight'sWho We Are: The Head is Part 1 of their new, sixth studio album titled Who We Are: The Head and The Heart. There are five songs on each half. The album was recorded at The Ranch Studios, Josiah Prince's (Disciple) studio. The Head is focused more on our mental struggles and themes regarding our headspace.
What It Sounds Like
Fireflight is still female-fronted as the vast majority of the vocals are sung by Dawn Michele. She has incredible range, able to sing with beautifully relaxed vocals, and empowers listeners with high-range, anthemic choruses. On a more technical level, producer Josiah Prince adds plenty to the project. This has modern rock written all over it, plus some electronic influence. The music is tight and flows very well. Drumming is commanding and consistent, guitar work is high-energy, and the melodic elements such as piano, violin, and electronic bits, combine to create a great rock sound.
Fireflight's music has always been focused on biblical hope, love, and truth. Who We Are: The Head is no exception. Stylistically, the verses are often vulnerably honest and direct. Dawn sings lyrics that target our struggles and insecurities, only to strike them with encouragement. The first lyric of the album is exemplary of what to expect, "I'm on the edge tonight/to lonely headlights/I cannot sleep until I'm back home." The chorus is a breakthrough of hope with her singing "I'm coming back, no turning back/this fight's not over/I'm ready for more"
The second song, "Bang Bang," pleads with the listener with "do you pray for something better?/reaching up from the ground, but your hands are tied?" The lyrical shift from the previous song's self struggles to this one's struggles of others is creative. "Who We Are" is a call to action for Christians to be the love of the world. It's very upfront and bold with its challenge to us. I love the lyrical imagery in "How To Fly." The song is a cry out for God to help and save us in the depths of our struggles. The last song, "Keep Your Head Up," is the softest song, a ballad, with more piano and violin present. The song is written as a heartwarming encouragement from God to His children. Dawn sings this truth for us, "I can't say it's going to get easier/every day keep fighting to keep hope alive." And throughout the song, you hear the comforting line, "keep your head up my child."
Anyone in need of encouragement in an amped-up rock song, "Bang Bang" is fantastic. The song is explosive straight right from the start, with an echo of the anthem, "are you ready?/let me hear you loud!" The lyrics on the opening verse is gripping and relatable. And as you are drawn in by those words, the challenging and encouraging chorus hits you with "this is no time to play it safe/your fate is yours to make/take back every dream you gave away." This song reminds me of the fan-favorite golden Unbreakable album era. There is a brief excellent guitar solo, the drums carry the energy of the song well, and the song is catchy.
Fireflight's Who We Are: The Head is an excellent first part of the new album. The band does a great job of integrating electronic elements and new rock styles to bring a fresh, yet familiar album full of hope and encouragement. The first song is admittingly slow and does not set up expectations as well as it could, as the majority of the album is much more energetic. Fireflight proves why they are one of the most recognizable and respected Christian rock groups with The Head. Part 2 is coming in December 2020.
The "Dawn" of Greatness | Posted October-15-2020 What You Need To Know:
Wolves At The Gate's EP, Dawn, features six new versions of songs from their previous album, Eclipse. This is the second EP like this, previously done with Reprise, though that one also included a new song and guest vocals one each song, unlike Dawn.
What It Sounds Like:
Because this EP is focused on redoing songs in a softer, melodic way, none of the songs are heavy or intense like most of Wolves At The Gate's music. The band beautifully weaves instruments you do not normally hear from them, such as piano and acoustic guitar, into these "reduxes." To further add to the new listening experience, we hear new vocal styles from both Steve (singing) and Nick (screaming). Don't be mislead though, these are not just acoustic versions, but fully revised and complete songs.
The lyrics do not change from the originals, which is fantastic, because Wolves At The Gate's songwriting is superb. The first song, "The Cure," is about overcoming our pride to accept the crucial but often bitter help we need. "Counterfeit" condemns hypocrisy and fighting against the lies around us. "A Voice In The Violence" is a back-and-forth struggle between our thoughts of despair and the voice of God.
"Face to Face" is about facing our great sins and weaknesses in order to see the even greater forgiveness in God. "Drifter" is a signature Wolves At The Gate song. It is simply a cry out to God to save us in the midst of hardships and drifting in our faith. The last song, "Alone," explores how many lives are wasted when they are not following God's plan, and that life with God will be infinitely better than anything now. As usual, the spiritual content in these songs is deep and relatable.
Each song is captivating and beautifully remade. I loved how each song kept the majority of the structure and flow, but remained distinct from one another. Some are even heavier than others with some restrained or echoed screams. "Drifter" is a great pick for the best song here, though as explained, not by a long shot. The original song's emotion is intense already, but to strip back the music to hear the heartbreaking lyrical journey is an experience every fan needs to hear.
It's rare for heavy metal bands to create soft songs, but Wolves At The Gate proves it can be done and done well. Not only does the band create memorable new versions of these songs, but they also showcase new vocal and musical talent with Dawn. Dawn is fantastic, and if I were to offer any criticism, it would probably only be the tracklist, but even that is subjective.
Everything In Slow Motion's Unmistakable "Influence" | Posted October-15-2020
What You Need To Know:
Everything In Slow Motion has one of the most passionate fanbases in Facedown Record's current line-up. Their second full length album, and fourth musical piece overall, Influence is finally here. The album has built up a lot of anticipation from many in the Christian rock scene and took two careful, long years to write at the historic venue, The Surf Ballroom.
What It Sounds Like:
Christian-based post-metal is definitely a very untouched subgenre. Everything in Slow Motion follows in the wake of Hands (lead singer Shane Ochsner's last band.) Influence has killer atmospheric elements, deep and massive guitar work, and lots of creative melody. The first half of the album is heavier, while more beautiful, melodic songs are in the second half. It has pop sensibilities, some rock influences, and a bit of old school emo. The mix of the lighter elements and the heaviness of the music makes Influence sound unique.
Fans of the band will be let down if they expect the same lyrical content from the Red EP or Phoenix album. The lyrics on Influence are relatively darker overall. However, they are still relatable, honest, and real. These are songs written from heartbreaking experiences in life and finding the strength to overcome difficult situations, especially relational.
I find some of the songwriting to be Proverbial. In the opening song, "Apollo" for example, Shane sings "The truth is what you say you want/but the truth you won't believe." Or the tug-of-war style lyrics of "Taking Turns" that says "The more you lie the more we're getting to the truth/The more you show yourself the less I have to prove." Other lyrics remind me of the vulnerability of the Psalms and Minor Prophetic writings in the Bible. Sometimes, we need be honest about our feeling with God and with others around us about the dirty and ugly seasons in life to help us move on. That's what Influence can help us do.
Everything In Slow Motion is an expert at creating both intense rock songs and captivating soft songs. The best rock song here is "Satellite." With tight musicianship that brings the listener in from the beginning, the song builds on itself to a high-energy chorus. The song transitions halfway through to introducing more screams from Shane and more introspective lyrics. As for the best softer song, "Tired Eyes" is exemplary. Sure, it has a guitar solo in it, but the melody is unmistakable throughout the song. A catchy chorus, calming vocals, and an encouraging message make this song a standout.
Everything In Slow Motion's Influence, bleeds creativity, emotion, and vulnerability. There is a lot of social and relational relatability here. Although the album is lyrically darker, the musical genius of Shane Ochsner definitely helps hold it all together, as the music flows very nicely. Influence might not resonate with fans in the same way some of Shane's older music does, but I hope fans listen and experience this, as it is extremely creative musically and shares heartfelt stories.
Then It Ends Delivers a Solid Debut Album | Posted September-25-2020 What You Need To Know
With members consisting of former bands in the Iowa metalcore and death metal music scene, a new band rises from the ashes: Then It Ends. They recently released their debut album, Restored. Their goal: to change lives across the world. The independent band has a passion to write scripturally sound and musically heavy music.
What It Sounds Like
Then It Ends is a hardcore-infused metalcore band, with death metal influence. Musically, you can expect blast beats, breakdowns, satisfying clean vocals, plus intense screams and growls on Restored. I expect Then It Ends to have enough vocal and musical talent to reach fans of a wide range of music tastes, especially in the heavy music scene. I like how most choruses have a conversational structure, instead of a few repeated lines of lyrics. Also, the instrumentation is constantly amped-up, even on expectantly lighter parts of the songs. So, don't expect them to give you a sweet, soft ballad, however, there is an instrumental track, "Silence."
Then It Ends proclaims biblical truths while sharing relatable messages. Restored tackles subjects such as addiction, selfishness and pride, as well as mental struggles. "Depravity" paraphrases the convicting biblical truth from Jeremiah 17:9, with lead singer Grant Lilly screaming, "No one is good, no one will seek/it's my heart, my heart is deceived!" The solid opener sets the pace for the rest of the album. A struggle that many Christians face is the dichotomy between our selfish desires and God's holy desires. "Kingdom" and "Restored" tackle this struggle—with hope at the core.
"Welcome Home" addresses questions we have about life's fragility. As Christians, we try to live the best life we can on earth but realize that death means life with Jesus. "Desperate" is a humble, yet powerful, declaration of surrender. It's an exemplary closer to the album, with Grant shouting out, "We surrender all we have to you/Our pride, our selfishness, our greed, the hate, the passiveness that ruins our lives."
There are several standout tracks on Restored, including "Depravity," "Addiction," and my favorite, "Kingdom." There is a wide range of unclean vocals—screams and growls—and quality singing from Grant. The high-energy, skilled musicianship holds the entire project together.
In "Kingdom," any fan of heavy music will find something to enjoy: music and lyrics. The song is about how we often try to be the god of our own lives but we experience the truth (we will always fail at that job). Instead, we can admit, as Grant humbly does, "I'm just a man, a failure, set me free/Fill up my heart, fill up my lungs/to be a different man than what I've become."
Restored has a refreshingly welcoming sound in the heavy metal scene—particularly thanks to the biblically-influenced, honest, and real lyrics. There is some lyrical writing that does not flow as well as it could. And, a few unclean vocal spots sound unclear. Otherwise, the vocals are superb, with impressive singing, screams, and growls—especially for a debut. The musicianship is tight and satisfyingly heavy throughout the album, enough to deserve to be in the ranks of long-time, signed bands. Restored is a great debut for Then It Ends with promising potential.
Love Letter Kill Shot (Deluxe) Review | Posted September-21-2020
What You Need To Know
Disciple's 12th studio album, Love Letter Kill Shot, released in 2019, is one of the band's best albums. It has enough experimentation and innovative sounds to be fresh, but plenty of familiarities so as to not push away their fans. NewReleaseToday even nominated the album as one of its We Love Awards Rock Albums of the Year for 2019. After plenty of positive reception and fanfare, the band has decided to release a deluxe version, simply titled Love Letter Kill Shot (Deluxe). The deluxe edition features three new songs: "Darkness Dies," Enemy," and "Kingdom Come."
What It Sounds Like
Each new song fits the album's sound perfectly. They have the same overall vibe that the album carries, yet each is distinct in their own right. "Darkness Dies" begins with an electronic, faded vocal intro, leading straight into the melodic opening verse. It doesn't take long before the energy ramps up in the emotional chorus. The song has a solid riff throughout that keeps it tight. Not to mention the riff expresses the passionate music we all love Disciple for. It's not a song you would normally expect, but, on the Love Letter Kill Shot, it's a great fit.
"Enemy" is a barnstormer of a song. It begins full-throttle with deep, heavy bass accompanied by captivating drumming. Lead singer Kevin Young's uses a unique sing-scream method for most of the song (it sounds great and matches the song's darker mood). Speaking of darker mood, there is some distortion in parts of the song that greatly adds to the overall sound. "Enemy" almost never slows down: the impressive guitar solo about two-thirds in proves this fact. Disciple rocker Josiah Prince's guitar solo is arguably the best he does on the whole album, especially with its placing in the song.
"Kingdom Come" opens with an instrumental that almost sounds like a breakdown in a metal song. Kevin aggressively opens the first verse with powerful vocals. The chorus is more melodic than the last, but not as much as "Darkness Dies." Disciple uses skillful instrumental transitions between melodic choruses and the fierce verses.
If you've listened to Disciple, you know that their 20-year reputation is respected for good reason. As fantastic as their musical prowess is, their lyrical content is nothing to ignore either. Each new song offers a message that pierces the heart and mind.
"Darkness Dies" carries a unique perspective of the Gospel that we often forget. Kevin sings, "I'm not your savior, I'm just a man/And I'll let you down if you give me the chance/But I'll give you something/I can show you the light, till the darkness dies." We are not the ones to save people, but we point to Him who can.
"Enemy" is a darker, more vulnerable, song, much like "Panic Room" and "Misery" previously heard on the album. Kevin sings a gut-wrenchingly honest message of admitting we are often much worse people than we want to believe. He cries out, "I have fallen so far that I've finally scared myself/I'm falling in my own hell/I'm falling, deliver me from myself."
Lastly, "Kingdom Come" is about how "There is so much reality/More than I see and I'm feeling," as Kevin sings. The song is an outcry to God to let His Kingdom of Love become more evident in our world. It is truly an eternal truth that we should join in singing out, "With your heaven on my lips/Let me love like You love/Let my war turn to pieces of You."
For me, "Kingdom Come" takes the crown. The head-bang-inducing intro immediately captures my attention and the relentless verse of convicting lyrics hits me straight-on. The vocals relax just enough in the pre-chorus so the listener can accept the much more melodic chorus of truth. The musical transitions in the song are exceptional. In all its musical excellence, the song's arrangement is wrapped in a message of love.
Given how much fans have been touched by some of the beautiful ballads from Disciple, it would have been nice to hear a new, heartfelt ballad. Regardless, Love Letter Kill Shot (Deluxe) is an even more remarkable album by Disciple that will undoubtedly be known as one of the best Christian rock albums in the modern era.
Metal band Fit For A King, under the Solid State Records banner, has released its sixth album, The Path. The band returned to producer Andrew Folk to produce the album (He produced the band's highly successful 2018 album, Dark Skies.) Music artist Daniel Gailey is officially a new member of the band. He primarily plays guitar, but also does some vocal work. For the album's release, Fit For A King did a livestream event, which included every band member, as well as their manager and producer.
What It Sounds Like
Fit For A King experimented more on this record than their previous albums. The Path has electronic elements, gang vocals, progressive guitar solos, bells, and spoken word. Overall, the album has plenty of new styles, both musically and vocally. The album has songs that old Fit For A King fans will enjoy and ones that new fans will love. Some fans might be turned off by the creative experimentation though.
Lead singer Ryan Kirby, along with the rest of the band and team, has been very open about the album's messages. The Path is very intentional and heartfelt. Ryan says, "This album is made to be the soundtrack for your victory over what mentally, and physically holds us back." The cover art is Nike, the Greek goddess of victory.
The album's songs have very motivational and encouraging lyrics. "The Face of Hate" opens the victorious album with a message of unity, "A movement, connected/Our voices rise above the flames." Following up, "Breaking The Mirror" proclaims victory over our struggles especially with the lyric, "No more doubt, no more fear, no more suffering/You'll never kill the flame in me." The title track is perhaps the best example of a new sound mixed with the message of hope and victory. Ryan screams the encouraging chorus, "If you're broken, if you're bleeding/If you're dying for somebody to believe in/Don't you turn back, you've got a story to tell."
The band uses their massive voice in the metalcore scene to encourage and motivate their listeners while addressing significant topics. "God of Fire" and "Stockholm" condemn hypocrisy and insincere religion. Fit For A King uses their voice in songs like these to boldly fight against injustice in those areas. "Locked (In My Head)" addresses mental struggles. "Prophet" deals with the loss of a loved one due to suicide. And, "Louder Voice" is about the internal struggle to let love win.
With such a diverse collection of songs, it can be difficult to objectively point to one song and proclaim it as the standout—even the band itself has not agreed on a favorite. I'll name two songs: one has a harder rock sound, while the other is more experimental.
If you want heavy, then "The Face of Hate" is your song. It exemplifies everything that The Path offers—both musically, thematically, and lyrically. Some of the album's other heavier songs have elements that may not be well-received by fans. But, "The Face of Hate" is both fresh and familiar. You know what you're in for when you listen to this explosive song.
If you want unique, then listen to "Prophet." It has great melodic elements, a super catchy riff, and emotional lyrics. After the instrumental opening, bass player Ryan "Tuck" O'Leary sings the dramatic, slow-paced verse that perfectly sets the theme of this song: suicide. It seems odd to include a song about suicide on an album focused on victory. But, songs like "Prophet" greatly contribute to the album's relatable side. The heart-piercing chorus screamed by Ryan Kirby hits home for anyone who has lost a loved one—especially due to suicide. For most, it's a spiritual outcry to God. He sings, "Savior, am I too blind to see?/If you can create all of the stars, then why can't you mend a broken heart?/Don't let the world devour me." Fit For A King expressed great creativity with this song and it paid off.
Fit For A King's The Path ultimately proves great growth for the band. The lyrical content is overall much more positive, the heavy tracks are intense and satisfying, while the creative, pathbreaking tracks are catchy and fresh. There are a few repetitious moments through the album, and there are sounds and styles that won't please everyone. I don't foresee the album being as particularly wide-received as Dark Skies. But, I do see The Path being a powerful declaration of where the band is now and probably where they are going. Fans who are willing to expect the unexpected, instead of the familiar, will enjoy this deeply passionate and personal album.
Another Man's Treasure EP Review | Posted August-27-2020
What You Need To Know:
I Am Empire is a fan favorite on the Tooth and Nail Records roster. Their debut album with the record label, Kings, was well-received when released in 2011. It peaked at number 35 on the Billboard Christian Albums Chart and number 40 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers Chart. Some of the album's post-hardcore anthems include "Saints and Sinners," You're A Fake," and "Brain Damage." Anchors, the follow-up album, was released in 2013. This song collection I enjoy more: it has a more polished and mature sound. After Anchors, the band went quiet. Fast forward seven years and the band is back and excited to share new music.Another Man's Treasure, a five-song EP, has three original tracks and two acoustic covers.
What It Sounds Like
Any fan of post-hardcore or alternative rock music will love these few songs from I Am Empire. "On A Rainy Sunday," the EP opener, is a soft love song driven by melodic piano and beautiful vocals. "Clever Nightmare" gives I Am Empire fans exactly what they love: a dynamic, catchy song with sweet gang vocal spots. "Airwaves" is a high energy song; it's less experimental, and more straight forward. Another Man's Treasure closes with two acoustic covers: "Foxhole" and "You're A Fake." Both songs are cleverly arranged to keep the emotion and passion flowing, without compromising the style of the originals.
"On A Rainy Sunday" is a heart-warming love song. The passion of this kind of love, though romantic in this case, is what we all ought to have for another. "Clever Nightmare" is about internal struggles and the battles we face in everyday life. The song encourages us to rise to the occassion. "Airwaves" is an imaginative song—more so than the others—that offers a futuristic perspective to learn from, to avoid a worse future. Lead singer Austin Lyons shared some great personal thoughts on the three new songs.
"On a Rainy Sunday": 'This song might be one of my favorite I Am Empire songs because it's very personal to me. I wrote this song when I was engaged to my wife and touring nine months out of the year. Thinking back on our relationship, all the ups and downs we've faced together while looking forward to a marriage with her. We are high school sweethearts. Dated for seven years and now married for eight. My wife walked down the aisle to this song so it's awesome to finally release this to the world.'
"Clever Nightmare": 'This song is about how our personal sin or the darkness of this world tricks us into thinking it's good. It's a clever nightmare we face and have to address. This song is an encouragement to acknowledge it and then fight it. Actively reaching for the light instead of being tricked by the dark.'
"Airwaves": 'This song was an attempt at creating a fictional dystopian story of what could be in the future. I was reading 1984 when I wrote these lyrics.'
Of the three new songs, "Clever Nightmare" is the best. Austin's soulful vocals shine throughout the song. From the catchy "Danger, Danger!" opening line on the verses and the "Whoa-Whoa"s, the song gives plenty of elements that they know fans will love. There is also a fantastic guitar solo by former Disciple member Andrew Stanton that adds a perfect touch of empowerment to the already encouraging lyrics. Both acoustic songs are wonderful additions to the EP.
Just because a band does not release their "B-sides," it does not mean there are not some great songs. Another Man's Treasure is an example of songs that at one point may have been rejected, but now will be lovingly embraced by fans. I loved getting to hear acoustic renditions of "Foxhole" and "You're A Fake." Since the band has decided to share music after being quiet for so long, I hope this is not a one-and-done situation.
Unseen: The Lamb EP | Posted August-19-2020 What You Need To Know
Seventh Day Slumber's newest project will be its third contemporary worship-based project. Previous albums include 2009's Take Everything and 2013's Love and Worship, the former containing a multi-million streamed cover of Hillsong Worship's famous worship hit, "From The Inside Out." Seventh Day Slumber's newest music, Unseen: The Lamb, contains three covers of popular worship songs, as well as two originals pieces.
What It Sounds Like
Compared to their previous worship albums, this EP has more rock elements, including some more prominent bass and commanding drumming. Lead singer Joseph Rojas's signature vocals are clear and passionate. The violin and piano music on the album makes enhance the worship atmosphere on the album.
Unseen: The Lamb EP is a worship-focused project, so I can confidently say each song has great spiritual content. It opens with their cover of "Waymaker" by Michael W. Smith, followed by two original songs, "Unseen" and "Branches." Both songs are full of biblical praise. On the pre-chorus, Joseph Rojas sings "There's a glory that awaits/Everything I hold will pass away." This message is echoed throughout the song: remember to set your mind on eternity, which is unseen.
Joseph praises God in "Branches," praising Him for His works in heaven and reminds us to fix our eyes on God's creation around us on earth. Poetically, Joseph sings, "We lift our praises high/We lift our hands like branches/To the sky" The EP closes with "What A Beautiful Name" by Hillsong Worship and "Run To The Father" by Cody Carnes.
Of the two originals, "Unseen" is better, though not by a long shot. The clap-backed, easy-going verses lead well into the choruses. The first chorus' transition is perfect, cutting some music out for a moment before it all comes back in full blast. There is exceptional musicianship throughout the song while the vocals accompany well. Of the covers, "Run To The Father" has the best balance of heavier rock elements while capturing the melody of the original. Thematically, it fits well also, since several Seventh Day Slumber songs focus on the fatherhood aspect of God and the fatherhood of the lead singer.
The band's unashamed faith in Christ roars loudly in Unseen: The Lamb EP. The Seventh Day Slumber's rock sound is skillfully infused in the worship style, resulting in more unique covers and sounds than previously done by the band. However, there were moments where I felt distracted from the words due to the overpowering sound. It's not always that way, but it's noticeable more on the covers. Unseen: The Lamb is the second half Seventh Day Slumber's worship project.
Even The Devil Believes Review | Posted August-14-2020 What You Need To Know
Even The Devil Believes is Stryper's 13th studio album. The music veterans continue to build upon modern rock influences while maintaining Stryper's signature sound fans have grown to love over their 35 years. This is the first album to feature Perry Richardson, former bassist of classic rock band FireHouse, on bass and background vocals. Michael Sweet, Stryper's lead singer, says about the writing of the project, "This album was recorded during the pandemic. And, I believe the message pertains to the times we're living in so perfectly. It's a recording of hope and inspiration, and a light in the darkest of times."
What It Sounds Like
Even The Devil Believes has some of Stryper's best music and vocals. In the last decade, Stryper—and even Michael Sweet's solo music—have found their strengths in the modern rock and metal scene. The albumis filled with melodic, harmony-laden choruses that their fans know and love. Michael Sweet leads most verses, which excitingly build-up to the choruses. The musicianship is some of the best in recent years, too. We hear energetic drumming and powerful guitar work (there is a guitar solo in every song). This album has a similar modern rock sound, which is similar to Stryper's past few albums, as well as Michael Sweet's last two solo albums.
One of Stryper's many earned names over the years is "heavenly metal." This name accurately describes their style of music. Every song is filled with great, biblical content coupled with fantastic metal music. The John 3:16 based song "Let Him In" and the crucifixion-based narrative "Blood From Above" are just a few examples. The band often has one or two songs that can be controversial (their mega-hit from the 80s, "To Hell With The Devil" is a great example. "Middle Finger Messiah" carries the controversy for this album. On the chorus, Michael Sweet sings "The world flips him off/Like a Pariah/He's The Middle Finger Messiah." The terminology is the controversial part, but lyrically it, along with the rest of the song, is theologically sound. Stryper remains unashamed of their faith and I love that.
The first single released for Even The Devil Believes is the opening song for the album, "Blood From Above." It's simply one of the best songs on the album. It does not divert from the overall formula that the rest of the album follows, rather, it executes it perfectly. From the commanding drums on the opening verse paired with Michael Sweet's signature scream, the song meets my expectations. The chorus utilizes the harmony of vocals well to send home the powerful message that sings "A righteous murder scene of love/Flowing down grace/In The Blood From Above."
Michael Sweet's singing and screams are top-notch. The musicianship from other band members Perry Richardson, Oz Fox, and Robert Sweet complement each other throughout the album. The formula for each song is somewhat predictable, losing some creativity and diversity, but at the same time, it is expected. After 35 years, the members of Stryper, new and old, still show great passion for rock and roll and Jesus.
Lifelong is a hardcore band from San Diego, California. Trevor Vickers and Joel Piper, the band's two members, first played music together with Confide, the iconic Solid State Records hardcore band. After their independently released 2018 EP, Revive The Masses, Solid State Records signed Lifelong and helped them create their first full-length album, Above The Waves. The EP and the album have a major difference: the former lead singer Ross Kenyon is no longer with the group. So, for Above The Waves, the band developed a new sound that is a better fit for Trevor and Joel, who now share vocal duties.
What It Sounds Like
Above The Waves is a melodic hardcore album with some pop-punk influence. Every track is energetic and amped-up, complete with passionate musicianship and vocals. There are some creative nuances that signify differences in the songs, such as gang and isolated vocals, guitar solos, among others. There's also a fair amount of melody and pop, especially on catchy choruses, giving a pop-punk style on many of the songs.
Lifelong is proud of their faith and are open to sharing struggles and celebrations of their life--both spiritual and humane. They inject positivity into a music scene that's desperate for it. From the opening track, "Not The Same," they sing "I've seen the light/This changes everything I know." A statement that bears witness to the Gospel's transformative power in our lives.
The album's lead single, "Above The Waves," offers an empowering chorus. Joel sings, "So, I'll keep my face above the waves/And all the time we take/Will not be nothing" I love the encouraging message behind this song.
"Death To Life" approaches the struggle of hypocrisy. Trevor opens the song screaming "You only think of yourself!" The rest of the song explores the futility of living in hypocrisy and compromise. Throughout the whole album, Lifelong pairs their aggressive music with positive and biblical messages that we all need to hear.
"Something Left To Give" is easily the album's standout song. It has excellent drumming that keeps your attention, vocals that display impressive range and talent. Let's not forget the skillful guitar work that binds everything together. I love the catchy chorus that Joel sings, "When the walk feels like it's going nowhere/Carry Me! Carry Me!/You're the rock that hears my words with no air/Carry Me! Carry Me!" Joel's vocals in the song are a great mix of scream-sing that remind me of other great, popular hardcore singers. His singing is partnered with Trevor's gritty screaming. After listening to "Something Left To Give," I often remember the aforementioned, fun chorus or the empowering bridge that Trevor screams "They tried to take me out/but they can't keep holding me down!"
For Fans Of
MxPx, Confide, Rise Against
During the creation of Above The Waves, Lifelong actually did not have a ton of direct help from Solid State Records. Instead, they wrote, recorded, produced, and engineered the album themselves. I think the guys could have been better off using a new band name instead of Lifelong. When the lead single was released, it threw off a lot of fans, since the former lead singer is gone and overall sound on Above The Waves is evidently different from their 2018 EP, Revive The Masses. Trevor and Joel's creativity and passion flows all through the album. Above The Waves takes the new skills they learned and natural talent to create a powerful, encouraging hardcore album that will remain a standout for Solid State Records history for years to come.