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Pieces of a Real Heart by Sanctus Real Pieces of a Real Heart by Sanctus Real
Since releasing Say It Loud on Sparrow records Sanctus Real has been a consistent voice is CCM. Hits like "Things Like You (Everyone's Everything)," "I'm Not Alright," and "We Need Each Other" have...
Breaking The Silence EP by The Letter Black Breaking The Silence EP by The Letter Black
Known as Breaking The Silence, The Letter Black or a Flyleaf/Fireflight re-make, one Tooth and Nail’s newest artists have now provided fans with their first project, Breaking The Silence EP. The band is...
Forget And Not Slow Down by Relient K Forget And Not Slow Down by Relient K
Forget And Not Slow Down sis not a Relient K album. Yes, on the side of an album is says ‘Relient K’, but comparing this release to Relient K’s career is difficult. This Relient K uses five new weapons...

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Pieces Of A Real Heart | Posted December-07-2010
Since releasing Say It Loud on Sparrow records Sanctus Real has been a consistent voice is CCM. Hits like "Things Like You (Everyone's Everything)," "I'm Not Alright," and "We Need Each Other" have endeared pop lovers who enjoy the eternal prospective offered by the band. However while even I have attracted to the band solid pop rock fused with strong lyrics Sanctus Real has been on a slide (especially with their latest album, the dud, We Need Each Other). However with the group's fourth fifth album, Pieces Of A Real Heart, they intend to make that "had" over "has."

The Face Of Love wasn't as effective musically as it was just stirring emotionally with its often edgy chorus' and its lack of catchy pop tunes. We Need Each Other failed both musically and lyrically with it's awful light pop/ballad formula. However just the sound, which is reminiscent of older, Sanctus real, alone on Pieces Of A Real Heart, makes the album immediately better. Although the music isn't as enjoyable as Fight The Tide's audio, The pop/rock sound is generally more fluid than the previous two albums. The vocal hooks of Matt Hammitt have never been better, and tunes like "I'll Show You How To Live" and "The Way The World Turns" are smart. While songs like "Forgiven" and "Take Over" are not over achievers, the spunky "These Things Take Time" will take devoted fans back to Fight The Tide days in a good way.

However not everything is perfectly rosy here. Sanctus Real doesn't do any ground breaking and doesn't even test the waters with sounds which are new to even the band. In specific, "Till I Got To Know You” showcases the underachieving characteristics of Sanctus Real. Over the course of the years Sanctus Real has brought of social, personal, and vertical themes to their respective albums in a seemingly purposeful pattern. However, Pieces Of A Real Heart covers a lot of ground with their latest and doesn't dwell on a specific issue. The lyrical satisfaction of the project will depend heavily on the listener. While "I Want To Get Lost" (‘But right now I wanna get lost in you/Before I lose myself’) is pretty cliché lyrics, songs like "Dear Heart" and "The Redeemer" will enthrall some but alienate others.

It's unlikely that at the end of the day Pieces Of A Real Heart will be considered a the Best Sanctus Real Album. The past three Sanctus Real Albums hold something for everything Fight The Tide still stands alone with it's smart, thoughtful lyrics and fun upbeat music, The Face Of Love stands out with its melancholy artistic mood, and some people find We Need Each Other good (true story). So where does that leave Pieces Of A Real Heart? Probably as a in between album which will re-create the band's pop rock image some. So while the album might not be the best thing since sliced bread Sanctus Real fans will be pleased to have an album which at least features the best of what the group has to offer.

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Nice, but ordinary | Posted November-06-2009
Known as Breaking The Silence, The Letter Black or a Flyleaf/Fireflight re-make, one Tooth and Nail’s newest artists have now provided fans with their first project, Breaking The Silence EP. The band is actually The Letter Black while their EP is named after the groups first band name. However the Flyleaf/Fireflight re-make comparison was also correct as the young group relies heavily on the sound already trail blazed by artists like Plumb and Evanesce and more recently capitalized by the two aforementioned bands.

However, The Letter Black does offer fans of chick-fronted rock a mostly pleasant journey with the great melody in “The Best Of Me” while providing some cutting-edge rock music with tracks like “Hanging By A Thread” and “Moving On” where lead-vocalist Sarah Anthony’s voice shines. But, her voice doesn’t always provide a gain. In fact, on “Collapse” and particularly “Perfect” her vocals overextend their bounds and hurt the songs riff-driven tracks. Throw in the average, personal lyrics into the non-original genre and you have a run-of-the-mill EP which doesn’t offer much hope for the future. Since it’s no secret that Tooth and Nail can turn mediocre artists into stars, The Letter Black will have every opportunity to show that Breaking The Silence EP is not their musical potential.

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Different, Mature, and Good | Posted November-04-2009
Forget And Not Slow Down sis not a Relient K album. Yes, on the side of an album is says ‘Relient K’, but comparing this release to Relient K’s career is difficult. This Relient K uses five new weapons they have never unitized before, but now reveal on their sixth studio project.

1) This is the first time Relient K has never featured a title track. Leading off the album is “Forget And Not Slow Down” and uses an up tempo pop rock sound which is different for the band since until recently the group has been categorized as a catchy, upbeat, punk rock group.

2) This is the first time Relient K has approached an album with a theme. None of the band’s previous five albums came close to covering a particular topic like Forget And Not Slow Down does on relationships. An expansion on that theme, forgetting and moving on emotionally, is especially evident on the title track, the final track, and “Over It” (‘No I don't know what's over just yet/But I won't go slow and time can let the mind forget’). Since the entire album dwells on relationships and, centrally, falling outs, it’s not surprising to guess where the source of songwriter Matthew Thiessen gloom comes from: Thiessen’s break up with his fiancée earlier this year.

3) This is the first time Relient K has released an album which clocked out under 45 minutes. The band’s self titled debut had previously been Relient K’s shortest full length project as it finished just over 46 minutes. The inclusion of one intro and three ourtros is another strange addition to Forget And Not Slow downs mix, so when you factor those sub-1:50 long tracks it takes even more off the album time. However while the shortness of the alum is disappointing quality always beats quantity.

4) This is the first time Relient K has used guest singers. This is only partly true due to Jon Forman’s late addition to the bands epic finale “Deathbed”, but the heavy onslaught of guest vocalists is startling. Tim Skipper of House Of Heroes vocal addition to the title track goes relatively unnoticed but his, and Aaron Gillespie of Underoath / The Almost along with Matt MacDonald of The Classic Crime do much to improve the bridge of the lone rock song, “Sahara.” After Matt MacDonald also shows up again on “If You Believe Me” it begs two questions: first, does Relient K need guest singers and two, do they make the album better? Well yes, and no. The guest vocals on “Sahara”, and particularly Gillespie, provides a nice fresh substitute instead of Thiessen’s voice on the rock track. But the pointless backing vocals on the other two tracks are just that: pointless.

5) This is the first time Relient K has left a huge musical gap between albums. When Releint K’s fifth album, Five Score And Seven Years Ago, was released fans were shocked at how different it sounded. But the musical bridge between Mmhmm and Five Score… (helped out by the Apathetic EP) wasn’t nearly as big as the gap between Five Score… and Forget And Not Slow Down. Comparing Five Score… to Forget And Not Slow Down is difficult because with the exception of the rock track “Sahara” (which might be compared to radio hit “Devastation and Reform”) and “Candle Light” which has the same country/folk pop sound as the Bird and Bee Sides EP. Some terrific upbeat pop/rock tracks like “Therapy” and “I Don’t Need A Soul” have slight old Relient K throwback beats but they don’t sound like Relient K’s fifth studio album.

These five differences add up to one strange Relient K album. Or does it? Forget And Not Slow Down is not only the band’s most smooth project, it’s also their most mature and artistic. It should be easy for Relient K fans to settle into this sound, which will be more of an acquired taste, but one which will fill fan’s appetites and top their favorite’s list for years to come. However it’s unlikely Relient K will let fans become so comfortable.

After all it’s about forgetting. And more importantly, about forgetting to slow down.

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Awake or Comatose re-packaged? | Posted September-16-2009
Comatose was huge. Almost as huge as it was unnecessary to tell you how huge Skillet’s 2006 smash CD was. Throughout the band’s thirteen year career Skillet never came as close to success they enjoyed Comatose with any other album, despite tinkering with hardcore and techno-rock. So why depart from the hard rock/rising rock/inspirational ballad approach style that made Skillet’s album Awake so anticipated? Well there really isn’t a reason other than to please some fans which are constantly craving for ongoing development and musical progression. So Skillet decision to stay with Comatoses’ formula to the letter should provoke a change of title. How about Comatose 2 or Comatose: the Sequel. Or perhaps the most telling title of all: Comatose: the expanded edition.

The comparisons from Comatose to Awake are so deep that the words ‘innovation’ and ‘original’ have no place anywhere near Awake. Setting aside the sound for a minute even Awake’s track listing is unbelievably close to that of it’s processor. Both share two grueling rock songs to begin the album and their even share of ballads to go along with a punk-wanna-be song (“Should’ve When You Could’ve”) at the same place as “Those Nights” on Comatose. On difference though is Comatose ended the CD with the epic rock song “Looking For Angels” which closes out the album far better Awake’s ending ballad, “Lucy.”

The album does kick off well though with “Hero” which features a great electric guitar played throughout which counteracts new drummer, Jen Ledger’s, over-hyped vocals. The album then proceeds to the monster rock song “Monster” which delivers an unoriginal, but great hard rock tune which matches lead singer John Cooper’s vocals brilliantly. And then the album just rolls on in the typical Comatose fashion with the only difference being that this album was named Awake. “Don’t Say Goodbye” shows up in the form of “One Day Too Late” while the technical title track (the melodic “Awake And “Alive”) is reminiscent of Comatose’s flowing title rock track. The production and showmanship of Awake might be overall better than Comatose but it’s no doubt that musically Skillet’s original template is far superior.

One aspect about Skillet that worked was the carryover picture of sleeping (Comatose) to suddenly waking up (Awake). However, lyrically Skillet wasn’t that clever. Skillet’s “Hero” really doesn’t offer much of an original concept the title track won’t wow any listener with ‘I can feel you in my sleep/In your arms I feel you breathe into me/Forever hold this heart that I will give to you/Forever I will live for you’. Even it feels as though “One Day Too Late” has only been recycled a dozen or so times over the years, the spin Skillet took on forgiveness on “Forgiven” was solid. One positive element of the lyrics on Awake was that despite Skillet’s Mainstream success and their management balking out of performing at a Church, the band has stayed true to their Christian roots and values.

Putting Awake in the simplest of terms would be something like this ‘Alien Youth and repeat were in a boat; repeat jumped off. Who was left? Collide and repeat were in a boat; repeat jumped off. Who was left? Comatose and repeat were in a boat; Comatose, the successful giant, jumped off. Who was left?'. It’s not hard to fault Skillet’s decision to run with the exact formula with Awake as they used on Comatose but at the end of the day the album really has the reply value of Comatose Deluxe Edition. That being said Skillet’s refined rock act is still one of the best in the business

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The Skinney | Posted September-16-2009
After screwing around with EPs for most of the their career, Philmont’s has finally released their first full-length album. However five tracks on Attention were previously released on the 2008 Oh Snap! EP, and the band’s best punk rock song “Hello Jack” first debuted in 2007 on the Photosynthetic EP. So the up-and-coming punk band’s first big album turns out to be a half-original disappointment from a track listing stand point.

Sadly the project doesn’t sport any ground breaking tunes either. From the peppy electronically fueled “Back Down” to the poppy, corny “Setting Off” the musical merit falls somewhere between Stellar Kart and Everyday Sunday. However a few of the new tracks manage balance the disc with their soft, piano driven approaches as both the “Letter To The Editor” and the final ballad “The Terminal” are solid.

The best that Philmont has to offer was mainly in the Oh Snap! EP even when it came down to the lyrics. From the doctor/patient analogy of salvation in “My Hippocratic Oath” to the call to stand out as believer in “The Difference” (‘If You're really inside changing my life/You would shine, You would be evident’) the older songs easily overshadow the newer songs weaker songwriting. Although Attention is a fun, upbeat, album, the band has some distance to cover before they can be categorized with Hawk Nelson or even touch Relient K level.

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The Skinney | Posted August-10-2009
Known more perhaps for his work as an award winning producer and writer than actual recording artist the talented Ian Eskelin shows once again how versatile he and his pop rock group, All Star United, are with their newest CD, The Good Album. Although The Good Album doesn’t test the waters of musical originality, ASU experiments within the rock genre produce some impressive pop-rock tunes. Powered by the mega-highlight “Dude That’s Freaking Awesome” lets off great hooks and catchy rhythmic beat along with the solid message not to waste one’s life (immaturity and the title are repeated throughout).

The humor to that song is a definite attraction and it’s continued in the piano-influenced "Good Times" which features a hilarious bridge. The upbeat tunes are the meat of the album but the lighter pop rock “The Blame” is solid while offering strong lyric’s about uh… taking blame. A dud (Like the overused “Pretty Famous” and the shallow “Good Luck With The Girls”) here and there stop the album from becoming a perfect album but The Good Album is a great way for All Star United to attract attention.

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The Skinney | Posted August-10-2009
Coming off of a popular debut project (Say It) and a pair of hit singles (“You” and “Set The World On Fire”) Britt Nicole is back offering her second project, The Lost Get Found which sounds like many of her peers while still containing solid production. The hit single and title track stands out because of the fusion of youthful pop and a refined contemporary style while sharing the message to stand out and share the love of Christ. Full of infectious tunes like the electronically hip-hop influenced “How We Roll” and “Glow” The Lost Get Found also offers a nice mix of emotionally changed ballads like the soft “Have Your Way” and the light pop track “Hanging On.”

Despite the albums present sound, Nicole doesn’t offer anything original except recycled Krystal Meyer’s-esque tunes like the catchy “Welcome to The Show” and the fun “Headphones.” Even though Nicole’s voice is able to turn the attention away from the often cheesy lyrics, when the shallow messages come out they are not flattering to her songwriting skills ("So put ‘em u-u-up/We’re gonna have some f-u-u-n/Turn up the bass let it b-u-u-mp."). While not a perfect album, The Lost Get Found will certainly appeal to those who dig upbeat chick-pop without a desire for really deep lyrics.

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Tonight might not be the best night of Everyday Sunday's lives | Posted June-22-2009
An important quality that all great artists must possess is the ability to look at the flaws of a previous album, learn from them, and then improve on the flaws with their next project. Many Christian artists may never get a chance to take the first step, but Everyday Sunday’s skill to rise above a below average album (Their sophomore album with Flicker records Anthems for the Imperfect) to create their great debut with InPop records Wake Up! Wake Up! should have made them stronger and hopefully prevented them from returning to mediocre. Sadly that is not the case with Everyday Sunday’s latest album Best Night of Our Lives.

The three words which best describe Best Night of Our Lives are, good, underwhelming, and unoriginal. Almost every single song on the album is saturated with standard upbeat pop rock songs with very few twists and a lack of complex beats. In some cases the band simply alters the tone slightly to add a more melodic pop edge similar to that of Ruth (“Where I Ended” is the prime example). The fast paced music, which included a punk edge, that reined in Wake Up! Wake Up! and made it an infectious CD is recycled here and reproduced in a laid-back, unmemorable fashion.

The title track contains a good pop rock chorus which is nice but won’t overwhelm fans, while “Under your thumb” is a little catchier as it throws together more up-tempo music which is only used for some head-shaking to the music. The more intense rock song "Lies and Fear Go Hand in Hand" isn’t terribly diverse or original even though lead singer Trey Pearson tries to give the song a shot in the arm and the pop rock used in “Breathing For Me” is progressive but it lacks a cutting edge element for it to stick out. Get the rhythm yet? The rest of the album follows the same path with almost zero strays even though the instrumental finale “Reprise (Where I Ended)” is a nice interlude for those who are not board and take another listen.

Fortunately the lyrics are at the best they have ever been as Everyday Sunday has shown a desire to progress in their song writing skills rather than falling back on clichés. The backsliding of friends causes the singer to consider ‘I see the evidence/And watch you ride the fence/So convincingly/And it is killing me/What happened through the years/To cause this change of gears’ on "Lies and Fear Go Hand in Hand." The idea of making everyday worthwhile is relatively basic concept for the title track but the lyrics do venture out on issues like our depraved state combined with our need for Christ (“Breathing For Me”), and being a persistent friend when the time comes (“Come Around”). Also, Christian should relate well to the biblically inspired songs “Pity The Man Who Falls And Has No One To Help Him Up”, and “Here With Me.”

As a fan of Everyday Sunday, I found it difficult getting into the generic pop rock tunes that made up Best Night of Our Lives. The music wasn’t bad but rather simply bland. Although Anthems for the Imperfect was a very poorly done CD in most areas that CD is more listenable than The Best Night of Our Lives. This time around Everyday Sunday has re-climb the ground they gained from Wake Up! Wake Up! and while that might seem hard, the band has the tools to give fans something fresh and relevant.

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The Skinney | Posted June-15-2009
The third release from the pop punk band eleventyseven has filled their newest album, Adventures In Eville, with great catchy upbeat techno dance tunes. With each project (dating back to their debut …And The Land Of Fake Believe,) the band has progressed with their music to become a stand out group rather than just another juvenile peppy pop group. No, it’s clear that the band who came out with mechanically troubled “Myspace” has come into their own with flawless techno punk rock tracks like “Trying” and “Prom Song.”

Tagging along with the solid punk songs is the outstanding rock song “Nightmare” which features great electronic riffs and an insanely catchy tune. Eleventyseven’s previous album, Galactic Conquest, had good songs in the form of “Love In Your Arms” and “Fight To Save Your Life” but on the bands third time out the music is far better (both “The Best I Can” and “End of Time” far outrank both of those songs). The only trouble is the lyrics up beat and hopeful messages occasionally get lost in this life without looking to God. However there should be enough here to keep listeners attention on who the group rocks for. Overall Adventures In Eville is a fun punk rock release that isn’t short of fun infectors techno influenced songs.

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Flying High in foggy areas | Posted June-12-2009
Par Avion, which is French for ‘By Air’, is a solid name for the rock group who is fixated on flying: High Flight Society. After their previous record label, RKT, crumbled beneath the band, roughly two years after making their self titled debut, High Flight Society returns with a project which bassist John Packer calls the “starting point of something big.”

The wild vocals of frontman Jason Wilkes made the band’s first album more uncontrolled effort; a mistake that Par Avion doesn’t recreate. While some may miss the wild heavily electronic influenced tunes along with bellowing guitar riffs, the EP does offer more restraint which will help the group in the long run.

Of course the solid rock song “Give It Up” still features strong guitar riffs but it feels like HFS puts their energy to better use. The intense rock song “Inhaling A Bullet” showcases where the band wants to move with their music and stands a good chance of distinguishing themselves as cutting edge rockers if they continue with this approach. However, despite some innovative background music the more upbeat pop rock “Run From Yesterday” sounds too generic. Driven solely by an acoustic guitar, “Come On Sister” doesn’t reveal any of High Flight Society’s weakness other than it’s close comparison to Disciple’s song “Savior” in its music and message.

The EP opens with two complicated songs which dwell on the trials of being an outcast (“Give It Up” soberly observes that while the singer needs someone to show him love ‘You know just what it is I need/And look away’) while “Inhaling A Bullet” contemplates the destruction words can have. The lone caution to the EP is that the song includes more than one gun metaphor. The simple messages of both “Run From Yesterday” and “Come On Sister” are both good but each express songwriting which was less complex than High Flight Society’s debut.

The Good news is that High Flight Society’s EP does adjust from their flawed opening project. But most of the changes are closer to the musical spectrum as the lyrical aspect of Par Avion presents future problems. In addition to God’s name never appearing, the lyrics either reflect basic songwriting skills or offer tracks which need careful deciphering. A solid EP which projects good things are ahead for this rock act. But it’s also one that needs to accomplish more in their sophomore album, before they can reach an elite status.

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