Hope Amidst Chaos | Posted May-25-2019 What You Need To Know:
Seventh Day Slumber has long been a staple of Christian rock, quietly riding in the background of the industry while other acts have come and gone. Now they return with their rockiest release in years.
What It Sounds Like:
Seventh Day Slumber has found success both for their raw hard rock sound as well as a rock-driven worship sound. The styles have often dueled from album to album, with some even splitting the difference between the two. With a rumored worship release forthcoming, Closer to Chaos eschews softer material entirely and goes all in on a full-fledged rockfest. Rousing opener "Alive Again" is an instant SDS classic and should remind listeners of the band's Finally Awake album. Guitar hooks drive standouts such as "Burning an Empire" and "Light It Up." No songs really tone down the guitars enough to be considered legitimate ballads, keeping the octane level high from the first riff to the last. That said, songs like "Still Breathing" offer enough melodic power to balance some of the more aggressive highs.
Seventh Day Slumber has always been among the boldest rock acts around. "The Letter" is a suicide letter exploring the feelings of someone so lost in their pain that they'd consider suicide. "Still Breathing" offers a counterpoint of someone saved through Christ. "Burning an Empire" talks about our selfishness as a nation in throwing Christ out so we can justify our sin. One line that feels relevant amidst certain debates in politics today: "We want to decide who lives and who dies/we let the unborn pay the price/All just murder for hire/so we can fill our desires/and we go on with our own lives." "Drama" also employs a critique of our current societal failings. Yet, there are also proclamations of hope, triumph, and seeing value in ourselves in songs like "Alive Again" and "Your Eyes." For every examination of the cracks of our fallen world, the band also shows the hope of Christ, who mends those wounds.
"Alive Again" is probably the most "single-worthy" track, but the consistent quality from start to finish makes it hard to pick a favorite.
Fans of the edgier side of Seventh Day Slumber have an album they've waited years for with the band's most aggressive full-length effort in years. With relevant themes and a raw guitar rock energy that is increasingly rare in this decade's music, Closer to Chaos may prove one of the choice releases of the year for rock fans.
It's been a little over a year since Newsboys legends Peter Furler and Phil Joel returned to the Newsboys for what turned out to be a legendary night of music. Now, the culmination of both eras of the Newsboys working together has produced a brand new album featuring both Furler and Tait on vocals.
What It Sounds Like
While both Furler and Tait have their distinct brand of Newsboys quirky flare, both also have a distinct style of pop worship, and it's the latter that gets the overwhelming focus on this album. Luckily for fans, the Newsboys have always been great at crafting an anthemic worship song. Even when it's a familiar and safe tune, they've produced some of the most singable and powerful worship songs of our generation. Lead single "Greatness of Our God" is a great example of everything that works with Newsboys worship, and also the great treat of hearing both Tait and Furler in one track. These two play so well off each other that it lifts songs like this one and "Symphony" to instant classic heights. Musically, I'd have liked them to explore a bit more - but, when both men have some legitimate classics written already, it's hard to fault them for going with what flat out works.
There is a smidgen of old school Newsboys feel to "Only The Son (Yeshua)" in it's guitar riff, hook and chorus. This song is another standout and sure to be a favorite live due to its overwhelming energy.
"Never Setting Sun" is a favorite on the album for its catchy power. "Beautiful Story" brings in a needed reflective tone to balance out the energy. Both songs also feature each singer more or less solo, helping to avoid the oversaturation of the duet's novelty.
Only "Love One Another" really feels like it explores the "fun" side of the Newsboys, even bringing in Tait's former bandmate Kevin Max for vocals. However, what should be an epic track feels a bit underdone and slightly clashes tonally with the anthemic worship. Perhaps another collab featuring all these types of songs is in order?
The Newsboys brand of worship excels at crafting strong imagery into worship. "Never Setting Sun" offers Furler's classic nature imagery to portray the wonder of God, while songs like "Beautiful Story" veer more toward the intimate personal side often found in the Tait era. Each song offers an effective worship experience, and even if new ground isn't exactly broken, there's legitimate quality here that stands above the genre's standard.
"The Cross" has it, of course. See the track on the Deluxe version for details.
In all seriousness, fans of either of the Newsboys' wildly successful but distinct eras will find much to love on United. Both Furler and Tait are legends in the business and their voices contain a power rarely matched in today's musical climate. United is landmark release and a stand out worship/pop release of the year - here's hoping there's more to come from Newsboys United.
Like You're In Church | Posted April-22-2019 What You Need To Know:
Legacy - Live From Ireland is a new live EP from Vineyard Worship UK & Ireland that was captured at the inaugural gathering of Irish Vineyard church leaders in Lisburn in October 2018.
What It Sounds Like:
Vineyard successfully captures the feel of a megachurch worship concert. The slim track listing lends itself to making this EP feel like the soundtrack to a Sunday Morning service, albeit one where most of the songs build to a strong crescendo.
Vineyard goes for a straightforward worship approach, mixing together several hymns with their own offerings done in similar styles. While this isn't the avenue for the deepest of theological ponderings, it orients listeners to the basics of what really matters: Christ.
Dynamic Modern Worship | Posted March-23-2019 What You Need To Know:
A youth ministry wing of Planetshakers Church, Planetboom is out to reach a new generation that is facing a whole new set of challenges.
What It Sounds Like:
Probably the most notable thing about this project is how varied the styles are. About half the songs fall into a unique rap-worship style complete with techno backing. But, just when you think you know what this album is about, the songs do a 180 into more Hillsong worship territory on the title track which, along with one of the rap cuts, is featured both live and in studio. "Run to You" is the standout, featuring a worshipful approach amidst a touch of light rock chorus. Personal tastes admitted, this song also feels like it's the most sure of itself and its identity.
Clearly aiming at a youth demographic, this album touches on basic themes such as the necessity of relying on Christ and going to Him in our times of need. I'd have liked for some deeper issues to be touched upon, but at the same time, basic truths are often in short supply and could still benefit young listeners in need of that message.
Best Song on the Album:
"Run To You"
With 2 fairly dramatic styles dueling throughout the album, this record still succeeds in demonstrating an unshakeable thematic unity that is rooted in worship.
Building The City | Posted March-14-2019 What You Need To Know:
Husband and wife duo Jonathan and Britney Cashman, The Cashmans, are published authors and worship artists who travel full-time across America and internationally with their music and speaking ministry. Their mission is to provide authentic worship, and to assist the local church in building discipleship-based small groups. Together, Jonathan and Britney have written and recorded many worship and contemporary Christian albums, including their latest project, City of God, with Grammy and Dove Award winning producers Ian Eskelin and Barry Weeks.
What It Sounds Like:
Depending on who is on vocals, The Cashmans delve into a different flavor of popular worship music. Jonathan Cashman's vocals balance the deep and soft contemporary accessibilities of a worship leader with just a hint of rock power. This carries songs like single worthy "All Things New" to energetic heights. Britney Cashman's vocals fit more into the modern Hillsong United and Bethel Music molds, with the songs she leads often resembling hits from those artists in their crescendo structure.
These songs tackle straight worship and also songs reflecting on God's work in our lives. Listeners may recognize a few covers here, such as "Carried to the Table" (popularized by Leeland), an emotional song of thanksgiving to God for carrying us to a reward we do not deserve. These songs overflow with a desire to share the greatness of Christ, as "Reaching" proclaims, "what good is the truth if it can't be told?"
In The Tradition of Modern Megachurch Worship | Posted February-19-2019 What You Need To Know
UPPERROOM independently releases its fourth recording and first full-length album, To The One, Feb. 22. "We believe these songs will inspire the Church to gaze solely, in awe and wonder, at Jesus," says Elyssa Smith, who leads worship at UPPERROOM's main church campus in Dallas, TX. "As we've encountered Him, He's given us language to minister to Him. He is the One and every song is for Him.
What It Sounds Like
Fans of popular megachurch worship bands should feel right at home here. With both male and female-led anthems, these songs give the extended worship ballad a drive through nine tracks that should satisfy fans of the genre.
The limited lyrics force the songs to get to their points quickly, and worship fans should not be disappointed with a collection of explicit praise and lyrics of adoration and thankfulness to Our Creator.
Clearing Out The Temple | Posted January-31-2019 What You Need To Know
No stranger to leading worship, the Voice in My Head Podcast host preps his sophomore worship record, with inspiration from some great names in the business and themes of chasing the merchants out of the temple, Rick Lee James seeks to restore the sacred to the often corporate nature of Praise & Worship.
What It Sounds Like
Scripture readings are peppered throughout the project, grounding the album firmly in Scripture. The title track is the first proper song and is an instant attention-grabber with a bit of a Western feel thanks to an edgy riff. During the song, I couldn't shake a feeling that it was calling to mind something the late, great Rich Mullins would have done, though I couldn't put my finger on just what it was. Sure enough, a little bit of research revealed that the song was a long lost track of Mullins', never released and only left behind through scratchy old recordings. James decided to rescue the track and finally release a properly recorded version to the world. While this undeniably makes one wonder what Mullins' would have sounded like, James does a strong job of bringing to life a lost treasure of one of the industry's greats. The song sets the tone for the entire record, with songs sounding more like something you'd hear at a small country Church than at a packed megachurch arena.
The title track's themes of chasing out merchants from the temple resonate through much of the album. While direct praise is the dominant presence, there is also reflecting on how Christians are called to love our enemies. In the most personal cut, "The Lord is Our Shepherd (To The Babies We Lost)," James sings to the babies who died too soon. The juxtaposition of loss and worship makes for a powerful moment in the record.
Named after a Lord of the Rings character, Eowyn has been around awhile in the background of the Christian rock scene, offering a gothic/industrial-influenced hard rock sound that is fairly unique among the Christian rock scene. Back with her first new album in years, fans will finally have a new gift to unwrap this holiday season.
What It Sounds Like
Shedding some of the harder-edged rock that defined some of her previous hits, Eowyn leans full into the piano-driven side of her sound with this new release. With piercing, haunting vocals and emotive piano-driven hooks, many of these ballads reach strong and powerful musical heights. While not something to headbang to, the music takes you in and paints a raw picture of vulnerability. I’d love to see some of these songs in the background of a television drama.
Ewoyn gives common spiritual themes of rock a unique delivery with a raw and honest approach. Themes of belief and facing the trials of life are given an emotional core. Regaining lost faith drives the quasi-title track while reliance on God is another recurring theme.
A New Beginning | Posted November-10-2018 What You Need To Know
VERIDIA was one of the most promising new voices in Christian Rock a few years ago, with several hits that captured much radio attention. They were seen by many to be the next big thing. When a full-length album never materialized from their many hits, it seemed possible they had missed their window. But, after several hiccups, the band has finally delivered their debut full-length record.
What It Sounds Like
Those familiar with VERIDIA’s previous EPs may take some time to adjust to the band’s new home in techno pop. While the techno angle was always a major part of their sound, VERIDIA was still framed in an accessible rock package. While those influences still remain to a degree on The Beast You Feed, the band has made a definitive move toward their technical side. Some of the technical choruses sound like something from a mainstream pop powerhouse, and sometimes this works better than others. A few of the vocal effects can be an acquired taste, and keep a few of the numbers from popping quite as much as they could. “Reckless” stands out as a highlight on the disc, bringing a bit of the band’s older rock sound back for a song that could’ve fit on one of their early EPs.
Album closer “I’ll Never Be Ready” is the most familiar sounding, a gentle ballad in the tradition of some of the band’s previous offerings. It’s a brief number, but one that is carried by Deena Jakoub’s powerful vocals as well as a guest appearance by Evanesence vocalist Amy Lee. Those vocals remain (and always were) one of VERIDIA’s strongest assets; they carry emotion and sell whatever it is Jakoub is singing.
The songs on this album tread more toward the “positive message” side than anything too blatantly spiritual. The album’s theme (portrayed beautifully on the cover) of choosing which of your inner beasts you will feed carries important spiritual lessons. Elsewhere, there are themes of both challenging us to abandon our darker behaviors along with embracing a positive view of ourselves.
VERIDIA may have drifted from their techno-rock beginnings toward a more commercial techno-pop, but they still retain the driving heart that makes them one of the premier acts of the current musical landscape.
Inspiring, Christ-Centered, and Brimming With Nostalgia | Posted November-02-2018 What You Need To Know
Brothers Jason and Paul Watkins have been in the business awhile with their own respective projects. Joined by old friend Matthew Linton, the trio has produced a standout worship project that could be one of the genre’s better-kept secrets of the year.
What It Sounds Like
With throwback synths and emotive choruses, there’s a good deal of nostalgic throwback sounds here. Much of the music reminded me of songs I grew up with that released in the 80’s and 90’s in CCM, while still coming packaged with enough modern flare to remain in place with the current landscape. From moment to moment, I can pick out different influences without any dominating too much to ever become a ripoff. The slow synth key hook of “Keep The Fire Alive” stands out as one of the album’s more memorable moments, while the energy of the chorus of “Sing!” will shine as one of the most singable.
This is pure, vertical music. The topics tackled are common themes in the genre, singing of the great acts or God and their effect in our lives. However, the delivery is a bit more alive than the common offerings. Whether it’s outright worship or encouragement for the Christian walk, the material should be appealing to CCM fans everywhere.