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Take The World, But Give Me Jesus by Ascend the Hill Take The World, But Give Me Jesus by Ascend the Hill
One of the best aspects of music festivals is being exposed to a variety of bands. At Revelation Generation festival last weekend, I was encouraged by a few people to check out a worship band called...
Wait For The Siren by Project 86 Wait For The Siren by Project 86
A lot has changed for Project 86 in the three years since the release of “Picket Fence Cartel.” Guitarist Randy Torres and Bassist Steven Dail have officially exited the band leaving lead...
Songs In Secret by Great Awakening Songs In Secret by Great Awakening
Non-profit organization Come&Live! is home to some of the most unique worship bands, one those bands being Great Awakening. The North Carolina-based quartet is back with their second record Songs In...

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Take The World, But Give Me Jesus | Posted September-12-2012
One of the best aspects of music festivals is being exposed to a variety of bands. At Revelation Generation festival last weekend, I was encouraged by a few people to check out a worship band called Ascend The Hill. After watching only a few minutes of their set, I was hooked. Ascend The Hill recently crafted an album of hymns titled Take The World, But Give Me Jesus. Now, when I heard that it was an album of hymns, I admit I was a little bummed. It seems like every worship band is covering hymns these days. But Ascend The Hill’s renditions are so different (especially rhythmically and melodically) from the originals that they take on a new life entirely.

Take The World opens with “The Love of God,” which could easily be mistaken for an original modern worship song (I actually had to look this one up in my old, dusty hymnal to make sure it was a hymn). “How Great Thou Art” is one of the highlights of the album. The first few choruses have tense melodies that gain momentum throughout the song. After the bridge, the tension is released with a final build, creating a powerful chorus with the original melody. The album then shifts styles to a roots-y, acoustic rendition of “Rock of Ages.” What was one of my least favorite hymns instantly became a gem. Continuing in the somber vein, the title-track starts out quietly but builds to a resounding cry, “Take the world, but give me Jesus!”

I never liked the melody of “I Surrender All,” but Ascend The Hill’s version makes it listenable for me. “Hallelujah, What A Savior” begins with ethereal guitars and synths, and as with several other tracks on the record the hymn gradually builds into a tremendous chorus. “None Compare (Spontaneous Worship)” is the only original track on the record. As its name suggests, it’s spontaneous worship and an addendum of sorts to the previous song. Following is the most lyrically stirring hymn on the record. “Oh Love That Will Not Let Me Go” was written in the 1800’s by George Matheson, who had a Job-like story. The most poignant lyrical passage of the hymn is the third verse, “Oh joy that seeks me through the pain/I cannot close my heart to thee/I trace the rainbow through the rain/and feel the promise is not in vain/That mourn shall tearless be.” The final track is the popular hymn “Be Thou My Vision.” After a slow build with soaring vocals, the hymn closes with a choir backed by a cello and acoustic guitar.

If you’re the type of person that finds yourself dissatisfied with the lack of creativity in modern worship today, Take The World is the album for you. This album (like other Come&Live! albums) is free, so there’s absolutely no excuse not to listen to it. Go download it at http://www.comeandlive.com

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Wait For The Siren | Posted September-06-2012
A lot has changed for Project 86 in the three years since the release of “Picket Fence Cartel.” Guitarist Randy Torres and Bassist Steven Dail have officially exited the band leaving lead vocalist Andrew Schwab the only original member. Shortly after, Project 86 announced their departure from their long-time home Tooth & Nail Records. The band’s eighth endeavor, “Wait For The Siren” marks their first attempt in the independent arena.

Despite all the changes, Project 86 remain true to their sound. It’s evident from track one that aggressive riffs and in-your-face vocals are still the foundation of their music. “SOTS” is arguably the heaviest Project 86 song to date, helped by the deep growls of Living Sacrifice vocalist Bruce Fitzhugh. Other guest appearances are made from musicians of top hard rock and metal bands, including Brian “Head” Welch of Love and Death, Andrew Welch formerly of Disciple, and Rocky Gray formerly of Evanescence to name a few.

Multiple guest appearances is not the only surprise the band has in store on “Wait For The Siren.” From the start of the album with “Fall Goliath Fall” listeners will notice that Project 86 weaved in some non-traditional instruments like the dulcimer. This Celtic inspiration is taken a step further on “Ghosts of Easter Rising” with the addition of a Uilleann pipes.

After the departure of two original members, fans (including myself) may have been apprehensive as to whether the new music would sound like Project 86. “Wait For The Siren” proves that the band is not only still going strong, but also taking the classic Project 86 sound to new heights.


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Great Awakening | Posted May-18-2011
Non-profit organization Come&Live! is home to some of the most unique worship bands, one those bands being Great Awakening. The North Carolina-based quartet is back with their second record Songs In Secret, done in an indie/alt. rock-style that borders on experimental.

Songs In Secret feels like a live record with its raw production and unconstrained song structures. Take “Explore;” it begins minimally with a picking guitar before unexpectedly erupting into a full band. A few songs are more straightforward like “Lazarus” with its singable chorus, “Alive, You’re alive/Now You’re breathing in me, feeding me.” Lyrically, the songs are very intimate and organic, reminding me of Luke Parker’s Home.

This collection of intimate worship songs is perfect to put on during your quiet time with God. Fans of Ascend The Hill, The Ember Days, and Josh White should enjoy Great Awakening.

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Home | Posted April-19-2011

Luke Parker may be an unfamiliar name to you, but the New Zealand native has written several songs for contemporary worship act, Parachute Band.  In addition to corporate worship songs, Luke also writes worship songs that are more intimate and appropriate for one-on-one time with God. Luke recently released a collection, titled Home, with six of his solo songs.

What struck me about Home is that it’s so light and acoustic-based, yet it’s such a powerful record. Songs like “In Quietness” and “My Soul Lays Bare” prove less is more- simple instrumentation puts the focus on the lyrics, which center around waiting on God and longing for His presence. “Home” begins with guitar picking and gradually builds with swirling, reverb-laced background vocals. “Selah” also builds slowly; during the climax Luke repeats a heartfelt cry, “My soul is singing out.”

If you enjoy music by Jon Foreman and Derek Webb, or even if you’re looking for some music to play during your quiet time, then make sure to check out Luke Parker’s Home.

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Hawk Nelson | Posted February-07-2011
When I heard that Hawk Nelson was releasing another album my initial thought was, Didn’t they just release an album? Turns out it’s been a year and a half since Live Life Loud. Time flies. The Canadian pop/punk act’s fifth endeavor, Crazy Love offers a good balance of pop/punk fun and meaningful messages.

While Crazy Love doesn’t take as many musical liberties as Hawk’s previous effort, it makes for a more cohesive record. The title-track and “Your Love Is A Mystery” have a pop/synth influence, which fits nicely with high-octane pop/punk, reminiscent of their Letters to the President days, on “Tally-Ho,” “Skeleton,” “Fraud,” and “Joanna.” Even more energy is displayed on “LAX,” a chaotic punk ditty expressing the band’s frustration with airports, “I hate airports, I know they hate me/I know they jade me and that’s my point.”

It’s not all lighthearted lyricism though. “We Can Change the World” rallies listeners to make a difference in the world. “One Shot” follows the theme of their last album, urging listeners to “live out loud” because “you got one shot.” “Your Love Is A Mystery” is one of Hawk’s most overt songs to date, “You love me Jesus, it’s a mystery/You know my faults, You know my wrongs/And You still love me.”

I stated in my review of Live Life Loud that I could be a Hawk Nelson fan by their next album. While I’m not quite there yet, Crazy Love has convinced me that Hawk Nelson is a CCM staple.

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The Greater Tide | Posted February-02-2011
While Attalus is new to the music scene, the North Carolina-based quintet proves to be a promising band. Their debut, The Greater Tide EP offers an appealing alternative rock sound that can best be described as Thrice meets House of Heroes.

Attalus will keep listeners on their toes with frequent change-ups in style and rhythm. Take the second track "The Rich and Poor." On the verses, it encompasses a crisp, fast-paced drum beat, sizzling guitar riffs, and a faint piano motif that graces over top of it all. The chorus takes a slower rhythm and melancholy chord progressions, putting the focus on the hook-laden melody. Another musically intriguing track, "Behind Your Eyes" starts full but quickly strips down to a simple, piano chord progression and a driving kick drum. The song builds momentum as instruments are added back. During the bridge, vocalist Seth Davey shows off his upper range, which is strikingly similar to that of Matt MacDonald from The Classic Crime.

The lyrics are just as attention-grabbing as the music. The Greater Tide isn't a concept album per se, but there are a few songs that have a "sea" theme. One such song, "Message In A Bottle" tells a metaphorical story of a man surviving a shipwreck to demonstrate the beauty of grace, "And I don't know why I survived. I too deserved to die/But Providence has turned His eye/Grace has chosen me to stay." The title-track is about people who have died for their faith. Seth explains in an interview that the song "represents [his] admiration for those individuals."

The Greater Tide is as solid as debuts come. The production is a little rough, but this is a minor detail. From the impressive guitar work and complex rhythms to the thought-provoking lyrics, Attalus sound more like seasoned pros than newbies. This is definitely a band to watch.

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Until We Have Faces | Posted February-02-2011
Grammy-nominated rock sensation Red return with their highly anticipated release, Until We Have Faces. The intriguing title, inspired in part by a C.S. Lewis work, does well to describe the album’s theme of searching for true identity. Sound-wise, their orchestral-infused nu-metal sound reaches new heights- the hard rockers are heavier and the ballads more delicate.

Unlike Red’s previous projects, that opened with beautiful yet haunting piano motifs, Faces rips right into meaty guitar riffs. “Feed The Machine” is without question Red’s heaviest song to date. Towards the end of the track, things calm down with strings and a choir. While the following track is less intense, “Faceless” still has moments of fury, as in the bridge when vocalist Mike Barnes unleashes his chaotic vocals. “Faceless” captures the album’s theme of feeling “hollow,” but offers a resolve for the emptiness- “We are the faceless/We are the nameless/We are the hopeless/Until we have faces.”

A few tracks sound a bit recycled, but on others Red pushes outside their norms. One such song, “Who We Are,” has a pop/punk-influenced rhythm. Another, “The Outside,” has a melody that stylistically differentiates itself from the rest. Yet both tracks still stay true to Red’s sound.

Faces certainly brings the rock, but it also offers contemplative ballads. Radio-ready “Not Alone” offers hope in dark world. The album’s epic closer is a poignant ballad titled “Hymn For The Missing.” The piano-based track begins somberly, laced with strings. Lyrically it’s cryptic and vague, “Where are you now?/Are you lost?/Will I find you again?” Assuming the song follows the album’s theme, it seems Barnes is singing about himself losing his way.

Until We Have Faces is Red’s most mature album to date. Not only will this album be pleasing to longtime fans, but is sure to expand their popularity in the mainstream arena- reaching people who need to hear Red’s message of hope the most.

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Same As Sunday | Posted February-02-2011
After listening to Earn Your Stripes, it’s hard to believe that Same As Sunday is unsigned. This Indianapolis-based band has perfected the punk/rock sound that draws similarities to MxPx and Relient K (in their earlier years). Although, Same As Sunday puts their own spin on the punk/rock sound, adding elements typically found in metalcore music- breakdowns on the tongue-in-cheek “No If’s, And’s, Or Breakdowns” and growls on “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires.”

There isn’t really an overarching theme on Earn Your Stripes, other than the songs are about experiences that most people encounter on life’s journey. Frontman Chris Bauchle writes in a way that both believers and non-believers will be able to relate to and hopefully take something away from. Perhaps their most poignant and overt song on the EP is the title-track, which was inspired by Bauchle’s upcoming deployment with Operation Enduring Freedom. “Earn Your Stripes” talks about putting your full trust in God- “It’s kill or be killed, so seize the day/If God is for us who can stand in our way?”

Same As Sunday offers a perfect balance of light-hearted and thoughtful music with Earn Your Stripes. If you’re a fan of the punk/rock genre, you will love this album.

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'Tis The Season To Be Gotee | Posted February-02-2011
Independent Christian label, Gotee Records serves up a Christmas compilation sure to get Christian rock fans in the mood for the season. ‘Tis The Season To Be Gotee features Christmas favorites and even a few originals from five artists on Gotee’s roster. Actually, R&B/soul singer Ayiesha Woods is no longer on Gotee’s roster, but she provides two standout tracks on the record. Woods puts a big band spin on “Jingle Bells,” and her rendition of “Merry Christmas Baby” takes on a similar old school flair. Newcomers Abandon Kansas only make a short appearance on the album with their rockin’ version of “O Come All Ye Faithful.” All of the three House of Heroes songs were taken from the band’s Christmas EP released last year. While the covers are stellar tracks, it’s slightly disappointing that these are just rehashed songs.

Chick rocker Stephanie Smith shows her stuff on “Jingle Bell Rock” but tones it down for a mellower cover of labelmate Relient K’s “I Celebrate Day.” Speaking of Relient K, they make several appearances on the album. While the acclaimed punk/alt. rock outfit could have pulled a few tunes from their own full-length Christmas record, they chose to offer a few new tracks. One of the most intriguing of these is “O Holy Night.” Instead of performing this track with showy vocals (like most who cover it), Relient K simplifies it, putting the focus on the song’s powerful lyrics.

'Tis The Season To Be Gotee is the perfect collection to rock at a Christmas party or even for putting up the Christmas tree.

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Happy Christmas Vol. 5 | Posted February-02-2011
It’s perhaps one of the more diverse Christmas compilations you’ll hear this season, but Tooth & Nail’s Happy Christmas Vol. 5 is worth your while. Happy Christmas is all over the board, featuring quirky tunes like Hawk Nelson’s pop/punk rendition of “The Chipmunk Song” (from Alvin & The Chipmunks), traditional Christmas songs like August Burns Red’s metal instrumental of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and even originals like Emery’s acoustic-driven “Jesus Gave Us Christmas” (certainly the most overt song the band has written thus far). If you’re a fan of pop, rock, punk, alternative, or someone who enjoys the artists on Tooth & Nail’s roster, be sure to pick this one up.

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