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Posted February 12, 2009
By Nathan,

Just how big is Casting Crowns? Well their third album, The Alter and the Door, was the second biggest album in the country when it hit stores (behind High School Musical 2’s soundtrack). They are also big enough to force the Nebraska natives group formerly called Casting Pearls to change their name to VOTA. Drummer Scott Rutz says “It’s a new day and a new chapter for this band,” about VOTA’s technical self titled debut.

Casting Pearl’s pop/rock/punk act remains intact remains mostly intact (with the exception of checking most of the punk at the door) drawing comparisons to the Newsboys upbeat pop acts. Leading off the album is “hard to believe in” which starts off well with a cry of ‘turn my world around’ and progresses to become snappy, upbeat pop/rock song which could be labeld as generic. “Give it to me” sound like “hard to believe in” with a throwback rock sound that isn’t flattering and “bye bye” hovers around original pop music and incoherent recklessness. However not all of VOTA’s efforts at originality end poorly because “Be mine” changes from a aggressive pop sound, similar to those of a former song “alright”, to the light refrain that is innovative.

The techno pop “Loves taken over” takes the album on a brief, but diverse electronic detour, and while VOTA didn’t invent the pop/punk wheel that “free to fail” spins on, the riffs help the tune to become catchy. “I’ll go” sounds like old school Sanctus Real in the worst way with the edgy rock beat and the gritty hooks. “In my heart” is like a Afters’ ballad from their debut album complete with a adult contemporary/light pop sound with some worship sprinkled in for good measure.

By the time the last song goes by there is a feeling that VOTA’s lyrics contain little more than empty anthems. “Hard to believe in” does tackle redemption ( ‘oh how I've wasted time/I spent my life running from you…You filled my heart with Your love/and turned my world around’) and “bye bye” sounds cliché (give me peace/make me whole’). Like the before mentioned most of the albums references of Christ are restricted to clear pronouns. Among unchallenging songs like “I’ll go” and “be mine” stands “free to fail” and “save ourselves” which admits futility without Christ: ‘we cannot save ourselves we’. A surprising edge is shown on “Give it to me” (‘give me a sign/give us something real’).

VOTA has erred on the side of caution. Instead of casting their lot with upbeat acts like MxPx, Run Kid Run, and Hawk Nelson as Casting Pears, VOTA toned down their music to appeal to a more contemporary crowd. However in doing so the band may have sealed off a portion of a would-be fan base who would have liked their catchy punk/rock tunes and lost those Newsboys fans who may feel that “not finished” might be too heavy for their tastes. VOTA’s self titled disc puts themselves in the middle and it will be interesting to see if their music will be innovated enough to attract fans they won’t get with their lyrics.

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