The devil is not the nature that is around us...
Posted August 23, 2009
...but the nature that is within us all
I am going to kick start this review on more of an administrative note. As a reviewer, I personally feel that it is not my job in my reviews to share my personal opinion on whether the band is right or wrong in their perspective of making music. I am responsible for pointing out the different aspects of the album's lyrics and message, but I should not be using a music review as a pulpit to preach for or against a band's standards or beliefs. My job and responsibility to you, the reader, is to present the facts undistorted and unfiltered so that you may make an informed decision on whether or not this is something that you would like to listen to. Obviously, my opinion will somewhat carry over into my rating and review of the music, but I plan to save the soapboxes and debates for the forums. If anyone wishes my personal perspective of any band's views, feel free to drop me a comment or message.
Most of the band members of Mute Math were introduced through the Christian music industry years ago when they came up through the band Earthsuit. When Earthsuit disbanded and they formed the band Mute Math, they were very clear that they did not want to be restricted to a Christian audience.
If you feel convicted that you should only listen to music specifically labelled and sold as "Christian"... If you feel that a band's lyrics and message must consistently speak of Jesus Christ and promote God's work in their lives... This is not an album that you want to pick up. Mute Math's purpose as a band is not to minister towards Christians and as such their songs and lyrics were not designed to enhance the listener's relationship with Christ. They have also chosen not to use their musical career as a platform for bringing others to Christ directly through their music.
If on the other hand, you can accept that some people choose writing and playing music as a career choice, much akin to writing for a newspaper or joining the military or being a doctor... If you accept that some people choose to inspire and influence others through the way that they live their day-to-day lives, not through choosing a ministry position as a career choice... You'll find that you may be able to enjoy one of the most musically unique albums released this year.
This album is without a doubt in my mind the definitive opposite of a sophomore slump. The progression and growth in songwriting is astonishing, particularly considering how impressive the self-titled album already was. Armistice strays far from being formulaic and nearly every song has its own significant sound, unique from other tracks on the album. Paul's vocals are impressive as ever and Darren's drumwork will have you picking your jaw up off the floor at times. Beyond that, you notice more subtle little things with each listen, from background vocal choruses to string arrangements to Roy's superb bass lines. I thought they had already nailed musical excellence with the self-titled album, but I could not be more pleased with the musical growth and maturity here.
On the other hand now. The lyrics, simple and poignant in the self-titled album, have taken quite a different turn here. As a "secular" band, their positive lyrics made it easy to recommend their self-titled debut. Although never specific, their beliefs subtly shined through in their lyrics and always revealed hope through the darkness. The content here is much more obscure than previously and conveys a sense of hopelessness and despair throughout the album. My favorite song off the previous record, Stall Out, is perhaps a good example... the song speaks of racing along a fault line, bracing for a landslide, and worrying about stalling out and not being good enough. Yet, the final line of the song brings hope with "You keep coming around to convince me / It's still far from over". Many of the songs on Armistice are similar to Stall Out in their lyrical content... but that telling final line never comes. Mute Math seems to only write questions with no answers on this go around. You see this constantly in the first half of the album in Backfire "Please tell me, why are we trying so hard? / We always fall right back to where we start", Clipping "I've been drowning all along... and I give up... I don't know who to fight anymore / I don't know what is right anymore", and No Response "If it all is black and white / Then tell me what is wrong and right / I don't suppose that anybody knows.
The lyrical low point and my only true point of objection with the entire album comes with the song Electrify. "I'm in love with this girl / And it's got my head electrified / And I hope that someday she might go too far, go too far / Cause all I can think about is me and her electrified / I hope that someday she might take me home and lose control". I've seen some early discussion on the song relating it to a Song of Solomon-esque parallel, but... well, I suggest you use your own judgment. In my opinion, it sounds to me to be promoting a physical relationsip outside the context of marriage, so I have an issue with this song.
Moving along now, for all of the unique and one-of-a-kind music presented here, my favorite song (No Response) sounds as though it came right off of The Listening's LP that was released a few years ago. From the style of music to the lyrical style of lines in the verses, I couldn't help but to compare the two bands on this song. That's not a bad thing, I love the The Listening and Paul is one of very few vocalists who can top Gabriel's voice. On a disconcerting note however, as noted earlier, this song presents another hopeless set of lyrics with the perspective of not having any sense of absolute truth. The song continues with "And maybe when we reach the end / We'll ask imaginary friends 'Why no response?'", which, on the surface, certainly seems to suggest the possibility of reaching the end of life on this earth to find that there's no God. While lyrical content of this nature is expected from typical "secular" artists, it is very disappointing when compared to the subtle beliefs that Mute Math once presented in their self-titled album throughout songs like Stall Out, Control, and Chaos.
Musically, this record has to be near the top of my recommendations for albums released this year. However, if you listen to this album expecting a positive or inspirational message, Armistice will leave you staring at the sun and stalling out.
(Heh... sorry, I couldn't resist)
My Highlights: No Response, Burden, Goodbye
Sometimes I get tired of pins and needles
Facades are a fire on the skin
And I'm growing fond of broken people
As I find that I am one of them
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