Through the Desert
Posted March 27, 2012
By MaryNikkel_NRT, Staff Reviewer
Occasionally an album quietly appears on the scene with such surprising intensity and raw defiance of convention that it seems amazing that the artist could get away with it. Keep Quiet by SONS is one of those albums.
The band takes on the incredibly challenging task of telling a story--a story of a journey with two sides. On the one side is faith, and on the other the endless questions of doubt and brokenness. SONS boldly sets out to tackle a narrative of a desert soul armed with a beautifully raw guitar tone, gritty piano, and the flawless, poignant falsetto of frontman Aaron Newberry.
"Masters of Flattery" begins the album with a rich, dark vibe, exploring the shadowed side of who we choose to follow and the consequences. The guitars are cutting and raw but not overwhelming. The band crafts a stark sonic landscape, a perfect framework for the lyrics. "Believe in Something" strips away some of the musical layers to leave the skeleton of words holding the song together.
The title track continues with a distorted, almost discordant intro leading into some of the bleakest moments on the album. "I am a dead man walking," Aaron Newberry laments, "treading above on the ground where I lay, silently prisoned by the breath that won't fill up my lungs." This song, like many on the album, delves deep into the brokenness of the human condition.
"Caution" begins with an empty moment, painstaking piano backed by an understated electronic swell. The song explores what happens when we twist grace and the reality of humanity’s deep need, building in intensity towards the end. "Sea of Glass" comes as an answer, an almost blurry instrumental backdrop tearing just enough to let in a quick ray of light with the words "Whom do I have in Heaven but you?" Darker moments return with the scalding "Doubt" and "Under the Sun." The vocals here are raw but controlled, seemingly limitless as they climb through the lyrics over a deep, driving guitar foundation.
"Ghosts" brings the first true call to grace, a breath of air: "Come ye weary; breathe in the aroma. Forgiveness is here. You've been given life now and forever. Stop living within all your fears. Better breathe in deep, you'll ﬁnally ﬁnd the answers." Even here there is a deep, wounded, cathartic honesty. The song is painfully earnest about the human condition while also acknowledging the reality of redemption.This thread of grace runs into "Son on the Run," a song that explores the narrative of the prodigal in a new light.
SONS continues to display a refreshing versatility to the end, bringing an urgent momentum to "The Devil and I" that blends into the piercing "Is This a Dry Season or Agnosticism." The final track here cries the question that has echoed over and over throughout the album: "how can the heart of Jesus and the prideful coexist?" The six-minute song wraps the album up nicely, ending it even stronger than it began with waves of blistering, aggressive guitar tone and stark spiritual questioning.
I love this album partly because it is incredibly hard to swallow. SONS seems to have effortlessly shattered every convention when it comes to saying the right things; they say the real things instead, letting the questions and the ache for grace pour out as unrestrained as the passionate vocals and richly layered instrumentation. Here is something special, painted dark but cracked throughout with threads of light. The songs range from achingly, intentionally bleak to sharp and dynamic. It is not an easy listen. You might need to make an effort to catch the details and to think through the questions, and reaching answers will take more effort still, but this is one musical journey that is very worth taking.
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