Tenth Avenue North [The Struggle]
Posted October 16, 2012
By KevinDavis_NRT, Staff Reviewer
After two highly acclaimed albums Tenth Avenue North takes a bold creative leap forward on its new album, The Struggle. Inviting fans all over the country to lend their voices to the process as they recorded this album in cities along its tour route, the songs explore themes of forgiveness, redemption and grace. "We really fostered the dance of both the music and the lyric while thematically unpacking the idea of what it means to struggle," says lead vocalist Mike Donehey. "We are free to struggle, but don't need to struggle to be free. It's about the permission to struggle but also a challenge not to stay there." With The Struggle, the band offers up lyrically substantive songs people have come to expect from Tenth Avenue North.
The opening set of tracks are all among the best songs I’ve heard on any album in the past few years. From the beginning notes of “Shadows,” I was hooked by the lyrical and musical intensity of the album. The opener kicks off the musical journey immediately relating to listeners, “We’re born into the longing,” which leads to the confessional chorus—“I’ve been running / chasing nothing but shadows / Oh Lord please come / raise my dead heart...You can keep me from chasing after the shadows.” The great Brit-rock style guitar riffs are found throughout this substantive album. “The Struggle” has more vertical lyrics: “Why do I still give in to temptation…I will trust You, take You at Your Word.” That leads to the freedom we can all proclaim as believers in the sincere chorus, “Hallelujah, we are free to struggle / we’re not struggling to be free / Your blood bought it / makes us children / children drop your chains and sing.” Amen! “Worn” is a beautiful, confessional ballad highlighted by Mike Donehey’s vocal delivery as he prays, “I know that I need to lift my eyes up…but I know that You can give me rest, so I cry out with all that I have left…let me see redemption win / let me know the struggle ends / that You can mend a heart that’s frail and torn /and all that’s dead inside can be reborn / because I’m worn.” The song has quickly become a prayerful anthem in my daily devotional time.
All of these songs are poignant and powerful with earnest worshipful lyrics. “Losing” is filled with the biblical truth about the need for forgiveness—“Oh Father, won’t You forgive them, they don’t know what they’ve been doing / Oh Father, give me grace to forgive them / ‘cause I feel like the one losing.” Corrie ten Boom was known to say that “God put our sins in the deepest sea and then put up a sign that said, No Fishing.” There is no fishing for our own sins, nor any for the sins of others. As God’s children, He removes our sins from us “as far as the east is from the west” – Psalm 103:12. “You Do All Things Well” is another vertical expression of adoration and includes another great guitar riff. Piano based closing song “Lamb of God” could be added to church worship services. The song features a beautiful choir backed proclamation, “You are Holy, You are Worthy, You are Holy, You’re the Lamb of God.” Amen!
The Struggle is a great collection of confessional and authentic expressions of faith. It appears that the success of the band has allowed them to creatively express themselves and for me that has really paid off with yet another “best” album. The album’s themes are brokenness, healing, forgiveness and mercy. Once again the songs are poignant and powerful, and in recording the new tunes, the band brings a more seasoned level of musicianship and intensity, on par with Coldplay, Hillsong UNITED and Jars of Clay. For me the stand-out songs are “Shadows,” “The Struggle,” “Worn,” “Losing,” “You Do All Things Well” and “Lamb of God.” With one listen to this album it is obvious Tenth Avenue North is taking another bold step forward on their musical journey.
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