Hard Rock Hymns
Posted October 23, 2012
By MaryNikkel_NRT, Staff Reviewer
For a band that has held their own in the Christian hard rock arena for nearly two decades, the temptation might be to settle into the well-worn path forged by albums past. With 2010's Horseshoes and Handgrenades, Disciple proved that they had no intention of taking the easy way out. Two years later, while the singles "Dear X (You Don't Own Me)" and "Invisible" are still garnering significant radio play, the band is back with a fresh set of tunes that draws heavily on both old roots and more recent conventions to create the bleakly titled opus O God Save Us All.
The album kicks in with "Outlaws," a blistering anthem for the abused and forgotten. The feel-good rock-and-roll vibe sets this song up perfectly for fist-pumping crowd participation. The title track ("O God Save Us All") follows, serving up solid hard rock grit from the moment front man Kevin Young spits the opening lines: "I've had a bad three days coming off of a bad three years." Longtime fans might catch faint hints of stylistic elements from older albums such as Back Again and By God in the frantic, scratched backing vocals.
"RIP" shakes the solid guitar work of Micah Sannan and Andrew Welch to the surface with some crunchy riffs supporting lyrics celebrating surrender to new life in Christ as we leave our past lives behind.
"Once And For All" slows the pace down, fading in on a steady swell of strings and a layer of choral-style backing vocals. The more accessible sound of this cut provides the potential for a future radio single, as does the deeply cathartic chorus's cry, "Now I stand face to face with the light of Your grace / and the weight of all my shame begins to fall once and for all."
"Someday" follows in a similar vein musically, although it takes a slightly more upbeat lyrical direction. The strong central melody directs the listener towards a future beyond the shadowlands we live in, looking through the lens of hope provided by Christ. The album version of the record's lead single, "Draw The Line," lands in the middle of the collection. The track is an earnest, deeply honest conversation between an aching heart and God, crying for the change that can only come through surrender.
After several more mellow tunes in a row, "Kings" crashes in with a driving beat framing the scorching guitar hook. "Unstoppable" is another crushing rock track, highlighting solid drum fills from drummer Trent Reiff and signature scalding screams from Kevin Young. The song is a fight song, a challenge declaring, "One by one they will fall / and there's nothing they can do about it / You're unstoppable."
The well-balanced musical arranging is matched by equally seamless songwriting. Many of the selections offer the strongest writing we've ever heard from the band, a trend exemplified on "The One." The tight anthem hammers out the words, "you won't ever face this fight alone / we bleed one for all / we bleed all for one." The refrain leans heavily on the momentum of forceful gang vocals.
"Beautiful Scars" could be a sequel to past Disciple songs "After the World" and "Invisible." This is an earnest anthem for the children of God ransomed from their vices, an infusion of encouragement for the ones coming out of a struggle: "We were the bruised, we were the broken / We don't live in pieces anymore." The album closer, "Trade a Moment," breaks some new ground for the band, introducing female backing vocals and maintaining an unusually chill tone. The gentle love song is a ballad that will ring true for those who have endured long separations from their loved ones. The mellow chorus wraps up with the vulnerable declaration "of all the things in my life that I could rewrite, I wouldn't trade a moment with you."
O God Save Us All is a dynamic collection of hard rock hymns, showcasing Disciple's ability to create both raw anthems and symphonic ballads. As the title would imply, it is an album for the fight, a collection of songs for the wanderers seeking to step more fully into the new identity of hope defined by Jesus. This is a project well worth picking up for both dedicated Disciple listeners and rock fans looking for a solid hard rock record that hasn't been watered down. The album offers enough of the familiarity of the band's past style to satisfy dedicated listeners while refusing to settle for status quo, pushing on instead to craft fresh intricate riffs and vibrant lyrics that make this album stand distinct.
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