The New Hawk Nelson Shows What They're Made Of
Posted March 12, 2013
By JJFrancesco_NRT, Staff Reviewer
Hawk Nelson had become quite the staple of the Christian rock scene since they debuted on Tooth and Nail records in 2004. After five albums full of hits, the band released a curious hits project. Such projects usually only come before a major change for the band. Alas, this time was not to be an exception. Frontman Jason Dunn soon announced his departure from the band to focus on solo ventures.
Lead vocalists are often the most definitive parts of a band, and very few bands can successfully transition between them at all, let alone do so while still keeping the sound that has made them famous. But Hawk Nelson wasn't announcing a breakup, so it was clear that they were going to try and find another vocalist. And lo and behold, they found one, from within the three remaining remembers of the band. Guitarist Jonathan Steingard was promoted to lead vocalist and soon, a new era of Hawk Nelson would commence.
Fast forward about a year and we have the first full-length release with Steingard's vocals, Made, released on their new label home, Fair Trade Services. We were told that we'd get a stylistic shift with the new vocals. From the first track, this is fairly noticeable. While it's not hard to picture Jason Dunn singing any of these, the pop/punk/rock sound that had defined Hawk Nelson for five albums is largely replaced with a more radio pop/rock sound, with only a few hints of the band's previous sound remaining.
It's not that Hawk Nelson hasn't had softer, pop songs before; it's just now, that seems to be the focus of their albums. So yes, we are definitely dealing with a brand new Hawk Nelson here, even though the remaining three members are the same.
But the important question remains, is it any good? And the short answer is: definitely.
"What I'm Looking For" is a peppy opener with enough rock to make it feel alive. It's definitely an appealing radio-ready song with just enough of Hawk Nelson in it to make it feel at home on the record. Steingard's vocals are crisp and upbeat. It's difficult to picture him singing some of the edgier HN classics and so the style shift is understandable. This style complements his vocals quite well and makes for an appealing musical experience.
Lead single "Words" (featuring MercyMe's Bart Millard) is arguably the best song on the album and an excellent choice to introduce the new Hawk Nelson to listeners. It's got a terrific message about making everything we say glorify the Lord: "Let my words be life / Let my words be truth / I don't wanna say a word / Unless it points the world back to You," and it's got an infectious melody that you'll be singing to yourself for months. There's even a bit of the old Hawk Nelson in this too, while still feeling like its fresh and new.
The title track, "Made," is another standout. Its message of self-acceptance is a common one but the band makes it feel fresh and relevant. Plus, these lyrics are particularly heartwarming, calling to mind the love God had for each of us when he created us: "Brighter than stars that shine / You light up the Maker's eyes / And you'd believe if you could see / The smile on His face / The moment you were made."
"Love Like That" and "Faithful" are other great moments on the record. Some of the songs are clearly more memorable than others, but there's not a bad song in the bunch. The album is solid start to finish.
Hawk Nelson's truly managed to pull off a stunning transition between lead singers. Their passion for God is as apparent as ever and this music is a great fit to CCM without sounding watered down or copycat. Steingard's vocals might make for a different Hawk Nelson than we're used to, but it's still great music.
I'll definitely miss the old Hawk Nelson, but the new Hawk Nelson has given us a new sound to love. The edge might be gone and the sound a tad more generic, but the heart and passion, as well as the clever and relevant lyrics, remain. This is an exciting new chapter in the band's life, and one I hope sticks around for a long time.
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