A New Flightpath
Posted May 03, 2015
By MaryNikkel_NRT, Staff Reviewer
For a group who has always been intentional about connecting well with listeners, independence and fostering a more direct fan-to-band relationship was really the logical next step-- a step Fireflight has embraced.
After a successful PledgeMusic campaign to get their first independent album off the ground, the group had to delay INNOVA due to the news that lead singer Dawn Michele was pregnant. Now, a month after the arrival of Dawn's son, the group's new album is finally making its way to the fans who have supported it.
In an NRT interview last year, Dawn said of INNOVA's direction "What we've wanted to do is bridge where Fireflight has been in the last 14 years and where Fireflight wants to be, what we're growing into." This intention is immediately apparent in the sonic stance of the album, which dials back the guitar influence and turns up the electronic ambiance. Opener "Keep Fighting" displays this dynamic beautifully, with a hefty beat backing the encouragement to listeners who are facing painful situations to keep fighting.
"Resuscitate" has a similar undercurrent as it reflects the reality of a God who brings life to the dead places in us. "Lightning" beautifully blends the synth elements with a steady guitar bed, pulsing with energy in tandem with the lyrics' declaration of every soul's unique radiance. "You were never made to fit the mold / be a supernova and explode" the song urges.
Some of the album's highlights are found on selections that blend a slightly darker tone to the electrorock vibe. Latest single "Safety," which features Anberlin's Stephen Christian on guest vocals, is one of the standout offerings on the album. There is just enough of a moody edge (a sound aided by Stephen's searing vocals) to reference Fireflight's first two albums, while the electronic instrumentation points towards the future. This song also features some of the most memorable writing on INNOVA, with the chorus painting vivid pictures of solace in our soul's dark nights: "In the light, in the dark, I will be your bleeding heart / Cause when you need me, I'll be your safety."
"The Fallout" is another album highlight, showing off a different sound from Dawn Michele's voice than anything we have heard on previous Fireflight efforts. The sound of the track captures the same tension in the lyrics, the crossroads of trying to decide whether to move forward into healing or stay immobilized by the harms of the past. The sharp staccato beat weaves in and out of Dawn's vocals, which are alternately abrupt for impact and smoothly soaring.
The album's ballads are also highlights for those who are drawn to the gentler side of Fireflight (an area where they tend to shine, such as on "Wrapped In Your Arms" and "Name"). "Easy to Break" explores the way God is so gentle with our hearts even when they are at their most vulnerable. Gentle piano and acoustic guitar intros "Light Inside," which emphasizes that the value of souls can't be dictated by the world's recognition or fame. The affirming lyrics gently remind "Don't waste your time chasing neon lights / There's a light inside of you."
INNOVA is an album that will be well worth the wait for eager fans. Beautifully striking the delicate balance between rock and roll honesty and electronic innovation, this project is one of the best yet from Fireflight. The songwriting showcases the best of Fireflight's thematic focuses, pointing to God's love and the way that makes light available to us even in our darkest hours.
The only flaw in an otherwise strong release is that it feels a bit overlong, with some of the songs mirroring the themes and sound of others so closely that they feel a bit superfluous. Trimming the 12 tracks back a bit might have made for a tighter album overall. However, that minor factor aside, INNOVA is both heartfelt and musically refreshing. For me, this is one of the musical high points of the year so far.
Song to Download Now:
"Safety" (Get it on iTunes here.)
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