On the Cutting Edge
Posted December 09, 2015
By MaryNikkel_NRT, Staff Reviewer
Rock group Spoken has spanned much of the heaviness spectrum in the years since their inception in the late 90s through their Tooth & Nail years in the first decade of the 2000s, landing firmly in the post-hardcore genre by the release of 2013's Illusion. Now with the release of independent, fan-funded album Breathe Again, Spoken shows yet another side of their musical capabilities.
Helmed by the consistent presence of vocalist Matt Baird, who is currently backed by guitarist Scoop Roberts and drummer Isaiah Perez, Spoken presents an album which focuses in on some of the lighter musical elements found on Illusion. Tracks like opener "Walking In My Dreams" instantly display a focus on clean vocals and melody as the driving force, although there is a definite occasional undertone of grit and growls (see the brooding track "Poison in the Air").
The guitar tones also lean towards tight and searing with less heavy distortion, with songs like "Hold On" and album highlight "Hollow and Untrue" showing a masterful hand at incorporating just enough electronic elements to augment the guitar tones. Single "Falling Apart" flawlessly employs dual guitars in a piercing riff that builds into a memorable melody. The sound that is ultimately built mirrors the new wave of post-hardcore groups leaning into a slicker, electronically informed hard rock sound, a movement led by recent releases from mainstream acts like Bring Me The Horizon, Of Mice & Men and Asking Alexandria.
Throughout the album's 12 song span (with an additional intro and outro), the lyrics recognize brokenness while calling out to darkened hearts that there's something more for them. Confessional title track "Breathe Again," featuring stand out Memphis May Fire vocalist Matty Mullins, captures this theme in its piercing second verse: "I was broken, I felt the pain so deep inside. Never wanted to remember, so I kept it out of sight. I am hopeless, I'm nothing more than just a man-- the fire burns within me, the fire makes me who I am."
Although the core message throughout is hopeful, Spoken doesn't shy away from the reality that hope is often a messy process. "Surrender" explores the pain we can feel when someone we love chooses to stay in self-destructive cycles. "Your Memories Are Alive Again," another album highlight, walks a difficult road towards healing and forgiveness. The source of healing is clear throughout however, with "Take My Breath Away" taking an almost worshipful stance as it declares "these words could never prove to you that all my life belongs to you. I'll be chasing you forever, our hearts belong together."
The Bottom Line:
With Breathe Again, Spoken proves themselves to be on the cutting edge of the best elements of hard rock: haunting combinations of guitar tones and electronic elements, smooth vocals sending melodies soaring and lyrics that are as honest as they are ultimately redemptive.
Song to Download Now:
"Breathe Again (feat. Matty Mullins)" (Get it on iTunes here.)
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