A Hard-Hitting Sequel
Posted June 10, 2016
By MaryNikkel_NRT, Staff Reviewer
The double album concept is an old one, but not one that has been frequently employed in recent culture where attention spans are the length of a single and the ability of an artist to endure is challenged on every side. It takes a special band to pull off that kind of scope successfully. Fortunately, rock music mainstay Thousand Foot Krutch has exactly the work ethic and creative intentionality required to make it work.
Enter Exhale, the follow-up to Oxygen: Inhale. This is an album that kicks down the auditory door with guns blazing from the first searing chorus of empowering "Running With Giants." Songs like aptly-titled "Adrenaline" bring the rapcore elements from Thousand Foot Krutch's early days to the fore, with frontman Trevor McNevan's voice stretching effortlessly from scorching raps into a hooky melody. Gritty "Different Kind of Dynamite" and brooding "Off the Rails" lock in place Exhale's status as an undeniable, unashamed rock album through and through.
Lyrically, this album is encouraging and bold. "Give Up the Ghost" declares "I've met trouble and I've met rain / laughed with joy and cried with pain / but now I see and I believe / that the ghosts that haunt me have been out-haunted," a sense of victory through adversity affirmed with every beat of the kick drum from Steve Augustine. Although many of the songs certainly express and encourage confidence, it's done with refreshing realism, such as on album highlight "Incomplete." Here the band acknowledges the struggles and sacrifices inherent in the journey of chasing our passions and callings.
To fully understand and enjoy Thousand Foot Krutch's Exhale, it has to be heard in context with its 2014 counterpart Oxygen: Inhale. Inhale was at least half tracks showcasing TFK's softer side, often exploring deep prayers of the spirit in restrained but lush sonic atmospheres. Tracks like "In My Room," "Oxygen" and "I See Red" left many fans deeply moved, while others asked where the hard-hitting Thousand Foot Krutch we know and love had gone. Exhale is the answer to that question, the perfect guitar-laced pairing for the gentle Inhale. Taken by itself in fact, Exhale might feel almost too relentless in pace and theme, lacking a little in sonic texture (there is only one song on this album that slows it down for even an instant). But paired with Inhale, the complete work displayed between the two is a breathtaking example of TFK's range, both musically and spiritually.
Aforementioned ballad on Exhale comes in the form of "Honest," a musically simple but lyrically visceral prayer that begins "They say heaven is a place where all pain is washed away / with no room for all the torment of choices that we've made. / I'm a broken man, saved by grace, tossed along inside this maze / and I am just a question to the answer You convey." The song closes the album on its most emotionally fragile note, giving voice to an earnest conversation with the God who meets our hearts in the most difficult places.
The Bottom Line: Exhale is full-bodied, infectious rock at its finest, empowering and emboldening listeners even as it serves up searing vocals and thunderous guitar riffs. Although taken on its own it might feel a little incomplete, it is the perfect completion to what Oxygen: Inhale began, and is sure to satisfy fans craving a dose of Thousand Foot Krutch's signature arena-sized, adrenaline-inducing sound.
Song to Download Now:
"Incomplete" (Get it on iTunes here.)
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