Posted September 08, 2017
By MaryNikkel_NRT, Staff Reviewer
Few bands have had the level of steady longevity that Spoken can boast. The title of their new record IX, roman numerals for nine representing the number of studio albums they've released, speaks to the reality of their work ethic and faithfulness to the calling of crafting hard rock centered on messages of redemptive hope.
Releasing less than two years after 2015's exceptional album Breathe Again and drawing on some of the same team, IX doesn't stray too far from the tone established on its predecessor. However, Spoken has never been one to stop pushing themselves, and there's enough evolution on this project that it strikes the difficult balance of familiar and fresh. Single "Stronger" exists in that beautiful tension, with searing guitar riffs and a melodic, urgent chorus: "sometimes you hurt so long you don't even notice the pain is gone." "I Will Not Fade" has similar strengths with ferocious riffs shoring up a theme of relentless determination.
One of the way this album moves forward is by exploring new territory in both guitar and vocal tones. "Pages of the Past" sees heavy distortion on the guitars bleeding into electronic accents, creating an eerie and aggressive atmosphere that begs to be recreated live. "This Is Not the End" shows off Matt Baird's incredibly versatile voice, soaring through a message of enduring hope.
With IX Spoken manages to transition between heavy and heartfelt ballads effortlessly. Worshipful "In My Sight" closes the record, following in the tradition of vertical musings of praise we've heard on Spoken records past. The song has a sense of rededication as it sings "I will trust that You are in control / I will leave all of my doubts somewhere behind / somehow along the way, I'll keep You in my sight." "Sleepless Nights" is also mellow and almost calming, even through the detailed guitar work in the bridge.
The themes on the album range everywhere from the worshipful tone of previously mentioned "In My Sight" to the angry ache of "Silence," which scathingly calls out someone who has a complete lack of sympathy for those who are hurting. All of the themes remain tethered to the concept of an eternal hope in Christ that runs deeper than any betrayal or pain. "Dying Without You" phrases it this way: "I was not alone, I held the hand of all creation / Say my name, and I will run to You, fall into You / I'm to blame, and now I know it's true / I'm dying without You."
The Bottom Line: IX shows Spoken's continued ability to stay grounded in their history while expanding into new corners of rock excellence. If you've ever wondered how to achieve staying power in a shifting industry landscape, you can find a perfect case study in Spoken's dedication to ultimate redemption paired with their ability to keep moving forward musically.
Song to Download Now:
"Silence" (Get it on iTunes here.)
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