Posted October 30, 2008
Disciple have decided to tweak their sound yet again. The question is, was it for the better? Well that depends what you like best about the brand of hard rock they bring to the table. In their self-titled release (and major label debut), they had a very commercial sound with nearly no screaming and catchy vocal hooks over some heavy guitar riffs. Next up came Scars Remain, which is one of my all-time favorite albums. That one brought the screaming that has recently become the 'in' thing to do among hard rock bands along with top-notch singing and the best ballads they ever wrote (I'm looking at you 'Things Left Unsaid'). It is also their heaviest album to date with the drums and guitars assaulting your ears at every turn.
That brings us to Southern Hospitality, their 7th album overall and 3rd on a major label. As the name suggests, they've gone southern on us and in some ways it's an improvement. Their southern sound is heavier than DecembeRadio, but not as brutal as Maylene and the Sons of Disaster. And if there's anything on Scars Remain that left me wanting more, it was the limited use of guitar solos. This album is chock full of them. Pretty much every rock track has a blistering solo that makes guitar fans like myself swoon and buckle at the knees. And the best part? These solos don't feel like add-ons to fulfill some silly 'southern rock' genre title. They feel like they belong. Of course, southern rock goes beyond guitar solos. There has to be some beautiful blues chords and powerful riffs to go along with it all. From the moment you pop the CD in and the title track starts up you can tell they understand this.
Now, what would a southern rock album be without your ballads to help change the pace? Those are found here too, but I have to admit they are lacking. 'Whatever Reason' is the first one that comes up and it's just underwhelming. Lyrically, it's one of the weaker songs Kevin has written and sadly his voice just doesn't have the same power it has had in the past. Actually, his voice is one of the things that seems to be holding this album back and that's surprising. I've always thought he had an excellent voice, especially after 'Things Left Unsaid' and the whole Scars Remain album, but here his voice seems to be in the background. That's truly a shame. 'Lay My Burdens' and 'Savior' are much better ballads and you see evidence of the old 'Kevin' in there. The former of which has guitars reminiscent of my favorite ballad, 'Black' by Pearl Jam. The songs don't sound the same but I just get the same feel with the guitar in the background.
Aside from the one flub, the lyrics are once again very strong with a strong emphasis on their faith. They have notes of scriptures laced throughout the lyric book to show where they got the inspiration for a line or song. One of my favorites, 'Liars', has Kevin singing about how we have to forgive others when we've been done wrong and my favorite line has him saying 'that He's ashamed of me when I'm ashamed of Him'. Yeah, Disciple have become more of a mainstream hard rock band, but they haven't changed who they are. They still write songs about God that become huge hits and even make their way into sports and wrestling arenas. How many bands tone down the spiritual content when they go major label? Too many, unfortunately, but that's what makes Disciple stand out and I love them for it.
About the only thing dragging this album down from being a southern rock classic is a combination of lacking vocals and not enough rockin' anthems. '321' is certainly an anthemic rock song that will do well but the other heavy songs don't seem to have that sort of buildup and release when the chorus comes. All the same, Southern Hospitality seems to fit somewhere in between their self-titled release and Scars Remain in terms of quality.
Gems of this album are: 'Liars', '321', 'Whisper So Loud', 'Southern Hospitality'
Overall - 9.3/10
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