Flyleaf: New Horizons Review

Flyleaf’s third album may be a bittersweet one for fans, even if its track list wasn’t riddled with so much disparity between its hits and misses. Because although these Christian rockers from Texas deliver another enjoyable yet predictable dose of their religious and hard-hitting alternative rock, New Horizons will also serve as lead vocalist Lacey Sturm’s last record with Flyleaf. Departing because of the birth of her son and the death of one of the band’s audio engineers, New Horizons is Sturm’s final goodbye to fans, leaving Flyleaf in a bit of a predicament for the future. Although the band has already announced Vedera’s Kristen May as their new lead singer, there’s no replacing Sturm’s magnificent fluctuations between pure wails and throaty screams that help give every song its edge and passion. And with its blistering guitar riffs and battle drums setting the tone of desperation and angst-fueled urgency in denouncing evil and sin, Flyleaf succeeds once again as a dramatic and heavy approach to the Christian rock genre. Even if that formula is pretty inconsistent and will now lack a major component going forward.

Standout Tracks

“Fire Fire” puts Sturm’s full vocal repertoire on display, as she instantly switches from raspy wails to high-pitched squeals and coos, giving this dynamic and compositionally versatile leadoff track extra verve. While prominently blazing guitar riffs from Sameer Bhattacharya and  Jared Hartmann might steal the spotlight, Pat Seals’ ultra-deep bass resonates with intensity and brooding. This isn’t the greatest song Flyleaf’s ever done, but it gives a different and enjoyable taste of what they can do.

While Flyleaf can certainly bring a heavy and dark energy to their music when they want to, the album’s title track “New Horizons” features a more poppy and mainstream sound. The guitar riffs still blare and Sturm pours her heart into what she’s singing, but they don’t overwhelm and James Culpepper’s spunky drum beat gives away this single’s appeal for the masses.

“Broken Wings” has long been a beloved song by fans, but until now hasn’t made an appearance on a studio album. Its inclusion as the concluding track of New Horizons is not only fitting, it’s downright necessary to give the listener a reason to sample the album’s underwhelming second half. Sturm’s high-pitched coos grow into full-on wails, which she nails as always. The steady guitar chugging, rhythmic drum beat and harmonizing backup vocals make it easy to enjoy, while its epic and reflective nature make it the best song of the album.

The Verdict

Based on the album’s best songs, New Horizons impresses with hard rock intensity and passionate Christian themes. But the band’s third album largely fails to hold the listener’s interest, especially when the tempo slows up with duds like “Great Love” and “Saving Grace.” Headbangers like the methodic rocker “Call You Out” and “Green Heart” bring the noise, but don’t necessarily show us anything we haven’t already seen before. When all is said and done, New Horizons lacks both the gut-punching raw rock power of Flyleaf and the lyrical depth of Memento Mori, resulting in a pretty average final product. The emotion isn’t as striking and the message isn’t as impacting this time around, making for a lot of noise but not a lot of meaning behind it all. Fans of Paramore, Fireflight, Evanescence, Versaemerge, Skillet, Breaking Benjamin, Red and Three Days Grace will likely eat this new Flyleaf album up, but not without a few reservations about it being the least significant entry in their discography. Maybe Sturm was smart to get out now.

Final Score: 5.8/10

Rank: 3rd (three total albums)

Track List

  1. Fire Fire
  2. New Horizons
  3. Call You Out
  4. Cage On The Ground
  5. Great Love
  6. Bury Your Heart
  7. Freedom
  8. Saving Grace
  9. Stand
  10. Green Heart
  11. Broken Wings

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  1. #1 by Anonymous on December 7, 2012 - 5:48 am

    Expectations largely dictate one’s response. Although I enjoy raw rock power, I also respond favorably to a song like “Saving Grace”. I don’t require consistency or innovation as the litmus test of a good album.

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