Archive for category Christian Rock
Red had big shoes to fill with the release of their fourth album, which followed the nearly flawless Until We Have Faces. Here’s why Release The Panic doesn’t even come close to the mastery of the band’s best work.
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.
“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.
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)
- Fire Fire
- New Horizons
- Call You Out
- Cage On The Ground
- Great Love
- Bury Your Heart
- Saving Grace
- Green Heart
- Broken Wings
Red is a Christian hard rock band whose work feels truly inspired all the way from the intense and frenzied passion each song possesses down to the depth of the music’s meaning. Distinguished by the implementation of string instruments for the majority of their music, Red shies away from the heavy promotion of the strings on Until We Have Faces in favor of utilizing them as a background accompaniment. This strategy translates well, giving the songs elevated and dramatic tones and allowing the strings to contribute to and characterize the music rather than dominate it as in the past. Red’s third album is more complete than ever before, broadcasting a wider range of songs that all unite under the same theme of finding one’s identity, a theme inspired by C.S. Lewis’ writing, especially his novel, Till We Have Faces, which also inspired the album name. Each track brings something diverse to the mix, making Until We Have Faces Red’s best album yet.
“Feed The Machine” sets a harder tone for the album from the very beginning with some flighty and scaling guitar-chugging and scattered hammering on the drums before Michael Barnes’ scream bursts into the mix. The bridge before every chorus builds up tension with throaty growls, as well as Anthony Armstrong’s heavy scaling guitar that defines this song about breaking free of the chains of apathy and evil of the world, “the machine.” Joe Rickard’s steady beat on the drums, choral harmonizing and soothing strings fade this song out, setting up the next sensational track perfectly. If not for “Faceless,” this hard rocker of plentiful screams would claim the title of best on the album, but at the very least, it can be added to Red’s arsenal of hard rock hits.
“Faceless” illustrates the band’s talent for taking a hard rock song and making it more compelling and accessible through the use of string instruments, especially during Barnes’ well-executed cries of “Faceless!” during the chorus. Rickard’s drums, Armstrong’s guitar and Randy Armstrong’s bass are all on point here, allowing for the strings’ dramatic appeal and Barnes’ spectacularly urgent vocals to shine through. Red’s first single also proves to be the best on the album, which they showcased in a live performance on Conan.
“Lie To Me (Denial)” continues the streak of dramatic and tense music, employing the strings prominently amidst some heavy guitar riffs. The chorus is an explosion of sound accentuated by Barnes’ heartfelt and desperate wailing. The accompanying strings and backing vocals lend to Barnes’ voice to properly convey the urgency behind the music. The song’s meaning sticks with the central theme of the album in trading lies and the ways of the world for truth and love.
“Buried Beneath” establishes itself as one of the album’s best tracks through slower verses that lead into the charged chorus. The verses utilize quiet and reflective guitar along with reserved vocals from Barnes. They are quickly followed by a killer chorus comprised of Barnes’ strong and escalating vocals, amplified guitar, thundering drums, choral background vocals and heavy influence from the violins, violas and cellos, all of which contribute to the song’s tumultuous nature.
“Hymn For The Missing” is a brilliantly executed ballad about lost love, standing out over the other few ballads scattered throughout Until We Have Faces. Beginning with Randy Armstrong’s heart-rendering piano, listeners can immediately tell they are in for something special. Barnes’ voice is appropriately soft and composed, and when mixed with the melancholy and engrossing piano, will subdue any fan of music. The strings slowly transition into the song, adding to its tragic mood. The song closes with some harmonizing and sweeping strings, concluding the album on a reflective note.
Almost every track is worth listening to on Red’s definitive third release. Until We Have Faces not only reigns as their best work yet because the songs are all engaging, but also because the themes covered here are more profound, united and reflective than ever before. Fans of Thousand Foot Krutch, Skillet, Breaking Benjamin, 10 Years, Three Days Grace and Pillar, or anyone looking for harder music with deeper meaning,will appreciate Red’s musical artistry, despite some screaming that may deter some listeners. But the music’s overall appeal, the band’s inspiration from C.S. Lewis’ novel, Till We Have Faces, and the subsequent lyrical depth, Until We Have Faces establishes itself as Red’s crowning achievement so far.
Final Score: 9.4/10
Rank: 1st (three total albums)
- Feed The Machine
- Lie To Me (Denial)
- Let It Burn
- Buried Beneath
- Not Alone
- Watch You Crawl
- The Outside
- Who We Are
- Best Is Yet To Come
- Hymn For The Missing