Tuesday, October 31, 2006

InReview: Album of the Year

Christian rock has come a long ways since its roots decades ago in acts such as Vector and Stryper. Today, new acts have appeared and climb the charts with crunching guitars and catchy hooks. To succeed, each group has to differentiate itself from all other groups, develop a distinct sound that will set it apart from other musicians. Some groups fail to do so and just add to the noise, some succeed and develop a following, and others, simply put, rise above all else. With their latest release, Skillet has fallen into the last category. The group’s latest project, Comatose, came after their widely acclaimed 2004 release Collide and had a lot of hype to live up to. Not only did Skillet rise to the challenge, they surpassed it.
From the opening track and lead single, “Rebirthing” to the end track “Looking for Angels” the group reaches listeners of all age groups with its unique blend of pop/rock/metal. Lead vocalist John Cooper channels his raw, sometimes raspy vocals and is accompanied on many tracks by his wife’s melodic voice. “Rebirthing” sets the tone musically for the album. The opening violins pave the way for the searing electric guitars and the harmony of vocals are amazing. A unique characteristic of the group is its ability to go from heavy rock, to acoustic tracks such as “Yours to Hold” to energetic pop (“The Older I get”). Throughout Comatose the group takes a step back from its hard-core rock roots and ventures into some lighter rock, on tracks like “Those Nights” and “Looking for Angels.” But the group does not altogether forget their roots and belts out an anthemic hook on “Falling into Black” and “Comatose.”
But perhaps the most notable quality of the music is its lyrical depth. The group seeks to minister to people of all ages but also of all backgrounds. The theme of the album follows the title, comatose, awakening to a new life in Christ. Awakening from a lethargic lifestyle and relationship with Christ and pursuing Him actively. “Rebirthing” starts the track off on this message with the line “Rebirthing now, I want to live for love…want to live my life want to give everything.” The title track says, “Comatose, I’ll never wake up without an overdose of you. I don’t want to live I don’t want to breathe unless I feel you next to me.” The group also addresses a couple of practical issues. In “Better than drugs” the group aptly says that God is better than drugs and He is the only One to help someone overcome an addiction. In “The last night” John Cooper speaks to people who cut themselves and how with God, “This is the last night you will spend alone I’ll wrap you in my arms so you know you’re everything to me.” Such a beautiful thought.
All in all, from beginning to end, an unbelievable album. Lyrically, musically and vocally this is my pick for album of the year. If you buy one CD this year, let it be Skillet’s Comatose!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Upcoming Releases: 10-31

Dead Poetic-- Vices

Jeremy Camp-- Beyond Measure

Newsboys-- Go

Monday, October 16, 2006

Upcoming Releases: 10-17

Delirious?-- Now is the Time: Live at Willow Creek (CD& DVD)

Avalon-- Faith: A Hymns Collection

Mary Mary-- Mary Mary Christmas

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Upcoming Releases: 10-10

Third Day-- Christmas Offerings

The Swift-- Singing Back to You

Sandi Patty-- The Voice of Christmas

Matt Papa-- You are Good

Go Fish-- Snow

Monday, October 02, 2006

Been listening to...FM Static

In 2002, Thousand Foot Krutch lead singer Trevor McNevan and drummer Steve Augustine came up with a few songs for the group, but realized they weren’t exactly the style of songs TFK performed. So, the two formed a side project called FM Static and released their first CD entitled What are We Waiting For, an upbeat summer project with fast music and fun lyrics. What was originally meant as a one-time thing became a success and the group started opening up for Thousand Foot Krutch. Then, this August the group put out their sophomore release, Critically Ashamed. Their latest release did the unbelievable by surpassing its predecessor in every conceivable way. But its greatness cannot be understood without a review of the first album.

FM Static’s 2003 debut release is one of the greatest summer albums ever. The CD features one upbeat, infectious song after another. While many of Thousand Foot Krutch’s songs are melancholy and tend toward the heavier side, this group of songs was all about enjoying life and having a good time. As a result, the lyrical depth was not all that great. Out of the eleven tracks, one dealt with spiritual matters while the other ten reminisced on high school, first radios and of course, girls. “Something to believe in” is a great song that discusses teenagers need for a Savior: “Who’s out there, who’s gonna save us before we all fall through the cracks in the pavement.” Unfortunately the rest of the tracks follow the mould of “Definitely Maybe” where the group talks about another boy’s girlfriend: “I said ‘yo, are you going to the party at the cove tonight,’ she said ‘he’s picking me up at six tonight and I don’t wanna disappoint my boyfriend.’” However, if you’re looking for a fun album with incredibly catchy beats (even though they do sometimes seem to all sound the same) your search ends here.

The group took three years to release their next CD, and it seems a lot of water went under the proverbial bridge. The album lacks much of the pep of the first album, but the enthusiasm, while masked at times, is still there. It is difficult to compare the two albums because of their many differences. It is almost as if the group totally reinvented themselves, with an amazing result. The CDs do have their similarities (a couple of songs about girls pop up) but as a whole, from lyrics and vocals to music the contrasts are obvious. Most obvious is the tempo of the album. While What are we waiting for sped through each of its tracks, FM Static seemed to slow things down with their new release. Case in point, a couple acoustic tracks sneak in (“Moment of Truth” and “Six Candles”). While Trevor still sings with enthusiasm, he is not as light-hearted and you can tell he is taking his work more seriously, especially on “Tonight” in which he remembers the loss of a loved one.
But perhaps the best difference between the two albums is the latest one’s lyrical depth. While the occasional light song comes up, as a whole the album deals with some very practical issues in teenagers lives. “Six Candles” talks of the need of someone greater than ourselves to make it through this life. “The Next Big Thing” criticizes our culture’s obsession with celebrities and becoming famous: “Now here you are with a nicer car, but do you really know what the meaning of life is?” “America’s Freak” encourages kids to not fit in with what the world wants us to be and not conform to its image. “The Video Store” and “Girl of the Year” are a couple fun songs about guys and girls. But, the best song of the album is actually the last one, “Moment of Truth.” Yes, it is about a girl, but it is actually from the perspective of a guy about to get married and his love for his fiancé. The song features just a guitar and vocals, which highlights Trevor’s amazing vocal abilities and some great background vocals by Steve.
So, while the first CD is great, FM Static outdid themselves on Critically Ashamed. From start to finish the music will keep you enthralled and leave you wanting more.