Random Hero found themselves in the excruciating tension of change last year. With a devastating wrist injury, founding member and guitarist Joshua Bertrand was out of commission. After years of relentless touring, the band knew they had to adapt to survive.
The season of change took on even higher stakes when Joseph Rojas signed them to Rockfest Records, challenging them to write something better than their last record. Uncertain of the future, Aaron Watkins (vocals), Patrick Madsen (drums), and Rob McDonough (bass) gathered in Nashville to work with Kellen McGregor. True to the gauntlet thrown by Joseph Rojas, the resulting album Tension is undeniably the strongest release from Random Hero yet.
The lead single and title track “Tension” serves as the album’s crux. “Tension” swaggers through staccato guitar riffs and soaring gang vocals, emphasizing the tension the band was experiencing: “I’m fighting with my head / It’s like I just can’t win / Will I swallow my pride or drown in my denial? / Will I sink or swim? / I feel the tension.”
Musically, Joshua Bertrand was still able to play all of the guitar on the project, which means it’s the tight, intricate riffs we’ve come to expect from Random Hero. This is evident on [tracks]
But in terms of melody and how those melodies interact with Aaron Watkins’ vocals, Random Hero is on a whole new level with Tension. That focus perfectly fits Aaron’s smooth vocal style, unleashing a kind of momentum we’ve never heard before. Album opener “Desperate Measures” sets the tone, building a strong melody over driving drum fills from Patrick Madsen. “Motivation” calls out a manipulator, refusing to be fooled by them any longer. Finger snaps and hummed gang vocals give this almost a Western showdown vibe through the verses. “Public Enemy” shakes off some aggression too as it swaggers through a determined declaration of refusing to be brought down by challenges, be they internal or external. With dark and heavy “Weight of the World,” distorted guitars billow beneath lyrics that take the internal tension to its breaking point: “the weight of the world is getting hard to carry.”
This thematically and musically heavy moments get some relief in the strongest ballads we’ve ever heard from Random Hero. Mellow: “Outgrown” draws beautiful parallels between family relationships and a Father God who also watches us grow and learn and change: “I will hold the pieces of you that you’ve outgrown.” Fittingly, “Outgrown” stands beside “So Close” in the tracklist, a song that is a love song from each of the band members to their wives. These moments show a tender side of Random Hero that brings peaceful balance to songs of tension and struggle.
Those places of peace create a turning point in the album, a shift from acknowledging the tension to recognizing that hope still exists even in the places where we haven’t seen it realized yet. “Set It Free” is an upbeat rocker that encourages us to break the chains of the past. “The Sound” proves that although Random Hero’s sound has shifted into another gear, their core message remains centered on the same truths: no matter what you’re going through or how you feel, you’re not hopeless, and you’re not alone. “White Flag” ends the album on a note of surrender to the God who is the source of peace in the tension.
It’s undeniable that Random Hero has forged something special through the pressure of the past few years. The band has shared that this is their first album written with every member in the same room offering input, and that cohesion shows. Random Hero navigates these tracks musically as one tight unit, each song hitting every mark it aims for. Lyrically, there’s an honesty that has always been a Random Hero hallmark. If you’re trying to learn how to live in the tension, to find peace, to hold onto hope– Tension reassures you that you’re not alone, and you’ve got songs to walk with you until you reach the other side.