Pushing the Limits On Album Eleven: Native Tongue by Switchfoot

Switchfoot has solidified their place in the music world over the course of eleven albums after first becoming household name with the anthems “Meant to Live” and “Dare You to Move.” One might think that with a career spanning 23 years they would be locked into a sound and not pushing boundaries. Switchfoot however has never shied away from expressing their thoughts emphatically or exploring new ways to express their musicality.

Native Tongue begins with the raucous “Let it Happen.” This song has a driving melody, but lyrically speaks about finding the meaning of life with lyrics such as, “This life is hollow and mostly borrowed, the voices are screaming, but where is the meaning? Noisy crescendos behind closed windows.” The album moves further into exploring life’s meaning with “Native Tongue.” This upbeat song drives the message home through melodic tones, guitars, and lyrics such as, “love is your language, love is your native tongue.” Switchfoot has always seemed to want to bring unity through their music, and tracks like this are no different.

The third track on the album, “All I Need,” is more of a ballad in nature. It is still full of lyrical content speaking of needing love and connectedness, as the chorus rings out in Jon’s clear vocals: “All I need is the air I breathe, the time we share and the ground beneath my feet. All I need is the love that I believe in– tell me love, do you believe in me?

The fourth track kicks into overdrive. “Voices” seems ambiguous in its meaning at first listen, even if the music and lyrics do draw you in. The meaning can be found in the bridge: “every moment crowded with choices, speak to me and drown out the voices.” While it is not clear who the person is speaking in this line, one could think that it might be God, speaking through the noises of life, and a conscience trying to push through distractions.

The album moves to the fifth track, “Dig New Streams,” which is a completely different sound than the previous four tracks, leaving the listener wondering what the next track is going to entail. It also shows that Switchfoot is never one to play it safe musically or lyrically. This song once again speaks of love and unifying differing sides, something that is not unheard of on previous Switchfoot albums like Where the Light Shines Through with the song “Looking for America” or the track “Politicians” off of Nothing is Sound.

The sixth track shifts into an easy to love track, “Joy Invincible.” It is in a different gear than what has been heard in the previous five tracks. The vocals are ethereal when you hit the chorus, with lyrics like “Hallelujah nevertheless, was the song the pain couldn’t destroy. Hallelujah nevertheless, you’re my joy invincible.This song is one that makes you smile at its lighthearted sound and will be one that may end up being hummed after a listen. The next track, “The Hardest Art,” follows the same vein with a more melodic sound. This track is definitely a surprise from Switchfoot, as it is a different sound musically for them. Kaela Sinclair’s guest vocals marry well with Jon’s in this pop-synthesized track with some great lyrical content:

Every movie makes love seem easy
They fall in love like the fire burns.
And maybe I’m the only one,
but it feels like love is the hardest art to learn
.”

The last seven tracks of this album follow the same pattern as the first seven tracks. They leave the listener guessing what will be next on this musical roller coaster of an album. You have driving tracks like “Can’t Take My Fire” and “We’re Gonna Be Alright,” while mixed in between are moving ballads like “The Strength to Let Go” and the album closer “You’re the One I Want.”

If fans of Switchfoot thought the first album out of hiatus was going be a rehashing of something already done in the band’s storied career, this album tells a different story. It tells a story of life, love, seeking, searching, and redemption. If this is the culmination of 23 years, it is exciting to see what the guys from San Diego, CA bring to their next album!

Listen to Native Tongue on Spotify and on Apple Music.

This review was contributed by Sharayah Franklin.

Hope in the Dark: “Animal (Feat. Jake Jones)” by Out of Black

Based out of Nashville, Tennessee, Out of Black formed in 2016, quickly releasing their first EP a year later. They started out strong, with their single “Voices” making it to the top 20 of Billboard’s Christian Rock Chart in March of 2017. Their newest single shows that they’re only getting better.

Beginning with a driving riff and intermittent bass drum combo before rapidly picking up into a raging hard rock track, Out of Black’s single “Animal” is reminiscent of Three Days Grace with a modern twist.

Drummer Cody McAskill picks up the intensity as guitarist and singer Matt Black starts in on vocals, angrily singing about the internal struggle of fighting against the evil of human nature. When the chorus comes around, Jake Jones (As We Ascend) adds his voice to lyrics such as: “I see you everyday / My reflection isn’t even me / We’re not the same / You’re an animal.”

The chorus breaks and leads into a quick yet intricate guitar solo, where the influence of the project’s producer, Andrew Stanton (Disciple, I Am Empire) rings through. The track maintains its power, finishing on a scream and one last blaring chord.

Out of Black is definitely a band to keep an eye on if you like heavy, hard hitting music with a strong message of hope in a dark world.

You can find “Animal” on Apple Music and Spotify

Related Bands: The Protest, As We Ascend, Three Days Grace

Symphonic Masterpiece: ‘Castaway’ by Mirratal

Earlier this year, we introduced you to Mirratal, a symphonic metal band from The Ukraine. Their lead single, “Abyss of Lunacy,” left us all wanting to hear more from the rockers.

The wait is over as Mirratal released their debut full length album on January 30th. Castaway is a polished musical adventure that will sweep you away on a mystical journey, searching for hope and purpose.

After kicking things off in a big way with “Abyss of Lunacy,” the sound gets even bigger and fuller with “Poison.” As a brass musician, I have profound appreciation for a well-balanced mix that is thick and heavy in the bass and percussion and blends to the upper ranges. Castaway does not lack in echoing percussion reminiscent of something heard attending The Philharmonic Symphony in New York.

“Timeless Sea” is a song of reflection, opening with Andril Pavlenko on the keyboard with what sounds much like an oboe playing a mysterious but lovely tune. After a spoken word completes the introduction softly, this rocker explodes into a full-on shred fest in the chorus, featuring lead singer Igor Roshenets demonstrating his rangy vocal chops. The title track features a majestic instrumental that would fill a concert hall, while continuing to fire on all cylinders with driving guitars and synthetic keys.

Not only is the music magnificent, but the message is equally powerful throughout this collection of 10 tracks filled with themes of hope and freedom. “Find Your Name” plays like a metalcore track featuring Katrina Kapshuk opening the song with powerful vocals before being joined for a duet on the bridge and chorus by Roshenets. This song is about overcoming depression and believing in hope.

“After years of darkness, rising sun will shine upon your back”

As the album continues, it seems to get heavier and more dissonant. “Distinguished Phrases” is a frenetic headbanger featuring drummer Sergiy Ivanov skillfully tending to his craft, pushing the pace with plenty of snare drum. “Mystery” invokes sensations of sitting in a rock opera on Broadway, as it tells a story of searching high and low for answers.

“With emptiness inside your soul
You’ll go around the world
To find a mystery”

“Run” immediately brought back memories of watching the entrance of former WWE wrestler The Undertaker. Cue the pyrotechnics as the band sings about the competing concepts of doomsday and hope. The onset of minor chords seem to fit the feeling of unsettledness looming over this song.

“Sounds” is a triumphant song ultimately leading into an impressive instrumental bonus track, “The Wind,” which I would challenge any marching band to take on next fall.

With their full length debut, Mirratal does not disappoint fans of powerful and skillful musicianship while telling stories of hope, love and seeking. Castaway is a masterful collection of songs that will deliver for expectant listeners.

Find Castaway on Spotify and iTunes.

Related Artists: Trans Siberian Orchestra, RED, The Philharmonic Orchestra

Fresh Pop And Funky Beats: ‘Brand New Day’ by 7eventh Time Down

7eventh Time Down has always made upbeat music that edifies the church, with hit songs like “God Is on the Move” and “Just Say Jesus,” but a new term might be needed to describe the musical style on their newest album Brand New Day.

The best way to describe the multitude of elements happening throughout the album is to call this music “funk pop” (you heard it hear first, folks). While the overall sound is rooted in modern pop, 7eventh Time Down carves a niche by mixing in components familiar to funk music like dance worthy beats, rhythmic bass and thundering drums.

Taking it a step further, “Make It Count” and “Help Me” blend hints of urban and hip hop sounds with the overarching funk pop sound. All of this results in a refreshingly fun and high-energy album that keeps the pedal to the floor, daring listeners not to move to the beat.

The message to The Church is made clear from the top. “I Have Decided” firmly plants the flag while invoking familiar lyrics from the old hymn of the same title.

“In a world that stands divided
Let the church stand united
If you’re with me, let me here you say
I have decided

With my hands and my feet
With my heart and my voice
I will follow Jesus.”

The album continues to dive deep into faith, worshiping Christ and talking about what following Him looks like, each song building on the last. “Let Me Tell You” is a song about how Jesus changes us through grace and “The 99” describes a God who loves us so much that He will travel to the darkest corners to find and bring us home.

“Make It Count” leads with guitars that lend to a reggae feel before it crescendos into the booming chorus declaring that we’re running out of time to make our lives count.

“Right now it’s a new day
Another chance to live your life the God way
Before the light burns out
Before the time runs out.”

Turn heads by turning up the bumping title track on your car stereo. “Brand New Day” is the purest funk track on the album, declaring that it’s “A brand new day with you” and that “I cannot deny the Truth.”

After a worshipful pop tune, “Can You,” the album enters the final turn strong with “Help Me” before closing with a mic drop of a song.  “Basic” leverages a hooky beat and an in-your-face message to leave listeners contemplating what God’s love looks like.

“This love ain’t basic, it covers all bases
Walking through the room, got you guessing who it came with
Wider than the space is, deeper than the bass hits
Hooky like this beat I’m cooking up in the basement
This love ain’t basic.”

With Brand New Day, 7eventh Time Down has achieved the task of appealing to fans of nearly every genre in one album. From worship and pop that to hip hop and funk, this album will have you dancing in both body and spirit.

You can find Brand New Day on Spotify and iTunes.

Related Artists: TobyMac, for KING & COUNTRY, Newsboys

Born of Fire: ‘Dawn of Destruction’ by The Persuaded

(Content note: Self-harm, suicide)

The best rock and roll is always born of fire, be it the fire of our own personal hells or the fire of the Spirit that ultimately burns us clean. The Persuaded’s full length debut Dawn of Destruction is born of both.

Comprised of 4 songs from prior independent EPs and 6 brand new cuts, Dawn of Destruction ushers in The Persuaded’s era with Rockfest Records. It’s a long-overdue fulfillment for a band who has spent seven years navigating the brutal local show circuit, lineup changes, and personal devastation. A year ago, The Persuaded was considering calling it quits. Now they’ve released what promises to be an early highlight of metalcore in 2019.

The weight of personal challenges and the confusion and anger of betrayal blaze through songs like “Betrayal” and lead single “Wolves.” The riff from Cody Phillips that kicks off “Wolves” instantly hooks the listener into a tale of disappointment and abandonment, told by the back-and-forth vocals of Josh Honea and Joseph Vargas.

You’ve burned your bridges
And watched them fall
You fake innocence to fool them all.”

“Forced Silence” takes that theme and explores it on a broader level, addressing a world that demands apathetic conformity. This song shows off the unique fusion of metalcore and more traditional hard rock sounds that The Persuaded concocts, riding a frenetic drum pace from Trent Russell that instantly reminds of metal music while more melodic elements and full-bodied rhythmic guitars take over in the chorus.

Other songs recenter from external threats to introspection, addressing the internal demons of depression, addiction, and even contemplated suicide. “The cuts on my wrist, they betray me once again / I’m tired of living like this now / God break these chains from me” the song “Save Me” cries over a raw wall of guitar that adds weight to the sense of desperation. This song also moves us beyond the pain of personal and relational struggle, looking to God to provide release. The album’s one ballad, earnest “Heavy Heart” pleads “Take this heavy heart / It wants to be light / Make me new in Your sight.”

That plea is firmly rooted in songs that serve as declarations of truths that hold beyond the burn of betrayal. “Unashamed” is a passionate, melodic creed, voiced with some help from guest vocals from Kevin Young (Disciple). The feature feels fitting, a rock veteran joining his voice with a newly rising band, emphasizing together the message of the chorus:

Even through the darkest night 
Your light will shine in all our hearts
No matter what life throws our way
We’ll shout Your name
We are the unashamed.”

That determined declaration carries through previously released “To My Brothers,” a song that calls to those who have faltered and struggled to take heart and remember hope and purpose. Album closer “The Fire” wraps the set of songs with an invitation for the Spirit, calling on deeply Biblical language as it sings “Baptize me in Your fire / Let it wash away all my past mistakes / Touch the coal to my lips / Until all the sin has been burnt away.”

One of Dawn of Destruction‘s deepest strengths lies in the fact that it’s unafraid to put songs of great darkness and songs of great faith side by side. In doing so, The Persuaded acknowledges the reality that even a life lived in the footsteps of Jesus will walk through scorching trials. This honesty extends an invitation to others, showing by example that perfection is not required in order to be loved by God. In fact, the juxtaposition of faith and pain beautifully proves the concept The Persuaded built their band around: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

You can find Dawn of Destruction on Spotify and iTunes.

Related Artists: Memphis May Fire, Amongst the Giants, RED

Indie Artist Spotlight: Southern Roots Shine On Eric Van Zant Debut

Former 7eventh Time Down lead guitarist released his debut self-titled four song solo EP in October 2018, and listeners will find it to be a departure from the pop/rock sound heard in hit singles like “God Is On the Move.” The self-titled debut Eric Van Zant is a return to the guitarist’s southern rock roots, heavily influenced by Lynyrd Skynyrd, Eric Clapton and other great southern rock artists. The debut from Eric Van Zant is sure to become a fast favorite for fans of the recently disbanded Third Day.

The album kicks off with “Devil’s Neck,” which plays like a Skynyrd acoustic ballad and is a nod to how powerful and influential a prayer warrior Van Zant’s mother was in his childhood:

“When her knees would hit the ground
Every demon started leavin’ town
Mama kept her foot on the devil’s neck.”

“Set it on Fire” is a fitting title for a blazing song featuring a full band backing Van Zant’s powerful vocals.  He also shows off his guitar chops here, shredding on rangy licks throughout.

“Fight No More” is a foot-stomping rocker with a steady and driving tempo, rhythmic guitar and storytelling lyrics about moving on from a disagreement and seeking the Lord for a better way.

“I asked the Lord for answers
Gotta be another way
Back and forth for hours
The answer stays the same…
I’m not gonna fight no more.”

The much too brief EP closes with called “She Prays,” which is a soft ballad filled with lyrics of reflective love, gratefulness that a loved one takes time to pray.

With his freshman solo project, Eric Van Zant perfectly brings forth not only his musical southern rock roots, but also unabashedly shares heartfelt lyrics of faith in God.  The best thing about this EP is that he is already working on a follow up project.

The self-titled debut EP from Eric Van Zant is available for streaming on Spotify and iTunes. Learn more by visiting www.ericvanzant.com.

Single Review: “Old Sin, New Skin” by Faith Head

The musical landscape in 2019 is full of computer generated electronic and synthesized sounds mixed underneath (or, in some cases, over) familiar pieces of a rock band. While the use of these tones can often create a unique style, it is still a joy to hear a classic, raw grunge performance.

Fans of post-grunge bands such as Creed, Puddle of Mudd and Three Days Grace will appreciate the latest single by Chattanooga, Tennessee based independent rock band Faith Head.

Faith Head was founded in 2015 as a “band whose focus is apologetics and other modern issues,” and in 2016 they released a 10-song album titled Are You a Faith Head? The band name came from the Urban Dictionary definition, which is “someone who holds irrational religious fundamentalist beliefs and no matter what evidence is provided to the contrary will never change.”

In December, the band released a new single “Old Sin, New Skin” demonstrating significant growth and a refined edge to their sound.

The song leads with a pounding bass line provided by Patrick Shipley, backed by heavy rhythmic percussion from drummer Gabriel Gardner before allowing space for a simple yet effective chord progression layered in by Donny Raines. All of this sets up Jimmie Webb’s powerful vocals, a singing voice distinctly made for a hard and heavy post-grunge arena rock band.

The message of “Old Sin, New Skin” is one of overcoming temptations through what is learned in scripture.  The song closes with an impressive technical guitar riff by Raines.

The single is set to appear on an EP the band plans to release in 2019.

For fans of: Creed, Kutless, Alter Bridge

Find more Faith Head on Spotify.

Faith Head is:
Jimmie Webb, Vocals
Donny Raines, Guitar
Patrick Shipley, Bass
Gabriel Gardner, Drums

faithhead.com
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Courageous Rock: “My Declaration” by Bayless

If you’re looking for hope for where rock might be headed in 2019, “My Declaration” by Bayless is a good start.

Bayless is a rock duo formed by husband and wife Jared and Vanessa Bayless. With an EP produced by Hawk Nelson’s Jonathan Steingard already under their belts, they have put in the time honing their craft. But “My Declaration” elevates their sound to true blistering hard rock, a sonic intensity calculated to match the forthright lyrics:

I wanna lead courageously, leave a legacy
I wanna surrender myself
Faith awakening, live for eternity
I’ll stand with no ovation
This is my declaration.

“My Declaration,” which was mixed Justin Forshaw and mastered by Robert Venable (both of As We Ascend), establishes Bayless as a rising force to be reckoned with. The searing, distortion-heavy guitars and impressively dynamic vocals show Bayless setting the bar high for themselves– and delivering. Lyrics centered on being willing to be the one carrying light into dark places show a refreshing level of fortitude. All of it proves that wherever Bayless goes from here, we’ll want to be listening in.

Find “My Declaration” on iTunes and Spotify.

Indie Artist Recommendation: Mirratal

Rarely does a metal band blend so perfectly the use of strings, horns and nontraditional percussion with the familiar guitar riffs and frenetic tempo of heavy metal.

That is precisely what Mirratal has been doing since forming in 2013. The band is based out of Kiev, Ukraine and is getting ready to release their first full-length album, Castawaythis month.

The lead single from that album is called “Abyss of Lunacy,” a track the band says is “devoted to the problem of information wars and propaganda aimed at the future generation, who can’t protect themselves from the influence of questionable advice and understand what to believe in.”

The rocker opens up as a staccato and rhythmic orchestral piece, reminiscent of Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Just over a minute into the song, vocalist Igor Roshenets enters with a singing voice distinctly similar to Stryper vocalist Michael Sweet, perfectly in tune and time.

The vocal harmonies on the chorus add depth to the already well rounded number, and the song is made whole by a beautiful guitar solo from Sergii Stygar followed with a fun synthetic keyboard lick by Andrii Pavlenko.

A steady beat is provided throughout from talented drummer Sergii Ivanov.

Lyrically “Abyss of Lunacy” is warning the next generation of listening to propaganda and lies: “Fake press, TV and censored dreams / This reality is acceptable, but not for me / There’s nothing to hide, built prison for minds /Your children will guard the keys.

The bridge provides hope for our future: “Show me… / The one, that could / Fix this system of sin.

Find more by Mirratal on Spotify.

Mirratal is:

Igor Roshenets: Vocal, bass
Sergii Stygar: Guitar
Andrii Pavlenko: Keyboard
Sergii Ivanov: Drums

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