Actual New Music Reviews
by Paul Landkamer
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After hesitating to add Skillet’s Comatose to my collection, I heard the opening of the first song on my friend, Ben’s, MySpace site. The heavy orchestral sounds, reminiscent of Evanescence or Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”, hooked me.
Comatose’s intensity is toned down faintly from Skillet’s previous album, Collide. Despite the tone-down, a listener would run no risk in operating heavy machinery under its influence. Skillet sticks with their blend of industrial and hardcore instrumentals with yelled and sung, almost emo, vocals. I can’t help but think of Mark Stuart’s concern for his voice leading to the retirement of Audio Adrenaline. John Cooper strains his voice so hard throughout the album, I doubt if Skillet will be around much longer if he shows the same concern for his voice. Cooper’s non-stop vocal intensity makes Comatose runs dangerously close to sounding like one long song. If you like relentless extreme in your music, you’ll like Comatose.
Comatose touches on many societal ills, to include loneliness, cutting, domestic violence, and relationships. Though it would not meet any of some critics’ “Jesus quota”, the Christianity is there. This album could easily find acceptance in the secular world, as well as with Christians. He who has ears, let him hear!
A less well-known artist, as well as genre, is Sarah Masen and her electro-indie-alternative sound. While trying to find more of her albums, Google revealed a new band, Pristina.
Pristina is sort of a supergroup of female artists on the more artistic fringe of pop. I’d heard of Christian artists, Sarah Masen (of course), and The Echoing Green’s Chrissy Jeter, but didn’t find the others in Christian circles. Masen and Jeter were enough for me to want to check into more of what Pristina had to offer.
Pristina’s MySpace website pretty well describes their sound: “Beauty meets technology” and Downtempo / Lush / Electronica. My take is that Pristina’s debut album, Stars and Sirens is beautiful non-gimmicky ethereal vocals blending with laid-back electronic and traditional instrumentation to produce wonderful ear-candy! The lyrics don’t come across as overtly Christian, but they sing of life experiences.
Start your day by getting wound up with Skillet’s Comatose, then mellow out after work to Pristina’s Stars and Sirens.
Inhale Exhale’s debut album, The Lost, The Sick, The Sacred offers heavy metal and hardcore enthusiasts great musical treats. Musically, Inhale Exhale is dark, intense hardcore, almost-black metal like Zao or Horde, but keep melodic qualities like Disciple. The lyrics come through clearly with recurring themes of leaving the old life behind when one accepts Christ. It’s easy enough to follow along with the vocals while reading, unlike with many other extreme bands. In short, Inhale Exhale is extreme dark metal, without sacrificing understandability for sheer noise-intensity. A bit more detail follows, since I was given this CD for review purposes.
As the title says, the first track is a song of “Redemption”. There can be no turning back to old worldly ways. The song builds up from slow melodic guitars to dark, heavy speed metal and a blend of growled, screamed and sung vocals. Track two admits life in Christ can, at times, be scary, but it’s a real life of freedom. That freedom isn’t earned; you only obtain it “By Grace”. “Frail Dreams and Rude Awakenings” reminds us a life of this world is dead. We can “Dance All Night” around the Truth, if we like, but, denial of that Truth will ultimately kill us. The “Call to the Faithful” is that we cannot serve God and mammon.
The fifth song growls out for listeners not to be two-faced. We’ve got to make a choice. “Touch of Deception” begins with high-pitched feedback, then offers some machine-gun-fast guitar riffs to support the message of the Deceiver constantly trying to sneak up and remind you of your sin. It can be all too easy to forget that Jesus is there to watch your back. Leave your past behind. It doesn’t need to drag you down.
“Your Walls… My Words” offers aural-tasty guitar treats. The song is a message that we build the walls, but God’s Word transcends them. “Tonight We Die Together” faces the struggle to let the old self die. It can be quite difficult to leave behind known, but binding comforts. “Sons of Tomorrow (to Noah James)” gives a softened break from the extreme metal, musically similar to a Led Zeppelin acoustic number, where the message is Christ’s comfort. Then the mood jumps back to the harsh. Growls and screams mix with melodic lines and energetic dark music again to sing of forgiveness and leaving old things behind in “Rose Among the Ashes”. “The Lost, The Sick, The Sacred” starts off softly but jumps into a furious then soft, then furious reminder that we are the lost, the sick, and to Jesus, the sacred.
Though Inhale Exhale is a bit across my usual noise/music threshold, they’re a good band to offer the hardcore enthusiast in your life. They are good at what they do. And remember, Christmas is coming soon!
Always let your music help keep your focus on Jesus!
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