(c) 2013 BEC Recordings
- Wait For You
- The One I'm Running To
- Just Say Jesus
- Good Life
- Nothing To Give
- Religious And Famous
- Free (Featuring KJ-52)
Mikey Howard--Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
Eric VanZant--Lead Guitars
A little over two years ago, I reviewed the debut album, Alive In You, from this band and, while I wasn't overly blown away, if you go back and check I told readers to keep an eye out for their follow-up, as I felt they likely had something to offer and would "take a step forward". Those words, while not exactly prophetic, certainly seem to ring true as these Kentucky rockers return with their second collection of modern Christian rockers, a couple of ballads, and an overall improved album.
I'm not sure how I missed the release of this record, as I am generally pretty well tuned-in to the Christian hard rock and metal scene. Apparently, I'm not as tuned-in as I had thought, however, as this album has been out for more than a year now and this is the first I have heard of it.
Once again, the band makes no bones about who they are in their sound, their approach, or their faith, as this is an album of faith-based modern rock tunes similar in sound and structure to other Christian rockers such as Thousand Foot Krutch, Seventh Day Slumber, or possibly recent efforts from Disciple, as well as their secular counterparts Nickelback, Shinedown, Emphatic, although the most obvious parallel can probably be drawn between 7eventh Time Down and Daughtry on a couple of songs on this record.
Speaking of that comparison, the album's lead single and title track, "Just Say Jesus", has a solid, mid-tempo Daughtry sound with an acoustic intro and melodic approach that will likely appeal to a rather wide listening audience. "The One I'm Running To" also falls into this vein, featuring a poppy, cross-over modern rock sound that could find its way into either modern rock or Top 40 playlists on stations that are open-minded about their song choice. While both are good songs, they represent only about half of the approach of this record, as the other half features a darker, more guitar-driven sound that falls more in line with the approach of TFK, as an example. Album opener, "Wait For You" is a prime example as this track is very reminiscent of a band like Emphatic, with raspy vocals, hard-charging guitars, and a simple, yet forceful rhythm section that keeps the track driving along, with some programming elements mixed in to keep the modern edge. "Good Life" sounds like it could have been written for a TFK album as it features that chugga-chugga tempo and style that TFK has utilized so effectively on their last two highly popular albums. "Religious And Famous" does much the same thing in a catchy track that sounds rather autobiographic for the band and their mission, stating that it is Jesus' name that they want to see in lights as they stay in the background. "Shadow" is yet another rocker, short and to the point, and definitely a track that will have fists thrust into the air during live performances. The same can be said for the last two tracks on this album as well, with "Free", a dark-sounding, guitar-driven rocker that features a rap breakdown from well-known Christian rapper, KJ-52, and "Renegade", a hard-charging Nickelback-inspired number that will leave many listeners catching their breath briefly before hitting the play button to start the rock party all over again.
There are a couple of weaker moments here, but neither is horrifically bad by any stretch. "Hurricanes" has some nice lyrics, but it is a bit too poppy and laid back for me, while "Nothing To Give" pushes the band toward a more modern praise and worship sound. The biggest issue here is that these songs are situated back-to-back on the record, causing a seven-and-a-half minute lag in the momentum that had been building throughout the album. Perhaps moving "Nothing..." down a couple of songs would have served the record better.
The production is again crisp and tight and the album has several solid musical performances with improved song-writing and an impassioned performance. Howard is a more-than-competent vocalist with a delivery style that would fit in well on Octane. VanZant is a strong performer, and while I wish his guitar was given longer stretches in which to shine, he flashes some nice, short solos and interludes into several of these songs. Williams and Miller lock themselves in tight, especially on the harder rocking tracks, and deliver a solid punch at the bottom end. I would love to see these guys catch on with a big-name tour, Christian or otherwise, to give them a chance to get their name and their message even more exposure, as I think they have a lot of potential to go places in the modern rock industry.
As I predicted, Just Say Jesus is a solid step forward and an enjoyable modern rock record.
Rating: Crank this to 7.0 and we will see if things continue to climb for these up-and-comers.