(c) 2016 GFM Music
- Beneath The Skin
- Graveyard Of Identities
- Stuck In My Suicide
- Twisted Humanity
- Judas Kiss
- Chatter In The Room
- Evil Lies
- Death Of Giants
CJ English--Guitar, Vocals
Maggie English--Bass, Keys, Vocals
Lulu English--Drums, Vocals
Jonathan Chu and Andrew Piland--Strings on "Chatter In The Room"
Gold, frankincense, and myrrh are, of course, the gifts of the Magi, given to Jesus Christ upon his birth. Gold, as we all know, is a precious metal, while frankincense is a perfume or an incense, and myrrh was used as an anointing oil in Biblical times.
Now, Gold, Frankincense & Myrrh (or, GFM as I am going to call them now, as Frankincense is just so darn long to type!) is something completely different, yet related. GFM is an all-girl, all-sister band that has come onto the Christian rock and metal scene seemingly out of nowhere. To help put that myth to rest, the sisters did NOT, in fact, come out of nowhere. Rather, the trio hails from Florida, and apparently they refer to their style of music as "beautycore", which is a mixture of hard rock and metalcore that is played by all-female bands (as if we needed more genre splitting, right?).
Regardless of where they hail from and what they call their music, one thing is for certain: they appear to be a force to be reckoned with. Identity Crisis is the band's second album (their first full-length release), and it finds the girls hitting hard, both musically and topically. Listing bands such as Five Finger Deathpunch, Skillet, and Disciple as influences, the three sisters range in age from 17 (CJ) to just TWELVE!!! (Lulu...Maggie is 15) but pack a musical punch that belies their age, helped along in their musical development by Jake Jones and Justin Foreshaw of As We Ascend. Two singles have been released thus far, with both "Beneath The Skin" and "Darkness" getting considerable airplay on Christian rock and metal radio stations, as well as garnering chart success in the Christian rock format.
The album kicks off with one of the singles from the record, as "Beneath The Skin" comes ripping from the speakers in a big way. The harmonizing vocals of siblings is definitely there on the backing vocals in the chorus, but the liner notes are unclear about who handles the clean lead vocals, the harmonizing backing vocals, and (later) the harsh, screaming vocals...so I contacted the band's Facebook page! I was told that CJ handles the clean leads, Maggie does the harsher vocals and screaming, and Lulu tackles some of the harmony vocals. Regardless of who sings/screams what, "Beneath The Skin" is an infectious rocker, with some solid rhythm guitars, a nice breakdown section, especially coming out of the final chorus, and some truly great drum work from the youngest sister of the trio. I was duly impressed with what I heard on this first single.
The girls ratchet things up on "Graveyard Of Identities", which is one of my two favorites on this album. Rapid fire verse sections, slower, down-tuned bridges, and then slightly ramped up speeds on the chorus section are enhanced by the introduction of some ear-shredding, guttural screams offsetting the otherwise clean lead vocals. This song should be all over active rock and metal radio, in my opinion, as it is catchy, has a nice hook, and packs a serious vocal punch (although the harsh vocals may be a bit too much for more conservative rock stations).
"Stuck In My Suicide" is equally punchy in its blistering approach, and there are some obvious comparisons to a band like In This Moment, particularly in the modern elements thrown into the mixing and producing of the lead vocals. Again, there are some harsher screaming elements on this track, but not to the brutal level of "Graveyard...".
"Twisted Humanity" slows things down somewhat, but retains its overall rocking approach. If it were up to me, "Twisted Humanity" would definitely be released as a single, as it showcases so many different elements within the band: harmonizing vocals, screams, a tight rhythm section, some really solid, grinding rhythm guitars, a couple of tempo changes, solid lyrics with a positive message speaking against self-harm...all wrapped up in a three-and-a-half minute ball of fury.
"Judas Kiss" is NOT a metalcore version of the classic Petra song...which was, of course, turned into a punk song by punk thrashers, One Bad Pig. Instead, this "Judas Kiss" is a mid-tempo metalcore number that again alternates between harsh and clean vocals, with a bit of spoken word thrown in for good measure. There is a solid, if not crushing, breakdown section before the final chorus section, and the tightness of the girls' playing is once again the really impressive part of this song, overall. I wish there was a bit more thump to the breakdown here, but not a bad track at all.
"Darkness" is another of the album's singles, and it is easy to see why. Probably the most radio friendly rocker on the disc, "Darkness" again features some of those programming-stuttered vocals used by bands like In This Moment. "Darkness" also features what passes for the only real guitar solo on the record, but its nothing overly flashy and is far more smooth and melodic in its approach. The harsh vocals are absent here, but the harmonizing is not, and the finish of the song has a big, epic feel to it, which is pretty cool. This is a track that was originally recorded for the Death Of Giants EP that GFM released a couple of years ago, but this version is an improvement over the original.
A mournful cello leads in the next song, and almost immediately, "Chatter In The Room" is going to draw comparisons to a band like Evanescence, with the soaring female lead vocals, programming elements, and strings. While I can certainly hear it, "Chatter..." is a powerful, emotional ballad on its own and doesn't need big name comparisons to validate it. CJ really gets to stretch her vocal wings on this track, showcasing a strong, emotive voice that I believe will only get stronger with time. A powerful message is delivered in the lyrics here, as well, and once again, this is a song that I would push...and push HARD...as a single from this record to get these girls some exposure. This is, bar none, the best song on a record filled with good-to-really good work. While I certainly don't want to see GFM back away from their throat-punching, core approach by any stretch, if they can deliver one or two tracks like this on any future albums, they are going to draw fans from the followers of bands such as Red, Thousand Foot Krutch, or secular bands like Lacuna Coil and the previously mentioned Evanescene. Again, this is a carryover from Death Of Giants, but is also superior in its re-recording and new production.
"Evil Lies" brings the punch and crunch back on the intro, backs off a bit during the verse sections, then flows right into a tightly harmonized chorus section. Not my favorite track, but it is a nice transition from the softer musical side the girls exposed on "Chatter..." into the full on thump of the next track, "Death Of Giants".
"Death Of Giants" is the title track of the girls' debut EP, although it has been given new life and a new recording for this effort. Again, the interplay between the clean vocals and the brutal harshness of the screamed vocals serve the song extremely well. The rhythm section is solid, with Lulu establishing a tight tempo that never wavers, while her older sisters grind away on rhythm and bass guitars. Lacking a true solo, but sporting a nice little breakdown section following a chanted, "Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!", this version of "Death Of Giants" is definitely superior to its first incarnation and is one f the highlights here.
The album closes with one more reworked song from GFM's debut EP. "Dimensions" starts off with some programmed elements before giving way to the chugga-chugga-chug of the rhythm guitars that are so prevalent in metalcore. Yet again, we have a nice mix of harsh and clean vocals, with some programming tricks giving a stop-start stutter to some of the lead vocals. A nice, crunchy number to wrap up an overall solid and promising effort from one of the exciting new acts to hit the Christian rock/metal scene.
The production is very strong here, with Jones and Foreshaw doing an excellent job of giving each girl's instrument a chance to be heard and not buried in the mix. The packaging is simplistic, with a simple tri-fold insert featuring both individual and group photos of the girls, along with extensive thank you's and production notes. I got my copy directly from the band's website, so my liner notes are autographed (in GOLD!) by the girls. There are no lyrics included, which is too bad, as it is evident the band has a powerful, bold stance and it would be nice for younger listeners who may look up to these girls to be able to read about exactly where they stand.
Overall, this is an impressive effort in a genre that, honestly, is rather same-sounding most of the time. While not necessarily reinventing the metalcore genre, the girls' take on "Beautycore" breathes enough freshness into it to make Identity Crisis an album worth tracking down.
Rating: Crankable if you are into metalcore at all, and featuring enough elements to cross fans over from multiple rock and metal areas. Crank this to 7!