Saturday, January 8, 2022

SEVENTH DAY SLUMBER "Death By Admiration"


(c)2022 RockFest Records

  1. Death By Admiration (feat. Word is Alive)
  2. Fatal Love
  3. Solemn Oath
  4. What I've Become
  5. Halos
  6. Snake Mouth (feat. Relent)
  7. Light The Way
  8. Landmines
  9. Some Things Never Change
  10. Can't Say Sorry Enough
Joseph Rojas--Lead Vocals, Guitars
Weston Evans--Guitars
Ken Reed--Bass
Blaise Rojas--Drums, Percussion

Additional Musicians
Miggy Sanchez--Rap vocal on "Snake Mouth"

As people continue to hope that 2022 will bring some normalcy back to the world, Seventh Day Slumber is doing all they can to kick the year off in top form.  After releasing a praise and worship album, Unseen: The Lion and the Lamb in 2021, vocalist and band founder, Joseph Rojas, promised fans a hard-hitting album with their next release.  Let's just say that Death By Admiration checks all the boxes that come to my mind when thinking of a "hard-hitting" album.  While the band has long been a powerful force in the Christian hard rock world, with my introduction to the band starting with the crunchy We Are The Broken album in 2014, I don't hesitate at all in stating that Death By Admiration is the hardest rocking album in the band's extensive catalog which now boasts 13 full-length records and 1 EP.  

The album opens with an electronic build up that gives way to the thunder of Blaise's drums and the thick, chunky rhythm guitars that bore their way to the front are full of aggression.  It is immediately apparent that something is a bit different here than on past Seventh Day Slumber records, as frontman Joseph Rojas has added a smoother singing style to his still-present edgy delivery that he utilized to such great effect on previous records.  That smoother style is made all the more evident with the closing of the song, as the throaty metalcore vocals of Word Is Alive vocalist, Tyler Smith, roar to life.  I'm not sure if the intricate guitar line that weaves throughout the track is handled by new full-time member, Weston Evans, or by Word Is Alive guitarist, Zack Hansen, but whomever tackles it has some serious skill, as that is a frantic finger twister that I have caught myself focusing on to the point that I stopped listening to the lyrics altogether!  

The next track up is "Fatal Love", which I feel has to be released as a single at some point.  The song is pure Seventh Day Slumber from start to finish, and represents everything the band has done so well to this point in their career, and then builds upon it.  Thick, modern rhythm guitar riffing?  Check.  Punchy drums with catchy fills and tempo changes?  Check.  Throaty, edgy chorus vocals mixed with smoother singing vocals on the verses?  Absolutely.  I'm honestly somewhat surprised this wasn't the lead single for the record, as this track just screams Seventh Day Slumber to me.  Add in a crunchy breakdown section before the final run through the chorus, and this is a winner from spin one for me.  Top three on the album, for sure!

"Solemn Oath" keeps things going with the prerequisite electronic intro and punishing rhythm guitar riff kicking things off.  The only track co-written by longtime guitar player, Jeremy Holderfield, "Solemn Oath" is yet another track that is pure Seventh Day Slumber in its approach and attitude.  Joseph strips away the polish on his voice, exposing the rawer sound he has typically used in the past, with some bolstering from well-placed backing vocals.  I'm not sure if Holderfield plays on the track, but the guitars here are chunky and aggressive, reminiscent of the playing on older albums like We Are The Broken and Closer To Chaos. Ken Reed's bass is a full-voiced participant here, and  Blaise Rojas shows nice skill with some snappy fills and tight rhythms in the brief section before the vocal bridge, coming off almost like a drum solo of sorts.  His machine gun strikes to close the track are spot on perfect!  Good, aggressive stuff that long-time 7DS fans are going to eat up.   

The band released the lead single several weeks ago, and "What I've Become" has made steady climbs up various Christian hard rock and metal charts, finishing as the 19th biggest song of the 2021 year on ChristianRock.Net.  The gritty modern rocker finds Joseph Rojas expanding upon his vocal range a bit more than is typical, and it works to strong effect with a lot more singing from the front man than many songs of the past have featured.  A song about depression and self-loathing, the message here is a powerful one, with Rojas singing "Sometimes I build myself up/So I can tear myself down again/I never thought I'd get this low/I hate what I've become".  

"Halos" briefly teases at being a slower track, but that veneer is quickly wiped away when the guitars and drums hit.  To be fair, the verse sections are pretty laid back in comparison to most of the other songs on the album, but the  The chorus section here stand in stark contrast to the verse sections, with some brutally angsty backing vocals screaming behind Joseph's smoother tenor.  There is also a pretty nasty breakdown that stops as abruptly as it starts, with another run through the chorus starting off clean and ending very, very harsh.  I'm working from a preview copy here, so I am not sure who is doing the harsh vocals here, but I intend to find out, as they are brutal!  Love the dichotomy between the clean vocals and the snarls on this track, which is one that I can't stop hitting repeat on.  

By the time "Snake Mouth" rolls around, you may be ready to catch your breath, but trust ain't happening here!  Opening with some minor electronic elements that rapidly give way to a heavy rhythm guitar, "Snake Mouth" continues the sonic assault with possibly the punchiest, grittiest track on the record!  A scathing warning to the self-serving who profess to know God yet turn others away as being unworthy, "Snake Mouth" also features a vicious nu metal rap from Miggy, of RockFest Records label mates Relent, who warns, "Bleeding out, bleeding out/You just walked past. You couldn't see me through the Jesus on your stained glass!"  

"Light The Way" is also not going to give the listener any kind of respite.  Sure, as is the case on a few tracks here, the verse sections are a bit more sparse, a bit tamer, but the pulse of the song is still set high by Blaise's drumming and the aggressive rhythm riffing.  An electronic bed pulsates throughout the track, helping to keep things moving forward at a solid clip, as well.  Joseph really pours himself into the vocals here, and this may be his most impressive performance on the record in as much as he really sounds like he is laying himself emotionally bare here.    

As the title might imply, "Landmines" is another...ahem...explosive rocker, boasting a big bottom end, with Reed's bass rumbling across the chunky rhythms that Blaise hammers out on the drums.  Not blisteringly fast, "Landmines" hits hard, nonetheless, with tight rhythm guitars and more impactful vocals from Joseph.  The band adjusts the typical song layout a bit here, as there is no guitar solo or big breakdown to separate the final runs through the chorus from the last verse sections, however that doesn't mean the song lacks musical dynamic, as Weston flashes some impressive finger work and a nice little burst of speed on a tasty extended solo to exit the track.  A powerful track about letting go of negative relationships, potentially even relationships to sin, "Landmines" is one of my top three or four songs here and gets the repeat treatment quite frequently when I spin the record.

"Some Things Never Change" is yet another uptempo rocker, but it is a bit more angled for radio than perhaps some other songs are here.  A catchy guitar hook worms its way throughout the song, and the track seems to build upon the theme of "Landmines" and moving on from negativity and bad relationships.  Joseph even spits a bit of a rap vocal in the vocal bridge before the last chorus, and a nasty breakdown thumps the listener upside the head before the track exits.  I'll be surprised if this song doesn't impact Christian hard rock radio at some point, and it should get play on terrestrial rock radio and Octane as well.  

The album closes on the only truly quiet note on the record, with "Can't Say Sorry Enough".  Built around an acoustic guitar, some well-placed strings, and some  gently layered vocals, the song is an emotional, almost poignant ending to an otherwise aggressive, hard-hitting record...and it works!  Once again, the vocal growth that Joseph Rojas has put on display on Death By Admiration is impressive.  While he has always been able to sing...some of the band's biggest songs have been ballads, in just seems he has added an extra layer of depth and emotion that I feel really began to grow with the praise songs on Unseen: The Lion and the Lamb.  Add in the exceptional songwriting on this record, and it is safe to say that Seventh Day Slumber continues to grow and improve as a band, not slowing down, but continuing to push forward.

Leaving nothing to chance, the band brought in some big names to twist the knobs and tweak the sounds here, with Kellen McGregor of Memphis May Fire both mixing and producing, while Brad Blackwook, who has worked with Skillet, Korn, POD, and Twenty One Pilots, doing the mastering.  The result is a big sound, aggressive yet accessible, punchy and never overly polished.  Blaise's drums have never sounded this full, and Reed's bass is alive in the mix, whereas so many bands today seemingly bury the bottom end.  There is good separation between the guitar tracks here, and the layering of the backing vocals works exceptionally well, especially for a band that hits as hard as Seventh Day Slumber does here.

Rating:  Time will ultimately tell, but at this point, I'd say Death By Admiration is Seventh Day Slumber at their crankable best!  Crank this beast to a 9!

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