January 30, 2014
I started following the Birmingham, Alabama-based Christian rock band Nine Lashes following their last album World We View and their ongoing expansion onto Christian rock radio and Christian rock countdowns. That was nearly two years ago. And now, in 2014, the band has launched their recent album release From Water To War, which dropped on January 21.
Appearing just under two years after their debut project after signing with Seattle-based Tooth & Nail Records, the sophomore effort chooses to take the risk of sounding rushed—a step that absolutely pays off for the band, as the level of musical maturing evident on this album makes it seem like the band has had much more time between releases.
Some stylistic developments are definitely clear with the introduction of strong electronic elements in addition to the edge rock grit style that usually goes along with their music. Although they are far from the first to employ this particular dynamic in their music, the result when combined with Jeremy Dunn's moody vocals is a sound instantly, hauntingly memorable. Lead single "Break the World" already gives listeners a taste of this, with grungy guitar and pulsing electronic elements carefully wrapped around heavy beats provided by drummer Noah Terrell. A similar marriage of synth patches and dark guitar tones in "Lights We Burn," which calls listeners out for the ones we forget to love, and a dream-like album closer "Cover Your Own". "Where I Belong" draws on a pop melody/electronic beat combination so integral to the song's structure that it could almost be classified in the EDM genre.
Rock and roll fans have nothing to fear despite the presence of electronic elements: there is classic hard rock fare here as well. A distorted and aggressive "Light it Up" makes a statement about refusing to be walked on and oppressed. "Die in the Dark" features a scratched, eerie reading of Psalm 42:10 in the bridge in a moment reminiscent of Nine Lashes's independent releases.
Another stylistic advance the band has made is in the songwriting department, which is not only more complex and layered than their debut release, but it is also more emotionally charged. This album spins a consistent thread of finding your identity and where you stand through the hardening fire of internal turmoil. "Fear and Shadows" is one of the most introspective moments on the album, the second verse declaring in haunted tones "I feel the panic dividing me / the worry grows, nowhere to go / I hold my breath down inside of me / wish I could find this heart of mine." The introspection is not all entirely negative. "Never Back Down" makes the earnest declaration of identity "I'd rather die than believe a lie."
The album's pacing is strong throughout, with slower moments put in the album to balance the driving rock beats. "Surrender" is a conversation between a lonely lost heart and its Creator, coming to a place of willingness to give everything to God—even if all that's left to give is brokenness. "Love Me Now" has a somewhat similar feel and also one of the strongest tracks on the album with a combination of chilling piano, grinding guitar and electronically distorted vocals to express a deep need for love despite the fear that maybe it's beyond reach, as the bridge plainly offers the hope that the band has found with the words, "remember Jesus Christ / He felt your pain."
Songs to Download:
"Break the World"
Rating: 5.0/5.0 stars
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