Audio Adrenaline - Kings And Queens

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Artist: Audio Adrenaline
Title: Kings And Queens
Label: Fair Trade Services
Release Date: 3/12/13
Reviewer: Jonathan Andre

Tracklisting:

  1. He Moves, You Move
  2. Kings and Queens
  3. Believer
  4. King of the Comebacks
  5. Change My Name
  6. Fire Never Sleeps
  7. 20:17 (Raise the Banner)
  8. Seeker (This is God)
  9. I Climb the Mountain (City on a Hill)
  10. The Answer

Audio Adrenaline have been one of Christian music’s most respected bands throughout the 1990s and 2000s, together with other artists and bands like Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, Carman, Jars of Clay, dc Talk, Third Day and Newsboys. Releasing hit songs like ‘Get Down’, ‘King’, ‘Ocean Floor’, ‘Hands and Feet’, ‘Big House’ and ‘Never Gonna Be as Big as Jesus’, their absence from the music industry was dramatically felt when they announced their retirement in 2007, primarily fuelled by lead singer Mark Stuart’s deteriorating vocal chords and the problems associated with that. Yet with their comeback to the music industry with ex-dc Talk singer Kevin Max now at the helm as the new frontman of Audio Adrenaline being announced during the middle of 2012 and garnering a variety of responses, from disdain and horror to welcomed support and anticipation; Kings and Queens is certainly one of the years most anticipated albums (along with Hawk Nelson’s Made, featuring guitarist Jon Steingard on lead vocals after Jason Dunn left the band in 2012). Releasing their new radio single ‘Kings and Queens’ late last year to iTunes and a great deal of critical and commercial success, the fact that Mark Stuart is still the chief songwriter of the band and still involved in the recording process (the only setback is that he can’t sing) is still a good thing, considering that many other former band members (namely Peter Furler, the former lead singer of Newsboys) have stepped away from the band when previously pledging to stay involved in the process. Though many have questioned Kevin Max lately, both in his solo music as well as his questionable faith; this revival of both Kevin Max’s and Audio A’s career is certain to squash any doubts of both, featuring 10 tracks of great rock anthems, inclusive of a Martin Smith worship cover ‘Fire Never Sleeps’. With Mark Stuart featured as a guest appearance on ‘King of the Comebacks’ and keyboardist Jason Walker (primarily a producer and writer of songs before his inducting into the band) singing on the potential radio single ‘Believer’; this is a great album if you enjoy solidly produced rock music, whether you’re a dc Talk fan, an Audio Adrenaline fan, or both.

‘Kings and Queens’ is the first radio single on the album, and a great introduction to Kevin Max the new lead singer of the resurrected Audio Adrenaline. Releasing their music video (filmed in Haiti) before their song released to iTunes in October 2012, we are given a song about justice, honour, caring for the poor, and what Jesus thinks about the least of these in this song that’s certain to motivate some to think about those who are less fortunate than us. Starting off the song with a synth keyboard as we move into an anthem to declare over ourselves as we understand what those around us who are poor (in a physical sense as well as spiritual) may be going through, justice is the key as Mark, Kevin, bassist and founding member Will McGinness and the rest of Audio Adrenaline champion the poor and elevate them to front and centre as how Jesus sees them. The poignant words of the bridge are certain to evoke passion and motivation as Kevin declares that ‘…if not us, who would be like Jesus…like Jesus to the least of these…’ Something to think about whenever we come across a situation where someone may be in need and we could potentially shun them away at first glance, Kevin’s vocals are better than ever as we focus on the message of inclusion and lifting up those who have been trodden down upon.

Though some listeners may say this song is your typical CCM anthem, we are still encouraged to send our best wishes to the band, even if many may reminisce about the dc Talk and Audio Adrenaline days during the 1990s and 2000s. With many bands changing lead singer numerous times (Newsboys and Hawk Nelson), Audio Adrenaline are another such band deserving of a rebirth, and while ‘Kings and Queens’ may not necessarily be the strongest song musically on the album (I do prefer songs like ‘He Moves, You Move’, ‘Fire Never Sleeps’ and ‘Believer’ better than the first single), ‘Kings and Queens’ is a decent enough song that keeps listeners interested, intrigued and fascinated about the rest of the 9 songs, as we are reminded of our identity in Christ and the kings and queens we inherently are as we believe in the encouragements spoken over us by this song. Well done guys for such a compelling song that leads into an album that’s one of my favourite of the year!

‘He Moves, You Move’ channels the mood and atmosphere straight from Audio Adrenaline’s past hit ‘Get Down’ and certainly feels like a ‘Get Down’ Pt 2, as we are taken on a journey of obedience as we declare that if we were to ‘…move to the right or move to the left, move up north, move down south, the east or the west, no matter how far I go, if I stay right here, if I’m in the middle of Your will there’s nothing left to fear…’ Heavily promoting the electric guitar riff undertone, this swinging song showing elements of the motown dancing genre that can certainly be played at Christian rave parties is one of surrender and abandon as we give up our own aspirations and self-centred dreams and understand that ‘…this life you live is really not your own…he leads and you follow…’ Some may call this a sadistic measure where we have no freedom but to follow our maker, but as we dispel the doubters and questioners; we are reminded that we follow Christ out of a heart of love rather than religion and duty. Just a tad over 3 minutes, ‘He Moves, You Move’ may sound cheesy at times (especially the song title), yet it serves the purpose of promoting a heart of obedience out of love for the Father as we sift through our motivations and ourselves whether our actions are so because of love or just running through the motions.

‘Believer’ is another song that’s destined to stretch our boundaries musically and in a thematic sense as we hear both Kevin and Jason alternate in their singing- Kevin sings the verses while Jason- who sang most of Know Hope Collective, offers his voice in the chorus of this potential second radio single. Speaking about how it is our belief in the impossible with Christ in us that we can live our lives unafraid and with confidence of our security and success in Jesus, this bold declaration of undertaking tasks that would be otherwise difficult without Christ gives us confidence in the words of how ‘…when I walk through the valley of the shadows, when I’m trapped in the middle of the battle, I will trust in You…’ With light acoustics and a powerhouse vocal from both Kevin and Jason (and in some instances Kevin starts to emulate the ohhh’s that Michael Tait is famous for), this hard hitting snare drum pounding song full of grit and determination reminds us of how much we need Christ if we want to walk on the water and push back the darkness just like Jesus. Fear disappears and our confidence restored as we trust wholeheartedly in our Father, with this song sure to be a certain hope and help for many. Well done guys for such a compelling song about belief and trust!

As listeners glance through the rest of the album, many songs are sure to stand out as we are given a variety of music genres- from worship (‘Fire Never Sleeps’) and drum and percussion African music-sounding-like ‘20:17 (Raise the Banner)’ with guest vocalists Blanca and Manwell from Group 1 Crew, to the testimonial ‘King of the Comebacks’, complete with a heartfelt addition of Mark Stuart in the bridge, where you can really hear his voice and how it has deteriorated. As Kevin shows us his enthusiastic passion, we are met with songs birthed from hope and expectation as we listen to some of the most heartfelt and relatable melodies of the year. ‘Fire Never Sleeps’ was originally written and recorded by ex-Delirious? lead singer Martin Smith (released in North America on his upcoming album God’s Great Dance Floor Step 1) and is covered well by Kevin and the rest of the band. Staying true to the musicality of the original song, we are given stirring electric guitar introductions and a range of electronics used as a musical backdrop as we are introduced to the idea that God’s fire of love, justice, favour and grace showers on us, never sleeping and always ready to help and give whenever we ask. Such power and beauty both shown in this anthem, this great representation of how abandoned worship ought to be comes to a crescendo- musically and lyrically, in the bridge, and how Kevin declares for God to ‘…purify my heart, purify my heart, spirit fall on us, Spirit fall on us…’ ‘20:17 (Raise the Banner)’ was sung about the fall of Jericho and employs some great-sounding percussion instruments that pays homage to African style music. Hearing Kevin declare in the chorus that we raise the banner high, lifting up the name of Jesus as, just like Joshua leading the men in their pursuit of Jericho, we boldly move forward in the ways that God has for us is certainly motivating, and the addition of Group 1 Crew as backing vocals is just a great added bonus. ‘The Answer’, featured as the last track on the album, is just as great as the first (even though normally artists place their stronger songs near the front of the album) and as electric guitars and a strong drum beat are given prominent use in this anthem depicting a personal testimony for Kevin as he shows us that Christ is the answer, proclaiming that ‘…I know it’s truth cos I tried it all, You are the answer…’, we are able to find ourselves in a moment of relation as many of us can remember the moment when we understand and acknowledge that Christ is the only way to salvation and eternal life.

Both ‘City on a Hill’ and ‘This is God’ (the original titles from the provisional list that were changed to ‘I Climb the Mountain’ and ‘Seeker’ respectively) remind us of how because of God’s great power shown to us, we can be the light and salt of the earth as we shine for Jesus everywhere we go. While not necessarily the most strongest songs on the album or necessarily the most memorable given the extremely great quality of ‘He Moves, You Move’, ‘20:17 (Raise the Banner)’ and ‘Believer’, these two melodies complete with powerful snare drums and a mesmerising guitar riff to start of ‘I Climb the Mountain’ still remind us of the quality of Kevin’s vocals and how he has slotted in nicely as the new lead singer of the band. Yet it is the humbly sung song of hope and redemption in ‘King of the Comebacks’ that will truly shine as a result of this album. Describing the band’s revival and comeback to the music scene, Mark Stuart lends a hand in the bridge singing (or at least trying to) the bridge and how ‘…you can’t stop the comeback…’ Virtually unrecognisable in voice compared to his singing in songs like ‘Get Down’, ‘Hands and Feet’ and ‘Ocean Floor’; listening to Mark sing with such great passion in his voice yet understanding that despite the passion, he cannot sing whatsoever is so disheartening and sad- you don’t want to wish that on anybody. Still, though he has a vocal problem, it still didn’t stop Mark from singing a few lines to create a song that’s going to be cherished, with the message of second chances and revival reminding listeners that there is always hope in the midst of hurt and chaos. Well done guys for such a song that lets listeners know that ‘…all over the world, we wait for the miracle and it’s coming…You’re the king of the comebacks…’

Overall: Audio Adrenaline’s first studio album since Until My Heart Caves In in 2005 is one of my favourite albums of the year, and certainly a frontrunner for Rock/Contemporary album of the Year at the 2014 Dove Awards. While many may criticise the band for using the same name when it is virtually a different lineup, what still remains true about this band that was the same when Mark Stuart was at the helm of lead vocals is their heart for ministry, especially right now as they partner with the Hands and Feet project, whose goal is to rescue as many orphaned children in Haiti with the help and support of those who are in better positions (financial and otherwise). With Mark still behind the scenes as the chief songwriter of the band, fans are given Audio Adrenaline 2.0, and Kevin also another opportunity to revive his musical career, with some fans saying that it was never the same since dc Talk split up. Does this mean now that Audio Adrenaline can be on tour with TobyMac and the Newsboys and perform a private set during the night and sing some old school dc talk songs? Hopefully- and maybe some old Newsboys and Audio Adrenaline songs too! What has led me to be sceptical of the change in singers (picking Kevin Max in particular) is completely dispelled as I hear these songs show myself (and hopefully others) the hope and comfort these songs can be for those listening. With ‘Believer’ and ‘He Moves, You Move’ tipped to be my frontrunners for second radio single, Audio Adrenaline’s rebirth comes with new refreshing melodies and a great outlook in months and years ahead. Well done guys for one of the greatest comebacks in Christian music history!

RIYL: TobyMac, Newsboys, Know Hope Collective, dc Talk

Buy the Album: iTunes/Amazon mp3

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