Album: O God Save Us All
Label: Fair Trade/ Columbia
Release Date: November 13, 2012
Reviewer: Lee Brown
- O God Save Us All
- Once and for All
- Draw the Line
- The One
- Beautiful Scars
- Trade a Moment
I have a confession to make, Disciple was one of my first forays into “Christian” music. I’m talking downloading random stuff off Napster (the non-Metallica friendly version) and stumbling across “I Just Know” and falling in love. But that was 1999. Times have changed (The version of Napster from those days is gone and I figured out that downloading music illegally is wrong), and so has Disciple. Sort of. You see, back in 2005 Disciple changed from the dying embers of rapcore to a more melodic hard rock fused with some southern charm.
But that was 2005. With O God Save Us All, Disciple takes a cue from TFK’s book and has made a quasi-return to former days. No, the new album is not the glorious return to rapcore everyone is talking about (you know, since TFK started playing in that sandbox again), but there’s at least a little This Might Sting a Little starting to find its way back into Kevin Young’s signature sound.
If you’re somehow unfamiliar with Disciple’s music (they have 10 full length albums out at this point!), what you can expect is driving rock powered by Kevin Young’s southern vocals and style of screaming mixed with (more) mellow ballads. And the whole thing works pretty well (it has supported 10 albums!). And, of course, Disciple, as their name suggests, is constantly faith filed and daringly evangelistic (if you buy their CD at a show they give you another copy to give to a lost person, because that’s a big part of Kevin’s testimony on how he was lead to the Lord).
What you’re getting on O God Save Us All, then, is something of a culmination of all that has come before mixed with a little “more of the same.” The great thing about Disciple is that they are remarkably consistent with their sound and their message. The negative thing is that if you’ve been listening to them since the beginning, a lot of their songs start to sound a little more than similar.
O God… starts out strong with “Outlaws.” “Outlaws” is a raucous track that explores the idea of being a slave to the traps of this world. The message, instrumentation, and lyrics all point to this being a great anthem song. The track is uptempo, positive, challenging, and hits all the right notes. Lyrically, “Outlaws” hits predictable themes, but does so in a powerful way. “You’re meant to rise above. Yeah, you were made to fly. You were made to sing and dance where angels never die.”
The title track “O God Save Us All” follows “Outlaws’ with a little more aggressive sound and message. “O God…” is a great track to show off Kevin’s ability to move from his signature screams to a more radio-friendly sound in short order. Combined with “Outlaws,” “O God…” starts to build some serious momentum towards a landmark album.
“R.I.P.” bursts right in and continues to increase the amperage. This track is one that starts to mix in some of Kevin’s old This Might Sting a Little sound. The difference comes in that it is less “rapcore” and more screaming in rhythm. This is another song that would be great live as it gives the audience obvious parts to scream back to the band. As with the previous songs, the message is solid. As expected by the title, its all about putting our past sins to death.
“Once and for all” is the first to break the “each song more aggressive than the last” plan. This track clearly takes cues from Disciple’s radio success with “Dear X,” and is very well placed in following three more aggressive tracks. Though it is a slower track, “Once and for all” is not one of Disciple’s power ballads. It comes close at times, but it is more of a balanced rock track. In terms of the message, “Once and for All” is nearly the same as “R.I.P.” The key difference is in the execution. Where “R.I.P” is meant to get a crowd moving and rejecting their past en masse, “Once and for All” is more of a thank you letter to God for His mercy. The combination of the songs is very effective.
I mentioned that “Once and for all” is not one of Disciple’s power ballads; “Someday” is. It’s the type song the band will play at the end of their set as they focus the crowd back on Jesus’ cross. It’s also a really great song. It falls into the trap of being a little “more of the same,” but it’s some really good “more of the same.” It also has a great reference to C. S. Lewis’ conception of this world as the “shadow lands.”
“Someday” is also a perfect fit in terms of order of songs. Where the album starts out raucous and loud, it slowly pares back the aggression (some) and creates a great flow. This is one of the reasons this album is (in my book) more effective than some of their past efforts. It just draws you in and takes you through all the right motions. This is also why it’s easier to forgive those songs that feel like something you’ve heard before… on at least two of their albums.
“Draw the line” continues to move through the idea of letting go of the old self. It also ratchets down the amperage again. Once again, this is effective. That being said, “Draw the line” is not as strong a song as “Once and for all” (nor the P.O.D. song of the same name). It starts out strong with some great southern guitar picking, but the overall impact of the song is minimal and almost unneeded as it simply rehashes the message of “R.I.P” and “Once and for all” beat for beat, only slower.
Never fear, however, as “Kings” starts to heat things back up. Not only is “Kings” a great song, it may be the closest to that 90’s sound Disciple has gotten in years. It even has a very Travis Wyrick (Aggressive State…) industrial backbeat to it. “Kings” hits the same message as “Outlaws,” basically. The repeated message is that we are not slaves. “You can wear your own chains. You can build your own cage. You can dig your own grave. You can wear your own chains…”
“Unstoppable,” a fitting title, takes this industrial riffing and starts to amp it up again. If you’re following along, the album goes hard to softer and back to hard again. The message to this song is that we can’t be stopped, “so what you gonna do about it?” It’s a great message. It reminds me a bit of For Today’s “Fearless” in what it’s putting on the table and asking for in response. “Unstoppable” has what is likely my favorite guitar work on the album. It’s very industrial, but Kevin goes against type and gives his more modern screaming version to the vocals. The interplay works very well.
“The One” ditches the industrial sound and gives us a mix of Disciple’s aggressive yet lower key sounds. This is more of an anthem track again. As such, it continues to bring a nice balance to the album up to this point and it’s almost a mirror in terms of how the whole thing is laid out. The message of this song is that if we “look up you’re surrounded by The One…. no one’s gonna face this fight alone. We bleed One for all. We bleed all for One.” In terms of a battle track, this song is inspiring. Though it has it’s faults, “The One” is a powerful track.
As the focus of “The One” is Christ’s protection as we stand in spiritual battle, it serves as an amazing follow up to “Unstoppable.” The theme of each track builds off the last and incorporates just enough of a new element to make it feel like a story unfolding before your ears. With this in mind, it makes sense that “Beautiful Scars” takes the protection of Christ and our past sins and meshes it together into a straightforward rock song. The message of this track is the duality of Christ’s scars taken for us and our scars being made “beautiful” in our rebirth. This is also one of the more radio friendly tracks as Kevin rarely raises his voice to the level of screaming. That being said, “Beautiful Scars” is not quite a Disciple power ballad, either.
The album closes with “Trade a moment.” The track begins with a marching drum rhythm that harkens back to the idea behind “Unstoppable” and “The One,” and builds on that base with… a Disciple quasi-power ballad. The focus of “Trade a Moment” seems to both be the joy of eternity with Christ and a love song styled enticement to “come dance across the sky tonight.” This track is notable for incorporating some female vocals in the mix, as well. I could be wrong, but I don’t recall Disciple ever doing this before. Of course, I could be wrong since they have literally hundreds of songs. Their rapcore albums regularly featured 19 or so tracks a piece, after all.
In terms of a concluding song, “Trade a Moment” is the only song that seems to break tradition. Seemingly every other track built upon the last. While you can over-spiritualize “Trade a Moment” it really just comes across as Kevin singing to his wife. So, it breaks continuity a bit, but not in a jarring manner.
Overall: Disciple has been around for a while. Because of this, it’s hard for anything they do now to feel completely unique. That being said, if O God Save Us All is more of the same, it’s more of the same done better. The album really shines in Disciple’s discography for several of the following reasons. First of all, the message of the album is laid out like a story that unfolds with each new chapter. The music is balanced and the flow of the album is very well done. There is a nice mix of radio-friendly, ballad, and too-hard-for-radio screaming. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that a song or two feel a little bit like Disciple’s great This Might Sting a Little album. Now, if only there was a homage to “I Just Know” as a hidden track (if you can still do those in an all digital world).
RIYL: Thousand Foot Krutch, Red, Skillet, Disciple (90’s version)