Album Review :
For Today - "Ekklesia"

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Band: For Today (http://myspace.com/fortoday)
Album: Ekklesia
Release date: April 1st, 2008
Label: Facedown Records (http://facedownrecords.com)
Review by: DavidIVM

I’ve already erased my opening line more times than you have fingers (I hope that’s the case, at least), because everyone knows that the opening line is where you “prove your stuff,” and this being my first review, I don’t want to fall on my face, but I know by the end of this, I’ll most likely end up with a bloody nose and a broken jaw. That’s all besides the point, because this CD, in my opinion, is a hard one to review. Unlike Decoymusic.com, I’m not going to rip these guys a new one and throw them in the same category of “Hot Topic approved mallcore,” alongside bands such as Bring Me the Horizon, Heavy Heavy Low Low, and Drop Dead, Gorgeous because they’re more than that. There’s a lot about “Ekklesia” that I love, and their dedication to Christ is nothing short of amazing. Yet at the same time, I’m not able to give this a full ten on those facts alone. Not because they’re bad, but…well, you’ll see. So before I go crazy and break the backspace button into a million pieces, here we go.

From the second you put the CD in, you’ll get the taste of Jamie King’s genius work. This guy is definitely at the top of the ladder when it comes to recording, and if you listen to various Between the Buried and Me albums, along with the Human Abstract and others, it’s more than evident. The drums are crisp, the guitars are full, and the bass is driving everything along, as it should be. As good as the mix is, though, the intro is sadly the summary of this CD: so much untapped talent not yet realized. Don’t get me wrong, this CD has a lot of good moments. What I love about “Ekklesia” is every single song has it’s own style and you can actually tell when one song goes to the next, unlike various other bands in the same genre. Guitarists Ryan Leitru and Mike Reynolds really know how to balance catchy and technical riffs, and, while not on the level of bands like Protest the Hero and BTBAM, they’re definitely not parts you’d hear out of a run-of-the-mill metalcore group. Doesn’t hurt that they’re not recycled riffs from the bands they pull influences from, as well. Not to mention how well Brandon Leitru’s bass lines lock in with David Morrison’s drumming, creating a rhythm powerhouse, in my eyes (and ears). And the lyrics? While many people feel they are too preachy, For Today has never been a subtle band. They’ve always been right out there, spreading Christ’s Word, and they haven’t been ashamed of it in the least bit, and that’s something I love and admire. “You may be fearful but you are not alone, I will be there to help you through.” Redemption easily has some of the most moving lyrics I’ve read in a while. I mean, there are a lot of things about this CD that make them stand out from their peers (especially, in my opinion, Ryan’s singing vocals), but there’s also a few things that are holding them back from their true potential, and it’s enough to affect the scoring of this review.

Let me just say I’m not a fan of open-chord chugging and repetitive breakdowns. At all. The CD is littered with enough hardcore-dancing inducing parts as a young band idolizing Bury Your Dead and August Burns Red would have. I think when placed in the right spot, a breakdown can make a song shine. However, that’s not always the case here. When there’s no movement on the fretboard, the appeal quickly wears away and you find that the song, having potential to be near amazing, becomes almost redundant. And sadly, nearly every single song, if not all of them, has a breakdown like that. Now you may be arguing with me, saying that I’m being too harsh, and maybe I am. Yes, there were a couple moments where I almost considered re-enacting the famous “Hardcore dancing drive-by” video on Youtube, but those were few and far between. What makes it worse is when it’s a part in the song that I was talking about before, where they really begin to show their differences in this saturated “metal” scene, and they place a breakdown that really didn’t need to be there. One example would be their track #9, “A Higher Standard.” The beginning riffs, while nothing special, lead into one of the few breakdowns at :54 that probably resulted in getting several concerned looks from fellow drivers while I was on the road earlier this evening. Even the part after the breakdown got me riled up, and to me, called for a good clean vocal part, but that’s just my personal opinion. I had a lot of hope for this song, and was getting excited until the inevitable happened: open chords at 2:11. I was bummed, not going to lie. Yes, I understand there was a bit of movement, more than before, but I felt this song could’ve been so much more without that.

The other thing I had with this CD was Mattie’s vocals. Before Mattie was in For Today, he was the frontman for Besieged, and if you listen to the differences between Besieged’s full-length, “Atlantis” and “Ekklesia”, you’ll be able to hear what I’m talking about. I’m really trying not to agree with DecoyMusic too much, but this is one time where I’m going to have to. His vocals this time around sound very forced and lack the power he had before. Also, his vocals don’t seem to fit stylistically as well as the previous vocalist Matt Tyler’s did. A lot of this has to do with recording in a completely different place than the original songs, and re-doing vocals from the previous singer, though. I honestly think once Mattie has the ability to write his own lyrics and vocal patterns, the vocalist I loved before will return, but right now, it’s just something that is turning me off from enjoying this fully.

By no means am I trying to persuade people not to buy this CD. If anything, I want you to go out right now and get every single one you can find, if only to help support this band. Nowadays, it seems harder and harder to find as genuine of people and as on fire for God as For Today, so they are definitely a breath of fresh air in that sense. I just truly, truly, truly feel they could’ve done a lot more with the song-writing in this CD. There was so much potential and possibilities that were unexplored, and it’s almost frustrating, because it’s all RIGHT THERE. They’re a young band, though, and have plenty of room to grow, so I hope they take this as a learning experience, a stepping stone towards what greatness the Lord has in store for them. Because I know for a fact this won’t be the last time you hear about this band, be sure of that.

I give “Ekklesia” by For Today a 7/10.

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