It might seem odd to review an album now five years old; indeed, it has even come as a surprise to me that the now-defunct Harp & Lyre’s finale is this old. It was a largely-overlooked release from a band that seemed to have a bright future ahead. Alas, group disbanded in the past few years and we’ve been left in the dark regarding any new projects.
Nonetheless, if I didn’t think this band had something special, I wouldn’t be digging up the past. In many ways, they were a post-hardcore band – on the heavier end of the spectrum, alongside groups like Dead Poetic and UnderØath. Their early songs showcased incredible piano parts that were neither too classical nor too pop-based. A good comparison in this respect would be A Hope for Home. Even though “Tribes” is devoid of what easily was their defining factor, it’s still a masterful blend of energetic, mosh-pit inducing grooves set behind angsty, poetic vocals.
The album has a rare consistency, with anthemic lines at both ends. Take Birth Pains:
Welcome to humanity
Welcome to the fall
Welcome to life…
…where you breathe in. Your breath is released like the wind,
sending life to the veins of a…
… dying giant.
A fallen tribe
1:7 begins with the lines of Revelation for 1:7 and I don’t think I’ll ever forget this verse consequently. That’s followed by even more lyrical power:
Did you think you were safe,
Standing so tall?
Society is one to make you think
that you are made for this world alone,
but don’t be deceived.
No don’t be tricked.
It’s painted as a lamb,
that clench with the force of all damnation
I could go into all the lyrical nuance, but thankfully the band posted the full lyrics on Facebook which you can read here. Thankfully, vocalist Tyler Carder’s delivery is still pretty easy to comprehend, more akin to The Chariot than the muddled brutal screams than A Plea for Purging, for instance. It’s heavy but it’s not going to blow out your bass speakers.
There’s quite a bit of musical variety here: even despite a piano presence, there are sludgier moments, a bit of post-rock, some southern hardcore influence, and plenty of dissonance. Some moments certainly aren’t as interesting as others, but there’s a good mix of variety.
Overall, it’s a very Christ-focused album that serves also as a strong critique of modern church culture. It’s a call to arms, a reminder of grace, and a beacon of God’s grace.
There is one section that’s sure to cause controversy, just as we’ve seen with bands like The Classic Crime.
Holy Spirit our existence will burn in…
…hell without your undying Mercies.
We tried to make this about ourselves
while We act like we’re so G** d****ed
Neglecting the Price
assured that we’re not.
bring Your Kingdom to earth.
I would argue that, while I still don’t agree with this particular usage, it’s used more appropriately here compared to how other bands have used it a bit haphazardly. Many proclaim Christ and are assured they’re safe under grace, while choosing to live as if the Gospel means nothing. It’s definitely bold language, but so is much of this album. Again, it’s not something I care for and I don’t know if any context would really justify it.
Apart from that, my next critique would be that the album does get boring at parts or feel a bit cliché. This isn’t a huge problem as we don’t see verse-chorus-verse structures at play. Any weaker part is usually short-lived, with a stronger one coming to take its place.
“Tribes” truly is an overlooked album from an overlooked band. They had a gift at conveying Gospel truths in a challenging way without sacrificing lyrical abrasion. They weren’t afraid to tackle difficult topics or be direct, but they do so in a way that also doesn’t interfere with the musical experience.
For fans of: The Chariot, UnderØath, A Hope for Home, Deathbreaker, Rival Choir
Check out “Tribes” below: