Album Review :
Sanctus Real - Run
By Jonathan Andre in Reviews | Comments closed
Artist: Sanctus Real
Label: Sparrow Records
Release Date: 2/5/13
Reviewer: Jonathan Andre
- On Our Own
- We Will Not Give Up
- Nothing Between
- Keep Me Young
- One of Those Things
- Better than This
- Picture of Grace
- You are God
- That’s Life (Bonus)
- Love You Tightly (Bonus)
- One More Show (Bonus)
- Sanctuary (Bonus)
- Run (Remix)
Sanctus Real have been one of my favourite bands of late, with hit songs ‘Forgiven’, ‘Lead Me’, ‘Whatever You’re Doing’ and most recently, their heartfelt song ‘Promises’ that gives us a timely reminder that Christ’s promises to us are always true. One of the bands (including Kutless and Jeremy Camp) that has made the transition from hard guitar-driven rock to a more pop radio sound, Sanctus Real have always been making music that touches people’s lives with the truth of God and the resounding fact that our love and acceptance given by God to us is not dependant on our performance, but rather by His sacrifice that has made us be accepted by Him as children of God. Now releasing their 7th studio album in February 2013; lead singer Matt Hammitt and the rest of the band suffered a major loss during 2012, with a fire to their tour bus leaving everything in it burnt to a crisp- possibly even some song demos or writing material that must’ve played a factor in their album delay. Nevertheless, keyboardist Pete Prevost places it all in perspective, reminding the listeners and the band as a whole that ‘…even though the fire was awful, it didn’t really surprise us. We always expect something crazy to go down with Sanctus Real. But we just keep moving forward. It’s amazing how God has given us this ability to keep going nonetheless…’ With many songs on the upcoming record reflecting the themes of trust and giving things over to God that would be detrimental to ourselves if we keep holding onto it any longer, Run offers listeners 16 moments of searching for truth and meaning, as we run to the Saviour for our hope and determination to keep living out each day. Produced by Chris Stevens, Jason Ingram and Seth Mosley, this is an album that will no doubt be a frontrunner for Best Pop/Contemporary album at the 2014 Dove Awards. Filled with poignant emotion and honesty that places this album as one of my favourite Sanctus Real albums ever, this album is a must for any CCM or pop-rock fan, giving anyone who listens a well-needed assurance to ‘…don’t lose heart when you feel alone and the road looks long and you don’t know, if you have the strength to make it home, you’re not on your own…’ (‘Run’).
‘Promises’ is one of my favourite songs from late 2012, with the song debuting on iTunes in October. With such a mesmerising guitar hook by Chris Rohman to start off the song, we are swept into a moment of connecting with Matt as he cries out the words ‘…sometimes it’s hard to keep believing in what you can’t see, that everything happens for a reason, even the worst life brings…’ In every person’s life on the planet, there comes a point when they ask the questions- why do bad things happen to good people? Sometimes there may just be confusion and uncertainty to the question ‘why’, but as this song clarifies, we are given a reassurance that when bad times come (and they will!); we can still hold onto Christ and the promises He spoke over our lives all those years ago. With passionate enthusiasm and incredible heart, Sanctus Real have created one of the most transparent and encouraging songs of the year. Even presenting a line about the gospel of Christ- ‘…He holds back nothing that will heal us, not even His own Son…’, we are either reminded or given a revelation that Christ can even use the most darkest and hurting thing that has happened to us and turn it around to becoming something beautiful and extraordinary. Full of the trademark CCM musical atmosphere, ‘Promises’ has been one of my favourite songs of 2013 so far. Well done Matt and the guys for such an encouraging and uplifting melody!
Also releasing the title track ‘Run’ late 2012 in the form of a lyric video, the theme of this opening song is in similar alignment to the band’s first single ‘Promises’. With a guitar riff to hook listeners into the 3:07 song, Matt alerts the sleeping from their slumber, and declares for us to ‘…wake up, oh my soul, you’ve been hiding for too long…’ As we start to become aware of the love of God around us and in us as we start to live each day totally in abandonment for Him, we can run towards Jesus knowing that throughout any circumstance, He will always be there whenever we need the help that Jesus can provide. With a gang vocal in the chorus and some gutsy guitar riffs, an anthem is born and while it is only a touch over three minutes, the busyness of the song musically depicts a song that feels much more than the allotted time given to it. ‘Run’ is also remixed and placed as a bonus track on the iTunes edition of the album, and through a great amount of synths, hand claps, and a rhythmic bassline, the song about running to the Father is extended by 30 seconds, enhancing the melody to create a great finish to an album who’s central theme is to remind listeners of the availability of Christ to us at any point in our lives where we think we may need Him (or even when we think we don’t!). ‘On Our Own’ and ‘We Will Never Give Up’ are also great songs that give listeners the hope and freedom that is so often needed as we realise through synths, autotune and big drum kick that ‘…we cannot make it on our own, we need You everywhere we go…’ (‘On Our Own’), as well as the assurance that ‘…we will fix our eyes on the One who lasts forever, we will hold on tight to the only real treasure…’ (‘We Will Never Give Up’). Knowing that we cannot do everything on our own gives us a great freedom, and as both songs present to us an underlying acoustic atmosphere (both songs start with a similar acoustic strum); we are reminded that the reliance on Christ is something that will never fail us. It is in our DNA to keep pressing on towards our goals, and as we declare that we won’t give up through this song that portrays a message of perseverance and determination, ‘We Will Never Give Up’ is sure to give us the motivation to move forward in life, certainly not on our own but with us running ‘…into the arms of love…’ (‘Run’). Well done Sanctus Real for these three melodies, some of my favourites on Run.
Full of enthusiastic messages grounded in the impetus that Christ is who we run to during all circumstances of life, Sanctus Real are able to sing through a variety of themes that place this album as one of the most lyrically and musically diverse in 2013 so far. ‘Nothing Between’ starts off with a drum kick and acoustics that create an anthemic atmosphere as Matt peels back the layers of idolatry in this poignant and sometimes confrontational song full of country musical influences through the introduction of the banjo in several parts of the song. To hear Matt declare in the chorus ‘…I will walk through the fires of life, I will wait in the darkest of nights, I will follow you into the fight, if that’s where You lead me, I don’t know what you want me to see, but I know where you want me to be, close to You, nothing between…’ is such a sobering moment, and though it can be easier said than actually acted out, Christ does want us to separate from anything that will hinder us from deepening our relationship with Him. There is a fine line between heroes, influences and idols, and the walk along the thin tightrope can often turn a healthy hobby into an unhealthy obsession. As painful as listening to this song can be for some listeners, this poignant song is indeed necessary for Christ to invade and show us the areas we need improvement in, all the while knowing that Christ will be there every step of the journey.
‘Better Than This’ starts off with a guitar introduction reminiscent of MercyMe’s ‘You Don’t Care At All’ as Matt portrays the truth of how the love, grace and acceptance of Christ towards us will radically change a life, and that ‘…nothing feels better than this, when the sun comes shining in, it’s a new day, you’re wide awake and you feel alive again…’ The love of Christ transforming us, and this song is able to nicely capture the joyous moment through electric guitars and poignant lyrical motifs. ‘You Are God’ carries on from ‘Better than This’ and expounds upon it- with ‘Better Than This’ a declaration to God that nothing feels better than the joy and love felt in life, it is ‘You are God’ that sums up that God is holy and great in all times during life, not just in the blissful moments that ‘Better than This describes. The simple lines of ‘…You are God, You are God, You are God, not mine but Your will done, not mine but Your kingdom come, You are God…’ against the backdrop of soft percussion and heartfelt vocals offer up a poignant understanding that in all times, God is God and even if we don’t feel like the love and joy God promises is translating into our lives; it still doesn’t change the fact that Christ never changes despite whatever we may feel. Well done Matt and the rest of Sanctus Real for the last song on the standard version of Run!
Matt sings from the persona of a husband in ‘Commitment’, singing to his wife about the commitment towards his marriage that he wants to honour, even if the union between them may be a little shaky; and ‘Keep Me Young’ continues the theme of marriages through the blazing guitars as Matt lets his wife know that she keeps him young, asking the question of ‘…who can keep me from a love that lasts?…’ (though the song can also be interpreted as singing to Christ). ‘Picture of Grace’ continues on the marriage theme as Matt offers us the poetic message- that the grace given from God holds everything together, including marriages. Even when couples may seem like their lives are headed down the rosy track and then it takes an unexpected turn that may seem unfixable, Matt offers us hope in these heartfelt words- ‘…I look back and marvel at the day when I thought our world would be a perfect place, but now we see through a shattered frame, there’s nothing more perfect than the picture of grace…’ Looking through the lens of the grace God freely gives, nothing is ever broken that God cannot repair. Also aligning thematically with these songs about union and marriage is bonus track ‘That’s Life’, with Matt singing about the struggles of life (which also includes marriage and families that is a primary theme through Run). With cymbals crashing and a kick drum, Matt lets the words speak to us, and how ‘…that’s life, it’s complicated, it’s awkward, it’s the fight with happiness and laughter intertwined, it’s tension and redemption in this life…’ Life is complex, yet knowing that Christ is our centre always focuses us on the eternal rather than the fleeting moments of hardship and heartache. The rest of the themes amongst the bonus tracks range from reminiscing about touring in a van earlier on during their career (‘One More Show’) and longing to rest in God as a safe haven from all the struggles and pain of life (‘Sanctuary’), to singing to his children, loving ‘…you tightly but hold you loosely, ‘cause you were never mine…’ (‘Love You Tightly’). With an extra 5 songs than the standard 11 track album and only $3US more, it would be great value to purchase the deluxe edition of the album if you are a fan of Sanctus Real’s progression from rock to contemporary pop, or if you enjoy artists moving along the same musical vein, such as Kutless, Jeremy Camp and The Afters.
Overall: Sanctus Real’s record of hit songs and albums throughout their career doesn’t stop with their 2010 album release, with Run equally as enjoyable, if not more so than Pieces of a Real Heart. With it’s central theme focused on Christ with us through every moment of our lives, sometimes we may not often feel His presence, and it is in these moments when all we can do is cry out and pray to God- asking Him to reveal more of Himself to us as we become more trusting of Him, even when we may not see the full picture. While many listeners may not feel comfortable with Sanctus Real’s evolution from hard rock to radio pop, as a CCM fan myself, this album is certain to be enjoyed by myself and fellow CCM fans alike, as the songs move from rock anthems to ballads as each release continues to garner critical acclaim and fan enjoyment and seemingly more successful than the last. With a hopeful Pop/Contemporary nomination at the Dove Awards of 2014, Matt Hammitt and the rest of Sanctus Real have given listeners 16 musical gems as each song ministers to different listeners, all along the journey of life as we seek solace in the Lord through good times and bad. One of the most lyrically diverse albums Sanctus Real has ever made, Run is also one of my favourite albums of 2013 so far! Well done guys for such a poetic and compelling album.
RIYL: Kutless, Jeremy Camp, The Afters, Brandon Heath
Buy the Album: iTunes/Amazon mp3