Album Review :
Seventh Day Slumber - Love And Worship
- Our God
- I Am Not the Same
- 10,000 Reasons
- Desert Song
- God is Able
- Forever Reign
- Here With You
- White Flag
- Your Name High
- You Never Let Go
Famous for their hit radio song ‘Caroline’ released on their 2005 album Once Upon a Shattered Life, rock band Seventh Day Slumber have had a well-respected and lengthy career since being introduced to the Christian music scene in 1996. With lead singer Joseph Rojas giving listeners an emotive and inspiring testimony about how he came to the Lord during his teenage years at almost every concert they have been on, these 4 men from Dallas, Texas have shown to listeners that the quality of their music hasn’t compromised their mission to share Jesus Christ through their music in whatever way it looks like, whether it is through rock anthems or worship covers. With the band already recording a great worship album Take Everything in 2009 (with a great cover of ‘Surrender’ and heartfelt original tracks ‘Carry Me’ and ‘Take Everything’), I was eager to hear how their next cover worship album Love and Worship would sound like, considering that their last album The Anthem of Angels wasn’t up to par personally, except for the covers of ‘Love Came Down’ and ‘How He Loves’. Featuring cover recordings from Hillsong, Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman, the album sadly only has a few bright spots within these 11 tracks that place an electric guitar heavy emphasis throughout, sometimes changing the music drastically to accommodate Seventh Day Slumber’s style of producing rock music. While each of these songs are great in its own right (Seventh Day Slumber also managed to record one new song amidst an album full of covers), most of the representations of these melodies seem off, either because of Joseph straining his voice or the music drastic changing to the point of some music being unrecognisable. Nevertheless, if you do enjoy Seventh Day Slumber’s rock anthem style, and if you do love worship music, then this album will certainly peak your interest. It has done so with me, as I sit here and critique the quality of these covers, with the end result being a mixed bag as in some songs, their version is quite commendable, yet other renditions fail to capture the anthemic spirit these songs have had in past recordings.
‘I Am Not the Same’ is the first radio single on the album, and at the time of listening to the song, I wasn’t aware that it was a cover. Initially thinking that the song was written by the band, I started listening to the lyrics, and how Joseph declares that ‘…I am not the same, I’m a new creation, I am not the same anymore…’ A concept that should be sung by many around the world as we acknowledge the change we have inside of us, the song delivery on the other hand left the song floundering amidst the poignant message set against a delivery that left much to be desired. Even with the great amount of electric guitars and despite Joseph showing a great intense passion, there seems to be something missing from the song. Joseph is singing like it’s straining for him, with the song not really building up despite the addition of the grunge-factor halfway through the song. When I found out that this song was a cover (the original version was recorded by worship leader Aaron Keyes), I found the original recording on Aaron’s album Dwell. Immediately the music was so much more enjoyable, with the electronic factor adding and enhancing the song to an entire different level than what Seventh Day Slumber attempted to try. This version of the song is so much better than the version on Love And Worship, and the one thing that I think I can gain from listening to this first single from the Texan band is that while their spirit is true as they attempt cover songs, this song in particular couldn’t be translated to bring the same energy. It is such a sad indication that ‘I Am not the Same’ was chosen as the first single, because if this is what the first song promoted sounds like, then what about the rest? Trying to cover ’10,000 Reasons’ and ‘White Flag’ are feats in and of themselves, so as I listened a little more to the rest of the album, my reaction turned from frustration to horror as I witnessed some of the most ingeniously inept covers that have been recorded in years (with the only saving grace being the covers of ‘Desert Song’ and ‘Stronger’).
With 5 songs covered from Hillsong and two from Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin respectively, modern worship anthems and their popularity have certainly influenced Seventh Day Slumber in regards to the track listing on the album. Looking through the songs to see hit singles like ‘White Flag’ (Chris Tomlin), ‘You Never Let Go’ (Matt Redman), ‘Forever Reign’ (Hillsong) and ‘Our God’ (Chris Tomlin), you would probably expect the album to be a great listen, with anthemic music and emotional lyrical moments shown through each of these recordings. Sadly, after listening to these 11 tracks, I would have to say that the album is pretty forgettable, despite all the ‘high-profile’ songs and anthems chosen to cover. ‘White Flag’ is one of my favourite songs from Chris Tomlin over the past year or so, but with a distorted music introduction inclusive of heavy electric guitars, coupled with a raspy voice; the song doesn’t lift off the ground in spite of Joseph’s intense passion directly shown through his singing. With the musical introduction sounding similar to their introduction to worship covers ‘How Great Is Our God’ and ‘Surrender’ on Take Everything, the ambitious cover of ‘White Flag’ doesn’t seem to have the charisma, nor the flair or enjoyableness that it once had with Chris Tomlin singing. ‘Your Name High’, originally a Hillsong song and covered by Soul Survivor on their 2008 CD, is a decent cover by Seventh Day Slumber, yet it still was only ok, and nothing groundbreaking- in fact, the song is possibly a carbon-copy of Hillsong’s version, with the only difference being a quickened pace, Joseph Rojas singing and a ton more of electric guitar. ‘You Never Let Go’ has been covered my many artists before (Rebecca St. James, Jeremy Camp, Stellar Kart), and while the band makes a solid admirable cover of the song, because it has been covered many times, I maybe would’ve expected the cover of David Crowder’s ‘Never Let Go’ instead, something less known and therefore not as expected.
‘Forever Reign’, ‘Desert Song’, ‘Stronger’ and ‘God is Able’ are all hit songs from Hillsong during the late 2000s, and Seventh Day Slumber do unveil their hardest efforts in creating rock versions to all these songs, yet somewhere along the line, their emotiveness that’s supposed to be shown through these songs seem to dissipate and be replaced by songs full of pain and sadness as I hear Joseph declare these lyrics out with a voice that depicts a lessened passion and enthusiasm than if I were to hear these songs from the original artists. Despite both ‘Stronger’ and ‘Desert Song’ being bright spots in and amongst the other covers on the album, the band’s version somewhat pales when compared to the original recordings by Hillsong. While not to discount the band for trying their hardest to release an album, I probably would’ve wanted to hear more original worship songs- even ‘Here With You’, rerecorded from their debut album Picking Up the Pieces seems a little lacking in terms of energy and passion translated towards the listener, even though the lyrics seem heartfelt as I hear Joseph declaring from God’s point of view that ‘…I was nailed upon a cross for you and child I’d do it all again…’ Matt Redman’s No. 1 hit ‘10,000 Reasons’ was also recorded by this rock/worship band, and while the song is at all levels of awesomeness with it’s anthemic quality showcasing a song destined to be a Matt Redman classic in years to come, this version of the modern day anthem fails to do the song justice, with Joseph singing with what ought to be passion, yet what was delivered as straining as I envisage him having a tired demeanour when recording this song. The song is meant to be joyous and declaratory, yet I was feeling none of those things when I listened to this chart-topping song. ‘Our God’, the first track on the album and one of my favourite Chris Tomlin songs ever, was admirably done by Joseph and the band, and while it is not as great as Chris Tomlin’s epic version with strings and synth, together with ‘Stronger’ and ‘Desert Song’ Seventh Day Slumber offer up the three best songs on the album. With so much worship covers being done by the band of late, I’m not sure if the band will be remembered by their original material (such as ‘Caroline’ or ‘Awake’) or by their cover worship material (songs from Take Everything, Anthem of Angels and now this 2013 album Love and Worship). Nevertheless, the album will be pleasing to rock music fans if you enjoy popular worship songs given an alternative slant. But in all fairness, the original recordings are way better than these 11 songs, and listening to these songs gives me a greater appreciation towards the recordings by the band that actually wrote the songs.
Overall: Seventh Day Slumber’s new album full of worship songs may be a great album for some, but for me personally, the album was a huge letdown as I compare the quality and standard of these melodies and the original studio and live versions by the original artists. With 1 and a half years since their last album The Anthem of Angels, I may have expected more from these Texan men, especially when this album is competing with other artists like Passion, Francesca Battistelli, Worship Central and Audio Adrenaline, all of these albums also releasing this upcoming week (3/12). While you can’t deny Joseph’s strong sense of passion and enthusiasm (or even an attempt to translate that feeling towards the listeners), I can’t help but sometimes cringe, or even worst case scenario switch off mentally or even fall asleep as I listen to Love and Worship. With so much potential as a band, I feel like this is not the best representation of Seventh Day Slumber, and even if the album was all covers, the production on them needs to be better for me to say that these versions are equally as good as the originals (which they’re not!). Once Upon a Shattered Life (and to some extent Picking Up the Pieces and Finally Awake) has some of my favourite Seventh Day Slumber songs ever, showing that it is their original material that speaks and resonates the most. Despite my observation, the band continues to cover songs (even their only one original track was recorded almost 10 years ago). Nevertheless, let us not be critical and whoever wants to listen to the album should do so. From my listen, I would say that if you were to buy only a few albums this coming Tuesday, this ought not to be one of them- by reputation and listening, I may prefer to steer you in the direction of albums from Audio Adrenaline, Francesca Battistelli, Worship Central and Passion.
RIYL: Jeremy Camp, Kutless, Skillet, The Afters