Album Review :
Seventh Day Slumber - The Anthem of Angels
Artist: Seventh Day Slumber
Title: The Anthem of Angels
Label: BEC Recordings
Release Date: 11/15/11
Reviewer: Jonathan Andre
- Wasted Life
- Love Came Down
- One Mistake
- Addicted to My Pain
- Never Too Far Gone
- Back Where I Began
- Knows My Name
- My Life
- How He Loves
Seventh Day Slumber have released many well-received records throughout their long career. With chart-topping singles like ‘Caroline’, ‘Oceans From the Rain’, ‘Awake’ and their famous worship cover, ‘Surrender’; lead singer Joseph Rojas, and the rest of the band have crafted The Anthem of Angels, 11 songs with the goal to show hope and healing as Joseph paints lyrical moments of redemption and restoration, all the while pointing to a God that can save us even from ourselves. From worship covers like Bethel’s ‘Love Came Down’ and John Mark McMillan’s ‘How He Loves’ to rocking songs like ‘Wasted Life’; Seventh Day Slumber have placed out an album that is certain to be a hit amongst avid fans of their previous work; however, not all fans may find this album an improvement!
Both ‘How He Loves’ and ‘Love Came Down’ are the covers on the album, and both seem to be my favourites, in terms of melody, delivery, and passion. As Joseph sings out the words, ‘…love came down and rescued me…and I am Yours…’ (‘Love Came Down’); I am transported to a place of worship and praise, lifting up the name of Jesus. The re-working by adding grunging guitars and booming drums adds well to the worship track; with Joseph’s enthusiastic vocals adding to the passionate power this song initially delivers. One of my favourite worship songs of late, ‘How He Loves’ also receives the ‘Seventh-Day-Slumber’ treatment; with Joseph adding his own flavour to a worship track that is recognised as being one of the top worship songs sung in many churches around the globe. An acoustical mix with light percussion; Seventh Day Slumber are able to capture the worshipful spirit well, making these melodies one of the most enjoyable off the record.
Usually when I scan through the album, there are stand out tracks that seem to catch my eye, musically and lyrically. Sadly, throughout the rest of these 9 tracks, very few seem to stand out. ‘Wasted Life’ has some great guitar work from guitarist Jeremy Holderfield as Joseph pounds out the chorus ‘…a wasted life was the road that I was on; I was running blind into the unknown…’ but despite the musical maturity in the first track, lyrical clichés ‘…the battle starts in your mind then straight to your soul…’; seem to spoil a song that could’ve been such a contemporary hit. ‘Pieces’ seems to be destined for AC/CHR radio with it’s radio-friendly acoustical setting as Joseph delivers some of the most rawest and poignant words on the album as he sings out ‘…I can’t wait another night, LORD, I’m lying here in pieces, would You put me back together and make me whole?…’, with soft electric guitars and heartfelt emotion. However, despite Joseph’s passion for the songs he sings, I can’t help but realise that much of the themes on this record, ‘Pieces’ included, have been covered before by many other artists. At times feeling like hard rock (‘Never too Far Gone’) and other times like CCM (‘Back Where I Began’); the musical elements on the album far outweigh the lyrical content. Trying their best to cater for such a diverse musical taste, sometimes I seem to think that Seventh Day Slumber are trying too hard to branch out that they are settling for lyrical moments that may pass a listener by. Not that each song by itself is poor at first listen, however, if you were to pick apart this album with a find tooth comb, harsher critics could call this album a step towards lazy writing, with the band not sure as to which musical direction they should travel towards.
Guitars are littered in almost every song, sometimes the music drowning the vocals. Not that I don’t respect Joseph, his passion, or how they each play, I sometimes think that they could’ve released an album with much more musical and lyrical richness, considering the almost-3-year wait between albums! ‘Never Too Far Gone’ features a decent guitar riff, but lyrically, the song seems to be stuck with simplicity as Joseph calls us to ‘…let go of the things you’ve done, cuz you’re never too far gone…’ ‘Addicted to My Pain’ clashes two genres of soft piano ballad v grunge rock as Joseph does a great job at giving me a headache with an overload of guitars, screaming vocals and non-existent piano (except for the intro). With lyrics not worthy of the 2-3 year wait ‘…and I can’t love, without You here, will You wash away, all my fear? Addicted to my pain…’; I am able to rest with solace in ‘One Mistake’, an upside to The Anthem of Angels. A nice acoustical moment where Joseph bears his soul of fearing of wanting ‘…to hide, wish I could disappear tonight, cause I feel like I’m just one mistake away…’, the guitars aren’t too loud, the lyrics clever as they minister to those who struggle with issues of guilt and forgiveness. Reminding me of Casting Crowns’ ‘East to West’, and how God washed our sins away like the distance between east and west; ‘One Mistake’ is a gem amidst a mixed bag. ‘Crash’, ‘My Life’ and ‘Knows My Name’ all seem to be neither great, nor poor; as Joseph sings about surrendering into the arms of Jesus (‘Crash’), providing his life’s testimony (‘My Life’) and praising God who made the heavens, and also our names too (‘Knows My Name’). With similar musical arrangements to the point where one song is indistinguishable from the next, Seventh Day Slumber need to step up their production so that the listeners can feel like every song has something special to say. Not that these songs don’t, but sometimes it says a lot if my favourite two songs on The Anthem of Angels are ‘How He Loves’ and ‘Love Came Down’!
Overall: Holistically, The Anthem of Angels is a record that is dichotomous. On one hand, they are able to write some songs (‘One Mistake’, ‘Pieces’) that balance the vocals and music nicely, with some lyrics that aren’t overly cliché; on the other, some songs are very muddled. Regardless, Joseph’s passion is extremely evident in an album that cannot be overlooked if you’re a true fan of these Texans. By reputation alone, this album shouldn’t be glossed over, and if you’re fans of RED and Sanctus Real; this is the album for you!
RIYL: RED, Sanctus Real, TobyMac, Skillet
Buy the Album: iTunes/Amazon mp3