ICYMI Review – Note: This review is coming almost one full year after release due to IVM’s demise and subsequent rise from the ashes. We simply didn’t want you to miss this amazing album!
It hasn’t always been a guarantee that I would give Spoken the highest of marks every time they put out a new album. Though they have been among the best hard rock has to offer ever since 1999’s rapcore-infused What Remains, there have certainly been rough spots in their career, as well.
One of those rough spots led to a lengthy hiatus from 2007 all the way to 2013. The album they went out on in 2007 was a shell of what it followed, their career defining Last Chance to Breathe. But oh man did they come back in 2013! Illusion proved that Spoken’s best days were not behind them by a long shot, as they released one of the absolute best albums of the entire year.
It is more than fitting that Breathe Again shares a thematic name with 2005’s Last Chance to Breathe, considering the band’s decline, restructuring, and disappearance shortly after. How fitting, then, that a full 10 years later Spoken would Breathe Again.
While Illusion proved to the world that Spoken was back with a vengeance, it is Breathe Again that cements their status as one of the best hard rock bands of the last two decades, and proves that Matt Baird and company have only gotten better with time.
Deeply personal thematic elements are woven skillfully throughout the album, and are expressed through aggressive guitars and passion-filled vocals. Beginning with “Walking in My Dreams” and “Beyond the Stars,” the listener is taken on a worshipful and hope-filled journey that dives deeply into the struggles we face in the flesh juxtaposed with the glorious future we have in Christ. As Matt croons, “take my hand and lead me far away from here… take me to where you are, beyond the stars” we are invited into a pilgrim’s journey towards eternity.
The album does not shy away from entering the pains that are experienced in this life. “Surrender,” for example speaks life in the shadowlands as it proclaims, “someday you’ll open your eyes, some day you’ll wake up and find surrender.” Tracks like “Hollow and Untrue” and “Poison in the Air” continue this thematic thread.
In spite of the pain of this life, it is hope that is on display here, and powerfully so. For example, in “All I Wanted” we hear, “someone told you long ago to give it up, to let it go. They were wrong they didn’t know that the dream inside could never die. As long as your heart still beats, you are alive.”
“Breathe Again,” which features a stellar performance from Memphis May Fire’s Matty Mullins, “Falling Apart,” and “Hold On” all follow in the shoes of Spoken’s classic track “Promise” to take this bright thread from simple music to life-giving anthems for the listener’s very soul.
Every track explores this hope with engaging abandon and move in crescendo towards a powerful conclusion. The final track of an album fittingly titled Breathe Again, ends with a love song to God which promises that our breath will be taken away.
“These words could never prove to You, that all my life belongs to You. I’ll be chasing you forever… I feel like I’m falling, You take my breath away.”
It is this worship-infused, passion-on-the-sleeves, gutturally honest finesse that makes Breathe Again a worthy spiritual successor to Spoken’s masterpiece Last Chance to Breathe, and a more than worthy follow-up to one of 2013’s best albums in Illusion.
So, in case you missed it, do not wait any longer to get your ear’s hands on Breathe Again.
Overall: Spoken’s 2015 album Breathe Again is an album you do not want to have missed. Consisting of 12 full tracks infused with passionate vocals, atmospheric hard rock, and some powerfully uplifting lyrics, Breathe Again is not only a worthy successor to 2013’s comeback album of that year, Illusion, but also a more than worthy follow up to Spoken’s previous high-point in 2005’s Last Chance to Breathe.
In case you missed this album last December, put all of your Black Friday shopping aside and grab a copy today. You won’t regret it.
RIYL: Memphis May Fire, Matty Mullins, Project 86, Rage Against the Machine, Blindside