Artist: Tenth Avenue North
Title: The Struggle
Label: Reunion Records
Release Date: 8/21/12
Reviewer: Jonathan Andre
- The Struggle
- Don’t Stop the Madness
- Where Life Will Never Die
- Strangers Here
- All the Same
- Hostage of Peace
- You Do All Things Well
- Lamb of God
Tenth Avenue North has developed a fandom over the years after their well-received debut release in 2008, Over and Underneath. Receiving countless Dove Award nominations and wins (with their hit song ‘By Your Side’ winning Song of the Year in 2010!), these 5 men from Florida have been able to carve their latest album The Struggle out of hope and revelation, understanding what it means to live like we are free to struggle, instead of struggling to earn the freedom that we already have. Lead singer Mike Donehey has been instrumental in many people’s walk with Christ, posting videos over the past few years, ranging from topics like fear and doubt, to healing and the Christian life. Garnering lots of hits on youtube, these devotional videos have been the catalyst in propelling Tenth Avenue North to one the most respected Christian bands currently; with this album one of the most anticipated of the rest of 2012. Featuring poignant lyrical moments, and songs that can be a bitter pill to swallow on the surface in terms of what we want God to do in our lives; The Struggle is a freeing album for many, as Mike shares his hopes for the album’s impact: ‘…we are free to fail because there’s an ocean of grace that we fall into. But also, we have the promise of a power so strong that it raised Christ Himself, and so we know that, mystery of mysteries, we’re also not struggling to be free…’ As I reflect upon Mike’s statement, and immerse myself within the musical sea of inspiration as I come to terms with the freedom in struggling; The Struggle is one of my favourites in August 2012, along with An Epic No Less’ Echo of Love and Karyn Williams’s Only You!
‘Losing’ demoed in August 2010 under the title ‘Feel’s Like Losing’. After re-recording the song with Moriah Peters on backing vocals, the song released to radio in April 2012, with plenty of listener support. Featuring clever guitar work from guitarist Jeff Owen and the use of handclaps, the song has been thrust into the top 10 of my favourite songs of the year, with a heartfelt message of forgiveness. Accompanying this song is a video about elephants, and how God is like this large animal in the respect that He forgets the sin that we have when Christ was nailed to the cross. Through this revelation, we are compelled to forgive others- sometimes inexcusable things, because of the example shown by our Heavenly Father. Able to tackle our perceptions about hurt and pain, and whether we have the courage to ‘…turn a blind eye [to others who hurt us], though I guess it’s not that much when I think of what You’ve done…’; the fun-filled ingenious musicality of ‘Losing’ is coupled with some of the most hard-hitting confrontational messages listeners can face in 2012. In the same league as Matthew West’s ‘Forgiveness’, MercyMe’s ‘The Hurt and the Healer’ and Karyn Williams’ ‘Rest in the Hope’; ‘Losing’ is one of my favourites by Tenth Avenue North overall! Well done guys for such a poignant melody that reminds us of Christ’s unending love!
‘Where Life Will Never Die’, ‘Worn’, ‘Hostage of Peace’ and album-ender ‘Lamb of God’ are some highlights off an album full of lyrical goodness as Tenth Avenue North gives us a reason to long for our permanent home in the midst of living now with Christ by our side throughout our hurt we may endure in our earthly lives. ‘Hostage of Peace’ features some great backing vocals as Mike longs for Christ to invade our hearts before they betray even ourselves. Reminding us that sometimes ‘…it’s hard to fight, it’s hard to lead resistance, it’s our hearts we’re up against…’, Mike cries for God to let us remain a ‘hostage of peace’, forever His and living with the understanding of surrender to the King of Kings in light of our sin and His perfection. Musical ingeniousness coupled with lyrical transparency and hopeful motivation permeates through each track, with this melody the start of many with much significance, both to me and everyone else listening! ‘Where Life Will Never Die’ is a stirring melody that lets us look towards the prize of heaven, that in the presence of God, we experience ‘…the city where life will never die…’, where everything about ourselves that steers us away from our Saviour will one day bow before Him. Anticipation and eagerness wrapped in 3 and a half minutes, this guitar driven melody is one of my favourites! ‘Worn’ is also heartfelt, this time about admitting that we are tired, and need Christ to rejuvenate our souls, to ‘…let me see redemption win…that You can mend a heart, that’s frail and torn…’ With a piano undertone, this restful song gives us strength that we find in Jesus, sitting in His presence as He comforts our souls in the midst of the struggle! Album-ender ‘Lamb of God’ is the result of this saturation; where we proclaim that ‘…You are worthy, You are Holy, You’re the Lamb of God…’ The piano-string only song is just what is needed to end an album rich in transparency and heartfelt honesty as listeners relate to Mike’s uncanny songwriting ability!
The title track ‘The Struggle’ relates to the truth about how we perceive our troubles; whether we’re striving to be accepted or understand we are already free, and struggle out of that. Reminded through the song that ‘…hallelujah, we are free to struggle, we’re not struggling to be free…’; we receive the promise that God is with us in the midst of our successes and failures, encouraging us to wrestle through our situations in light of us already being accepted into God’s Kingdom. As Mike reminds us, this keyboard fronted melody shows that ‘…though it seems like He may have forsaken us, that He’s forgotten us, we need only look to the scars in His hands to remember He too entered the storm…He broke the chains we could not break…’ ‘Strangers Here’ and ‘You Do All Things Well’ are also poignant, both relating to our earthly struggle; and that ‘…You do all things well…’, and ‘…we’re all strangers here, so it’s alright if you can’t stop the tears that you cry…’ Assuring, sobering and hauntingly refreshing, these melodies offer up solace through the keys and percussion that God is in the midst of our struggles, the promise of eternity spurring us on in our daily walk! But it is the heartfelt declarations of ‘Shadows’ and ‘Don’t Stop the Madness’ that are destined spark emotional, and sometimes controversial reactions. ‘Shadows’ reminds us through strong drumming that our lives are thirsting for the eternal. Mike proclaiming that ‘…I’ve been running, chasing nothing but shadows…’, shows us that we can chase the temporary; thereby giving reminder for us to fix our eyes on Christ and wait in anticipation to what He has in store for us. ‘Don’t Stop the Madness’ requires us to be humble as we understand that some storms in our lives are through the Lord, as He weaves His majestic tapestry of hope through tumultuous events. The guitar driven lyrics of ‘…don’t stop the chaos…the pain surrounding me…’ are hard lyrics to sing, yet we know that God longs for our good, and if it is by pain and destruction, we ought to be cool with it. Well done guys for creating melodies to reflect upon, reminding humanity of God’s nearness and hands on every situation in our lives!
Overall: The Struggle is one of my favourite albums of the year! Full of eclectic musical sounds weaved through lyrical moments of surrender and adoration, Mike and the band have written 12 poetic tapestries of honesty as we revel in the knowledge that our struggles are temporary. There is a line in ‘Worn’ that is one of my favourite lyrics in the whole album- ‘…I wanna know a song can rise from the ashes of a broken life and all that’s dead inside can be reborn…’ Reminding me of Steven Curtis Chapman’s ‘Beauty Will Rise’; this song, and in extension the album as a whole, depicts beauty in the midst of calamity, hope in the midst of trials and healing as a result of pain and hurt. God is with us in the struggle and we ought to keep remembering His faithfulness to us. Well done Tenth Avenue North for an album that gives us courage that ‘…you’re not alone, and there’s grace, every step along the way…’ Thank you guys for giving listeners, me included, one of the best album experiences of the year!
RIYL: MercyMe, Building 429, Bebo Norman, Jeremy Camp
Buy the Album: iTunes/Amazon mp3