It’s safe to say that Christian music, by and large, has always been ten to fifteen years behind the curve in every respect. Any musical efforts within the Christian community are usually plagued with one of two handicaps; either the music is stuck in the eighties, or it is desperately trying to emulate whatever style is currently popular with shallow, boring, artless results.
A glimmer of hope peaked over the horizon with the formation of a band called Something Like Silas in the late 90s. SLS never got big in either Christian or secular circles, but anyone who heard them knew that they were incredibly far ahead of their time. They wrote and played worship songs, but these songs were, heaven forbid, interesting. Dynamic. Artful. Skillfully played and written with an acute, alt-rock awareness. The lyrics were tastefully crafted and steered clear of corny, heavy-handed expressions, and the music was ambient and subtly dark with a slick hard rock attitude. SLS disbanded after a few years due to interpersonal complications, but it didn’t take long for the founding member and lead man Eric Owyoung to get some of the boys back together for another go.
Enter Future of Forestry.
Many Christian artists began to catch on to SLS’s style, and the Christian music scene is currently flooded with alt-rock-y, ambient-y, reverb-y, epic-y bands that are just as monotonous and forgettable as anything one could be assaulted with prior to SLS. Future of Forestry’s style is in the same vein, the only catch being that they actually know what they’re doing and they have indeed improved upon what they started a decade ago.
Twilight (it pains me that this album was released so shortly before Stephanie Meyer’s atrocious franchise turned into an empire) starts off with “Open Wide,” a satisfying, upbeat introduction to the album, and a few things are immediately noticed.
The production is absolutely pristine. The drums are organic, tight and defined while being at a perfect level in the mix, and the kick is clearly distinguishable. The guitars and keyboards are lush and big but never muddy. I am hard pressed to find an album that layers so many sounds and effects so cleanly. The music is dense, and the album would have suffered greatly if all of its nuances were captured sloppily. The low end is weighty and satisfying while the high end highlights everything it needs to. This is one of my favorite albums from a production standpoint.
Eric’s voice is smooth and easily accessible. It’s not the most defined voice you’ve ever heard, and it’s definitely the least memorable aspect of FOF’s sound, but there is nothing wrong with it. His lyrics are concise, poetic and uplifting. He continues to show a knack for writing deeply spiritual lyrics that are devoid of melodrama and cheese. This is a happy, encouraging album that leaves you with a light feeling, and much of this is due to Eric’s writing and vocal performance.
“Open Wide” is pretty straightforward in all aspects. It’s a good opening song, but FOF unleash their two most powerful musical forces into the spotlight with “All I Want:” Their drumming and their guitar work.
Chris Short’s drumming on this record is simply phenomenal. His technical skill is exhibited from time to time, but what really stands out is his ingenious creativity. His beats are, for a lack of a better term, sick. He is exceptionally adept at writing complexly syncopated, sharp yet non-robotic drum parts that completely avoid the all too familiar sound of every juvenile drummer who, in his attempts to be creative, just sits there and goes, “Hmmm… let’s place a snare hit… HERE… aaaannndd….… HERE.” Chris’ work is a constant source of enjoyment through the length of the album, and “All I Want” is the song where you realize what you’re in for. His unconventional patterns in the verse and his heal-toe work in the chorus are engaging and technical.
Owyoung and Sean Cimino offer the album a warmth and depth that is seldom paralleled in the genre with their guitar and keyboard work. The bridge of “All I Want” is introduced with a dark field of atmosphere comprised of vocalization and keys. It then gives way into an effects-laden guitar solo that climbs and crescendos into a wall of sound that hits hard and effectively. Owyoung and Cimino always give a solid backing to the songs, whether it be keys or guitar, and some memorable lead lines are present as well amongst all the atmosphere the two create.
“Speak To Me Gently,” is a pleasantly subdued, beautiful song that brings the acoustic guitar into the foreground with brilliant color and warmth (again, the flawless production). "Sunrising,” is an epic within the album accompanied by strings and massive effects that will floor you with the right amount of volume. “Sacred Place,” features some of Chris’ most enjoyable drumming, and the chorus gives way into an intensely lush field of layered effects. “You and I” is uplifting and catchy, and its follow-up, “Sanctitatis,” is a truly impressive instrumental where the incredible guitar tone of “Twilight,” is really given room to shine. The acoustic makes another welcomed (and more prominent) appearance in the powerfully graceful, "If You Find Her."
With all that it has going for it, the album is still not perfect. The title track unfortunately gives way into cheesy, “Bop-bop-bodada” lyrics in the chorus that are actually quite unbearable, and “Stay Beside Me” is a bland closing number that leaves the listener with no real impression. However, this is a formidable album. The Christian message and theme of worship is obvious, so this may be a bit hard to swallow for those who are not religiously inclined. However, I can actually see an atheist appreciating this album on a profound level purely by its musical integrity. I’m confident in saying that FOF can play and write with the best of them, so give them a look.