Review Summary: Painfully generic, monotone Christian hard rock.
Back in middle school and high school, I really enjoyed Christian rock. I mean, Skillet, Decyfer Down, Fireflight, Staple, Red were where it was at; combining hard rock with "uplifting" messages was, in my eyes, the best thing ever. Soon after that, however, I realized that... bands kept doing it. Soon it was Christian music's intention to either do contemporary music (for the traditionalists) or do hard rock with a strong mainstream appeal. So I abandoned the whole scene, due to its sudden lack of originality. Years later, meaning recently, I was going through my Facebook newsfeed, and lo and behold, a band claiming influences from Red, Skillet, Pillar, etc. So in a nostalgic fashion, I checked Lastwatch's 2013 release "Leave A Light On."
I'm kind of regretting that I did.
Lastwatch sports a Fireflight, Evanescence, etc. brand of female-fronted hard rock, which in itself is unoriginal and stale. The album opens up with "Long For You", which pretty shows exactly what one would suspect: hard rock riffs, female vocals, orchestral tinges. No surprises. Like, at all.
To add insult to injury, vocalist Ashley Miller and her lyrical delivery is essentially what makes this album worse than just generic. Although I'm by no means am I saying her voice itself is bad, she fails in three aspects: direction, passion, and pitch. Her voice kind of resides in limbo between the pop accessibility of Fireflight and the powerful vibrato of a more gothic group, such as Nightwish, and it doesn't really work with the music. She also lacks passion, as if she is just singing words off of a page, not even finding conviction in the lyrics she's singing. Finally, she often has issues with pitch: she's not blatantly tone-deaf, but just a hair off every now and then, such as the final line of the chorus in "Long for You", the bridge of "Not Yours Anymore", and the entire chorus of "Only You", severely detracting from the overall sound.
Lyrically, there isn't much to report, as the majority of the lyrics are unoriginally Christian. I'm not saying these folks shouldn't be allowed to express their views, but their lyrics seem recycled from other bands of the same creed. Take a look at the lyrics of "The Countdown": "I want to run to you, 'cause all my life I've been waiting so long. The countdown is on, so hide me away and forgive me, my God." Or from "Long for You": "My heart and my soul long for you," or "Guiding My Way": "All along it was you there, guiding my way." Also, the painfully uncreative punchline: "Without you, I'd be on my own" ("On My Own"). In the worst phrasing, "Somehow" mentions: "I can trust you are who you say are... It's with you I feel complete... 'Cause you're with me." All in all, these guys aren't dishing out any new lyrical aspects, especially in the Christian music scene.
Instrumentally, guitarists Jonathan Miller and Matt Hanna don't bring anything new: a few solos in "Guiding My Way" and "In His Hands", a few sustaining melodic touches in "My Home" and "On My Own", but nothing really worthy of excellence. Although their riffs are not awful, and can be seen as fun or upbeat, they're horrifically unoriginal, and seem to be taken straight from a Red album. The final track, "Somehow", is a ballad, not unlike other final song ballads of other hard rock artists ("Wrapped In Your Arms" on Fireflight's "Unbreakable"; "Already Over, Pt. 2" from Red's "End Of Silence", etc.), and shows the "softer" side of Lastwatch, which isn't really saying anything. Bassist Andrea Day is inaudible. Drummer Zach Day is actually pretty good, but it becomes clear that this album is all about vocals and guitar, so his beats are simple and fills are sort of muddled in the mix.
I was originally planning on giving this album a 2 or 2.5, because I felt the guitars, aforementioned, give a sort of upbeat, fun sort of drive to the album. But listening to the CD as a whole loses its impact, which leads to one of the main issues with this album, and many other hard rock artists in the mainstream: lack of dynamic. The guitars may sound fun at first, but because they sound exactly the same throughout all of the tracks, the songs all end up meshing together in some bastardized hard rock pudding.
So, in total, we have a generic instrumental section combined with sub-par vocals. Given the situation of Christian rock, the overall sound is lowered, since the competition between the sounds of many similar artists. The bottom line is: nothing about Lastwatch stands out, except bad vocals. As Christian Music Source online magazine quotes them saying ""We make no apologies for who we are and what our mission is in this life. God has called each of us together to be musicianaries and to go out and spread the light of God." Sure, spread the light, but you're sure not going to spread it through good music. I remember now why I abandoned Christian hard rock all those years ago.