Review Summary: While production is weak, and there is nothing genre-defining, so-to-speak, this debut from an independent South Carolina rock band still holds up well.
Skillet. Red. Flyleaf. Thousand Foot Krutch. Disciple. 12 Stones. The list goes on and on. Whether you are a fan of Christian rock or not, you cannot deny, there are many Christian rock bands. Some, such as Red and Thousand Foot Krutch, are strong groups that deserve the loyal fanbase, both Christian and secular, they get. Others, like 12 Stones and The Letter Black, are a little weaker in sound and, although they have fanbases, aren't really anything special. But there's one more category. Independent Christian Rock groups, whom go a little while and release material without being signed. Examples includes Fades Away, Fur Elise, and Sent By Ravens. While some of these groups, the Protest and Random Hero being examples, are just carbon copies of bands like Skillet and Red, others stand out. Sent By Ravens is one of these bands, and though they broke up a while ago, they ended up being signed to Tooth and Nail after two great indie EPs. The first EP is what I will be reviewing.
Album openers "Killing the Faith" and "Own Your Own Escape" are the rockers of the record. Thrashing, C-tuned guitars and drums mixed with passionate screaming and singing, and even a breakdown. However, Sent By Ravens throw in a little more of an alternative rock flare, like the interlude with the quieter guitars in "Killing the Faith" and the verses on "Own Your Own Escape." Lead guitarist Andy O'Neele does great with some more the more sweeping, intricate riffs on the former, while rhythm guitarist/screamer JJ Leonard rocks the breakdown on "Escape." Vocalist Zachary Riner has a unique voice, the closest comparison would be Emery's vocalist, but Riner has a lower range. He shifts between passionate, talented singing to high screams effortlessly. Drummer Dane Anderson is a great drummer, and although I don't know drum terms, his intense and thrashing parts on the heavier tracks really add to the metalcore-influenced alternative rock. The next two tracks, "Modern Day Mary" and "Selah", are more alt-rock styled, especially the former. Andy and Zach work well together on the verses of "Mary", with Andy's classical guitar styled riffs mixing with Zach's quieter, calm but still passionate voice. The ending of the song is great as well, with Zach and JJ going back and forth in a sung vocal duet. "Selah" is somewhat of a letdown, it's just slower, a little repetetive, and somewhat long. I'll skip this track to the final track, "Burning By Night." It's a mix of alternative rock and a more art-rock styled directions, and the main highlight is the use of classical guitar throughout.
Positives include the energy the guys put out, you can tell they have a great time with what they do, especially vocalist Zach. He is a passionate vocalist with a great voice, and it's never autotuned, so it's always his talent. All instrumentalists in the group are strong, and the guitar riffs go along great with the drum parts throughout. The EP is original enough to not be boring, also, and stands out pretty well against a group like Red. Lyrically, the band is Christian, and themes include standing up for faith, admiring a woman that reminds the vocalist of the Biblical Mary, and fighting through personal trials.
Negatives include production, sometimes the drums and guitar can tend to drown out Riner, depending on how loud you are playing it through headphones. There some slight popping and cracking in the music as well. You've probably noticed how I haven't mentioned the bassist. Bassist at the time Jamie Windham is a good bassist, yes, but you can really only hear him during the interlude on "Killing The Faith" and parts of both "Modern Day Mary" and "Burning By Night." Finally, "Selah" seems out of place on this mostly high intensity record, and I would like it to have been replaced by a more rock-styled track.
In my mind, this is SBR's best work, and that's saying a lot for a first effort. Production issues and not being groundbreaking aside, this is a great EP that I would highly recommend picking up.