Review Summary: Broken pieces.
To this day, I am absolutely amazed at the volume of the modern rock/metal scene. Just when you think you’ve heard it all, another band promptly reminds you that you haven’t. Whether it’s a group on the mainstream circuit that you just hadn’t gotten around to listening to or a relatively obscure indie group trying to make it big, there’s generally more to find in the rock scene. As I’ve stated in past reviews, mainstream rock is my “calling card” of genres. Call me a sucker for loving it, but I do. Now, that isn’t to say I’m going to jump on the Nickelback bandwagon anytime soon. I do have preferences, generally preferring bands who have some more ambiguous lyrical content dealing with the battle of darkness and light and are on the heavier, more serious side of the alt-metal spectrum. I’d always heard Seventh Day Slumber was right up my alley, so I decided to check them out and give a full discography review, beginning with their major label debut Once Upon A Shattered Life
Joseph Rojas mans the microphone, sounding like a blend of Kutless’ John Micah Sumrall and Three Years Hollow’s Jose Urquiza. There’s a rugged, dark edge to his voice complemented occasionally by a smoother tone and conversely a harsh bark (not quite a scream but pretty close). Guitarist Jeremy Holderfield is decent at his craft, but fails to provide memorable riffs throughout the album, though he does have his moments. Drums and bass are (though expected for the genre), very much of a letdown, rarely standing out and typically just fading out.
“Break Me” and “Shattered Life” begin the project and are decent modern rock tracks replete with hard riffs, dualistic vocals of melody and darkness, and a dark yet hopeful tone. Sonically, these guys aren’t quite RED or Breaking Benjamin, but also aren’t necessarily Nickelback or 3 Doors Down. Again, this is where Kutless or Ashes Remain comparisons would work perfectly, though I see a bit of a Digital Summer vibe as well. “Caroline” is an emotional (if musically unimpressive) mid-tempo rocker that does manage to embed itself into your head with its catchy hook and hopeful tone, while “Make Believe” upps the ante with some semi-technical riffing, thrashing drums, and a heavier, darker feel than the beginning rock tracks. I wish it was more developed (clocking in at barely three minutes), but this is a small nitpick. Also, the clean guitar in the verses is a nice touch. Speaking of a heavier edge, “Chris’ Letter” is just pure, adrenaline-fueled fun. From its electronic intro to the thrashing, Drop C main riff to the pulsating drums to the inspired vocal performance, one can’t help but notice that this track would translate very well live and is a massive fist-pumper.
50 percent of this record is easy stand-out material. And lyrically, this band is solid. Joseph is very open about his conversion to Christ after almost dying from a cocaine binge, and we can easily see and even relate to the spiritual warfare he must face daily and the joy of being a disciple. Even if you aren’t a believer, chances are if you’re going through something, this band will jump right in the pit with you, just like RED. I have to give them props for this and it does help the final rating. However, a record almost entirely frontloaded and containing predominantly relatable lyrics needs some power on the back end too, something that isn’t really shown here. A fair bit of the filler tracks are just rip-offs of “Caroline”, as if the band knew how successfully commerical that track would become and decided to copy and paste it five more times.
This wasn’t near as bad as I expected honestly. There’s power and potential on display here, though not quite to the level of some upper-tier contemporaries. If you’re into inspirational heavy rock music and looking for a new band to get into, the standouts of this record aren’t too shabby.