Review Summary: No... there's some burn scars here.
I have no qualms about talking about my faith: I’m a Christian, I have my reasons, and I’m more than happy to explain them to you. I try to live my life in a Christ-like manner, but also try not to shove my beliefs down people’s throats. That being said, I do fairly enjoy the genre of alternative metal, but I want positive stuff, not negative stuff. And it’s been said that every Christian band is just the Christian version of a mainstream band. Relient K as the Christian Blink-182, Stryper as the Christian (insert any 80s metal band), etc. Sometimes, I would agree that this labeling is correct, but as primarily a heavy rock fan, I believe it can be possible to fuse the aggressive genre (in this case speaking of the alternative metal scene) with a positive message for a powerhouse of a result and thus a band with their own identity, not just the Christian substitute. RED does it. Breaking Benjamin (the Christian message is unmistakable) does it. Project 86 does it. But how do they do it? Simple. They keep the message positive, yet ambiguous enough to where it isn’t preaching, and they back it up with hard-hitting vocals and instrumentation. This has led me to see if some other Christian bands are able to do this, leading for me to really venture into Pillar’s discography, moreso than sampling I’ve done in the past.
Production-wise, let’s start with that. With the exception of 2009’s Confessions (produced by Rob Graves), the band have faithfully used Travis Wyrick on each album. And this guy really isn’t Rob Graves (RED, Fireflight, Starset). The entirety of Fireproof is very muddy, something that will continue to show up on later Pillar albums. Yes, the record came out in 2002, but Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory dropped in 2000 and sounds much cleaner than this. Admittedly, this isn’t that big of a deal, but it can get pretty grating at times. Speaking of Linkin Park, the band does utilize rap/rock techniques throughout the album, but there’s a much different feel than LP. Vocalist Rob Beckley doesn’t quite have the flow of early era Mike Shinoda, nor does he have the throat-shredding howls of Chester Bennington. He is simply decent at the rapping, screaming, and singing he presents here. On the flipside, guitarist Noah Henson at least rivals if not surpasses Brad Delson, adding a nice bit of rhythmic funk that energizes some of the lesser parts of the album. Bass and drums, of course, really don’t do much.
Here’s the thing though: if you’ve heard one song here, you’ve heard them all. That doesn’t necessarily discount the positives listed above, because the record isn’t pure trash. But there’s only so many times that we can hear the same beat with the same vocal pattern over it with the same message as the previous track. And lyrically, this is absolutely nothing to write home about. None of the violent metaphors from Project 86, none of the poetic and memorable symbolism from RED, just Christian messages largely dumbed down so that a ten year old would get the most out of this. Something that makes the two bands I listed above so talented is that they are able to take complex spiritual themes and do two things: make them understandable without making them lose their significance and potency, and veiling them in just enough ambiguity so the listener actually has to do some soul searching. Here, in a similar vein to Disciple, Pillar just dumps the whole meal down your throat and forces you to immediately digest rather than taking time to appreciate the meal, a meal that isn’t worded too well in the first place.
However, I still hold to my earlier point. This isn’t perfect, but it’s a flawed identity with potential rather than a total carbon copy of other rap rockers of the day. The title track is enjoyable, and a few of these are at least passable, but despite that potential, Fireproof
largely misses the mark.