Review Summary: Waking up.Once Upon A Shattered Life
managed simply to establish Seventh Day Slumber as a new band on the scene to pay attention to, though not necessarily a powerhouse rock band. The record was split evenly between four standout rockers and the mainstream mid-tempo hit “Caroline” and five tracks that simply aped the aforementioned mainstream hit. I’m all for a Christian band having crossover success, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not for filling the album with what is essentially the same musical composition with different lyrics five times. Nevertheless, these standouts were really standouts, powerful rock songs with empowering lyrics to boot. It got me excited for Finally Awake
, a record that was rumored to be heavier and more improved than OUASL.
Vocalist Joseph Rojas still maintains his gruff yet sometimes smooth style of clean vocals, a dualistic approach featuring both heavy and light. He again sounds like of mix of Three Years Hollow and Ashes Remain, but he has a great voice that is suitable for the genre and ultimately passable. What really shows progression, however, is his harsh vocals. Used somewhat sparingly on the previous album (I believed they popped up on two tracks), they weren’t quite full screams but rather underdeveloped yelps. Not bad, but not to full potential. Here, he pushes into more frequent harsh vocals and his screaming is full and powerful. Jeremy Holderfield still mans the axe here, and he has massively improved. Admittedly, he may’ve had this talent all along, and maybe it is the heavier focus that brings about his surprise talent, but he shows that he’s fully capable of consistently providing hard riffs. No, he’s not a game-changer (Anthony Armstrong or Aaron Fink easily give him a run for money), but it’s impossible to deny his talent even if its medium level. Drums and bass are virtually the same as last album, though the drums arguable thrash a little harder at points than before.
“Awake” makes no qualms about being an anthem of hope for those who are rejecting self-deception and accepting Truth, and the musical accompaniment surrounding these lyrics is perfect. There’s a massive main riff, a blend of the gruffer and smoother side of Joseph’s voice, thrashing drums, and a nice solo to boot. “Last Regret” follows similarly with an explosive chorus and another bombastic riff. “Missing Pages” follows as the first mid-tempo rocker just as “Caroline” did on Once Upon A Shattered Life and is yet another chance to show improvement as the acoustic guitar work shows growth throughout the verses. My only complaint with this track would be the tackiness of interspersing acoustic guitar over the heavier electric guitar in the chorus. This is something fellow rockers Breaking Benjamin have always loved to do and it leaves me wishing they would just pick one and stick with it for a section of the track. Speaking of fellow rockers, one cannot escape the Cold/Staind influence in “My Only Hope”. Seriously, listen to that intro and that main riff and try not to think of something off Year Of The Spider
or Break The Cycle
. This isn’t a bad rocker at all, different from the other more straightforward heavy tracks the band has done, and the darker feel works. Back on the softer side and later in the album, “Breaking Away” is a gorgeous mid-tempo rocker that probably contains some of the best guitar-work this band has ever done, an eerie programmed effect that rests calmly in the background, and an explosively bombastic chorus. “Breaking Bridges” follows up as a Linkin Park-esque riff-filled rocker that will please any alternative metal/modern rock fan (seriously, out of all of these songs, if I had to call one the “nu-metal crowd pleaser”, it’d be this one and I don’t mean that in a bad way at all). “Every Saturday” is back on the slow side and is a heartfelt ballad about trusting the Lord through the midst of trials, specifically death of a loved one. Aside from the lyrics, the instrumentation is beautiful, with some well-placed clean and acoustic guitar and a very emotional vocal performance.
Lyrically, you’ve pretty much gotten the idea already: the album is dualistic and shifts from the lowest lows to the highest highs. Joseph clearly fights his demons throughout the project and as someone who absolutely adores this lyrical approach, I was thrilled. In total, there are seven knockout tracks on this record leaving four filler songs, and though the quality of the songs present is high, with four filler tracks, a four is a bit much, and this is another of those albums I’d place at a 3.7 if I had the power.
This is one of the better rock albums that I’ve heard. While it doesn’t quite touch a band like RED (though it comes close), it matches the maturity of veterans like Disciple. I ranked Disciple’s latest effort at a 3.7, and they’ve been going for quite a while. Heck, I even ranked their highest at a solid 4. Though it has its weak moments, Finally Awake
is an enjoyable modern rock album.