Review Summary: No true gain. There's plenty of ache.
But at least the album art is better this time.
“Be warned. This is 100% old-school Pillar”. That was the slogan on the group’s website right before For The Love Of The Game
came out. Oh, I’ll take that as a warning, but not necessarily for the reasons the group wants. The reason this statement even had to be made was because of the experimental record beforehand, The Reckoning
, and the lackluster tone it carried. The apologetic quote above was probably intended to inspire hope for fans, but honestly, when I think “old-school Pillar”, I’m overwhelmed by a sense of mediocrity and can’t help but dwell on “old-school Pillar” virtues: crappy production values, songs that range from decent to downright terrible, total lack of a need for a bassist, lyrics that rarely even hit subpar, average album art, Nickelback-esque ballads, and a guitarist that only uses one tuning. The band’s second effort (WDWGFH) admittedly does fall under the category and I ranked it a 3 so I may seem hypocritical, but the four decent songs out of the grand total of 12 are some of the only ones by the band from that era worth hearing. All that to say, I wasn’t too thrilled going into FTLOTG, and when I first got it back in seventh grade, I remember hating it even then. But years have passed so let’s dive in with a more mature perspective.
Let’s go back to the checklist listed above, because right off the bat one of those qualities is glaringly apparent. You guessed it: crappy production values. Travis Wyrick needs work. I actually was persuaded to google the guy to see his track record. He produced some Disciple albums(including the average Scars Remain
and the God-awful Southern Hospitality
) , which are decent at best on production, the first Nine Lashes record (before Tooth and Nail) which I distinctly remember popping and crackling throughout, and some stuff for Dolly Parton, a country artist. Not to mention the less-than-full quality of those Disciple albums and the Nine Lashes record. Maybe the band should’ve considered getting a producer who actually knew what he was doing. Maybe someone should teach him how to separate the bass guitar from the electric guitar. Maybe someone should teach him how to actually make the guitar sound like a PRS guitar model (which Noah uses) instead of some sort of crappy First Act that you would get your kid when he turns seven. Opening track “For The Love Of The Game” has some decently crafted riffs and a somewhat energetic delivery, but it is harmed by the aforementioned production and a downright burned-out vocal performance from Rob Beckley. The band is struggling here, and it is apparent. However, this and “Forever Starts Now” are easily the album’s best “straight-up” heavy tracks, take that as you will. Lyrically, this is pretty much throwing out buzzwords from some sort’ve athletically-oriented pep talk, but at least it makes sense and I can see the spiritual connotation the band is portraying. That isn’t so with “Turn It Up”, which alternates between totally out-of-place and randomized references to Christian rock (including RED’s “Breathe Into Me”, Skillet’s “Whispers In The Dark”, Switchfoot’s “Learning To Breathe”, and Blindside’s “About A Burning Fire) that tries to collaborate into a narrative but fails, and a chorus/bridge full of awful party lyrics. Props to the band for actually including a bassline, but this is a catastrophe of a song. Following a God-awful, unashamed rip-off of “Youth Gone Wild” with what may be the worst production work the band has ever done, mid-tempo single “State of Emergency” saves the day. It’s got thought-provoking lyrics, tight musicianship, a raucous chorus, and also probably packs the best vocal performance. Finally, closer “Forever Starts Now” sends us off with the best guitarwork all record, fantastic energy, more thought-provoking lyrics, and a decent vocal performance.
The negatives here, though, are overwhelming. I’ve already talked about “Turn It Up”, “Reckless Youth”, production values, and Rob’s tired vocals (especially the screaming), but that’s only the icing on the cake. The whole middle portion of the album either has some potential but is ruined by the aforementioned problems (“I Fade Away”), or the songs themselves just suck. Remember the improvement in the ballad department that was “Chasing Shadows At Midnight” on The Reckoning
" Yeah apparently that’s been forgotten, there are no memorable ballads here. To top that off, there’s just some weirdness. “Throwdown” goes all the way back to early 2000s rap rock, and sounds so very awkward and out of place. And Rob’s screams are seriously lacking here, and the fact that they are used the most on this track only doubles the problem. You get the idea.
Lyrically, this is the bottom of the barrel. Whether it’s cliches like “Next time that you feel like cryin/next time you don’t feel like trying/just remember I’ll be right there” or “without the ache there is no gain”, the band really struggles. “Forever Starts Now” does address questions of eternity well and “State Of Emergency” is an accurate scathing of current culture, but those are easily the best parts.
Simply, this isn’t worth your time or money, especially if you aren’t into this genre of music. Even if you are, I can only recommend just the bare minimum, so my advice would be to stay away for most of this. Believe me, there’s plenty of ache here, but no true gain.