Review Summary: Better late than never, I guess.
During the majority of Pillar’s career, they were one of those rock bands that either needed to change or die, especially with so many other strong modern rock bands on the scene. The pinnacle of this was reached after The Love Of The Game
came out in 2008, a disaster of an album that forced the boys to stop being “old-school Pillar” and think of something new. Ditching Kalel (bassist) and Lester Estelle (drummer) and subpar producer Travis Wyrick were a good start, but then the band made what is their best decision to date: partnering with Rob Graves, a superstar rock producer and lyricist that seems hard-pressed to do wrong. He’s worked on both Starset records, every RED record (except one), won multiple awards, and is generally a chill dude. Speaking of RED, former drummer Joe Rickard (now with In Flames I believe) manned the kit for this one. It would be extremely difficult to mess up this time. Seriously. For the love of God.
To be honest, there were times here that I didn’t think I was listening to Pillar and had to do a double-take. For starters, the production is flawless. Literally flawless, which I didn’t ever think I’d say about a Pillar album. Rather than being annoyingly dirty, the guitars this time are massive, bass-tinged monsters that blast through the speakers. The bass is actually audible on occasion. And though Rob Beckley is clearly strained a little bit, he sounds ten times better than on previous albums (though he’s probably also done some vocal exercises). Something else to be said about the guitars: I think Rob Graves finally showed him that there are different tunings out there than Drop C. In fact, Henson uses a baritone guitar for some of the album, a first timer for the group and an added component to the general bombastic tone Graves is able to put out. And even when Noah is still playing in the tried-and-(somewhat) true tuning he loves, there’s just more variety. The riffs just sound better.
Lyrically, I’m relatively blown away, and it’s probably another product of Graves (and the Biblical book of 1st Timothy). RED, Starset, and Maylene And The Sons of Disaster are all bands Graves has worked with, and all these bands release albums that are highly conceptual in nature. Take that and combine it with the general dark-yet-still-beautifully-light feel of the Bible, and you get Confessions
. Listening to this feels like a journey(for the most part), rather than a disjointed collection of songs. It makes it all the more relatable and garners some replay value.
Don’t get me wrong, though. The songs presented have plenty of staying power on their own. “Whatever It Takes” and “Not Without A Fight” are two of the heaviest songs Pillar has ever done, spearheaded by Drop A# riffs, brutally powerful screams, and impactful, introspective lyrical content. Speaking of lyrical content, special props to “Whatever It Takes” for addressing commitment in an age that’s largely anti-commitment. If you liked “Crossfire” off The Reckoning
but wanted more polish, these are for you. “Secrets And Regrets” brings up the mid-tempo end with a haunting guitar lead, dark vocal performance, and brutally honest lyrical content addressing fixing problems rather than living in complacency. “Better Off Now” is a gorgeous, string-tinged ballad that packs a punch of a climax. Closer “You Are Not The End”, like the previous album’s “Forever Starts Now”, closes on a heavily energetic note that packs a standout performance from the entire band (especially Rickard).
And for all of this, there’s still a couple problems. First, let’s address “Shine” and “Call To Action”. Here’s the thing with cover songs: I enjoy them if they enhance both the album they are on and the original version itself. Disturbed is especially good at this. However, they should be done with moderation. Honestly, while both these songs (by Collective Soul and Copper, respectively) aren’t bad, don’t pack a ten song album with no deluxe version with only eight originals and two covers. Not to mention that they feel out of place and sound exactly like the originals, and do nothing to enhance the story of the record. Throw in a scream and a lower tuning for “Shine” and a slightly more prominent bassline for “Call To Action”, and that’s about all that Pillar’s done with these. It’s a missed opportunity, and it’s especially tacky that they are placed right next to eachother. Second, this isn’t Pillar’s first go-round. It’s their fifth. Seven years into their career and, while Confessions is easily the best they’ve done at this point, it’s off the backs of other more prominent bands. It’s solid rock, yes, but this isn’t an album that strongly proclaims its own identity, by a band that’s never strongly proclaimed its own identity.
I know that last part sounded harsh, but let me reiterate. If you’re an alt-metal fan, casual or otherwise, there’s some strong stuff here, though it may wear off sooner on the hardcore devotees to the genre. Still, props to Pillar for pushing out of the box and recording a solid record.