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Saturday, November 19, 2011

My Top Ten Christian Rock Albums of 2011

10. Until We Have Faces – Red
Rating – 3 ½ Stars
Top Tracks – Feed the Machine, Faceless, Who We Are

With this new album, Red seems to retain most to all of their rock elements from their first two records. The two best songs on the album, “Feed the Machine” and “Faceless,” would fit perfectly on their two previous records. But, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing just yet. Red knows exactly who they are as musicians. They have a very polished hard rock sound that throws in a couple of ballads to keep things interesting. Even though they make very little strides from their first two records, Until We Have Faces is still a solid addition to your hard rock library.

9. With Shivering Hearts We Wait – Blindside
Rating – 3 ½ Stars
Top Tracks – Monster on the Radio, Our Love Saves Us, Bring Out Your Dead

In 2007, Blindside decided to take a break from the music industry. During their hiatus, the Swedish rock group focused on spending time with their families, performing a few overseas dates and deciding if they still wanted to record music. After rumors of a new album for a couple of years, Blindside finally released With Shivering Hearts We Wait. On this new record, Blindside really changes up their sound. They stay true to their hardcore style on a few songs with their usual screaming vocals and driving guitar riffs. But, most of the album features a very radio friendly version of Blindside. On “Our Love Saves Us” and “Monster On the Radio,” the group adds some new electronic sounds, and really embraces a softer side. With all that said, was the wait worth it? Was the four year hiatus, and six years between full length albums worth the wait? It all depends on who you talk to. Some might miss the old Blindside, and some may embrace their new sound and style. But, I believe the wait was worth it. The album wasn’t perfect by any means, but this is Blindside’s best work since About A Burning Fire in 2004.

8. What I’ve Become – Ashes Remain
Rating – 3 ½ Stars
Top Tracks – On My Own, Without You, Right Here

If I could describe this album in one word, it would be redemption. Almost every song features the story of redemption and coming out of a place of no hope. “On My Own,” speaks about the failures of fighting battles on our own without God. “Without You,” is easily the most moving song on the record in which lead singer, Josh Smith, cries out to God to save his life from emptiness and loneliness. My personal favorite is “Right Here.” The song is told from God’s perspective, and is a great reminder to us how much God loves us. Overall, the lyrics really shine on this record. Their modern rock sound is solid, and does a good job of accompanying Smith’s powerful vocals. But, the overt message that each song carries is the highlight of the album.

7. Sugarfist - Eleventyseven
Rating – 4 Stars
Top Tracks – Wasted, Milk the Lightning, Book of Secrets

Eleventyseven has been around for a couple years making fun, synthesizer filled, punk rock music. This album is no exception. From singing about college girls to the pitfalls of being in love to the spread of addiction, the topics on this album are vast. Even though most of their songs on this album are very catchy, I did find myself missing some of their older, and more overt, faith based lyrics on songs like “Reach That Far,” “Love In Your Arms” and “It’s Beautiful.” With that small complaint aside, musically Eleventyseven has never sounded better. They have been playing around with their synthesizer/electronic punk style for a couple of albums now. This is the first album in which I really feel that they have mastered their sound. This is simply a great, fun, punk rock album to listen to, just don’t expect any overt, faith based songs.

6. Kings – I Am Empire
Rating – 4 Stars
Top Tracks – Brain Damage, Heart Attack, Take Me Away

A loose concept album, I Am Empire’s debut centers around lead singer Austin Lyons’ father, who abandoned him when he was young. With themes of anger, loneliness, redemption and forgiveness, Lyons freely sings about the positive and negative emotions he experienced after his father’s desertion. Vocally, Lyons definitely has one of the more unique Christian rock voices. Lyons’ high pitched tone, and almost whiny screams make for a unique style of vocals. Add to that a solid, straight rock sound, and I Am Empire easily delivers a very strong debut.

5. My Brain Says Stop, But My Heart Says Go – FM Static
Rating – 4 Stars
Top Tracks – My Brain Says Stop, But My Heart Says Go, Black Tattoo, Breaking Me Again

For their fourth album, FM Static has decided to embrace a more top 40 style of pop music. With huge guitar hooks, cheerleader vocals and even a couple of raps, FM Static really mixes up their sound. Lyrically, this could be FM Static’s most thematic album to date. Some of the songs, such as “F.M.S.T.A.T.I.C.,” “Hey I Want It” and “Cinnamon and Lipstick” are fun, pop anthems. But, the rest of the album could be their heaviest lyrically. “Black Tattoo” is easily the highlight of the album, in which McNevan sings about a girl wrestling with fear and guilt while trying to escape an abusive relationship. “Lost In You” is a rather unique FM Static song in that it is a pure, worship tune. “Last Train Home” and “Breaking Me Again” are simple songs about wrestling with your faith and allowing yourself to put your whole life in God’s hand. Even though this album has the side project moving in a different direction both musically and lyrically, FM Static still sounds impressive.

4. Crazy Love – Hawk Nelson
Rating – 4 ½ Stars
Top Tracks – Crazy Love, One Shot, My Next Breath

For their last few records, Hawk Nelson has experimented with their sound. But, on their latest album, Crazy Love, Hawk Nelson returns to their original pop-punk roots, similar to their Letters to the President debut. Inspired by the book Crazy Love, this album at times is almost a worship style punk album. “Your Love is a Mystery” speaks about God’s awesome and sometimes mysterious love, “My Next Breath” is a slow, worship ballad and “We Can Change the World” is a rally cry for Christians to fully live out their faith. Throughout their career, Hawk Nelson has rarely been shy about sharing their faith through their music. Their latest album takes their overt message to a whole new level.

3. Scripted – Icon For Hire
Rating – 4 ½ Stars
Top Tracks – Theatre, Make A Move, Get Well, Off With Her Head

If you mix together mohawks, synthesizers, Paramore and Skillet, the result would be the band Icon For Hire. Musically, Icon For Hire’s debut album has a radio friendly, fast paced style that mixes breakdowns, electronic beats and pop melodies. However, the vocals from lead singer Ariel Bloomer easily carry this album. Not to say that the music is bad by any means, but her strong and impressive voice definitely sets the band apart. Even though Icon For Hire is brand new to the Christian rock scene, this group is going to be around for a long time. With strong vocals and a fast paced, momentous sound, Scripted will have you rocking for days.

2. On Fire – Peter Furler
Rating – 4 ½ Stars
Top Tracks – Matter of Faith, Hold On, Reach, All In Your Head

I am a huge Newsboys fan. I remember way back in middle school when I first saw them in concert. Since then, I have been hooked to the Newsboys and the vocals of Peter Furler. When Furler left the group a couple years ago, it is safe to say that I was heartbroken. But, when I heard that he was returning to the music industry as a solo artist, I couldn’t have been more excited. With this new album, Peter Furler has never sounded better. His short break from the music industry really seemed to revitalize his passion and love for music. His unique vocals beautifully compliment the pop worship sound that he has perfected over these many years. “Reach” is easily the catchiest song of the year. “Matter of Faith” and “Hold On” are great songs of hope and inspiration during a desperate situation. “All in Your Head” and “Faster and Louder” are stamped with Furler’s fun, pop style. This is just a great, great album. All I can say is, welcome back Peter Furler. Welcome back.

1. Love Riot – Worth Dying For
Rating – 4 ½ Stars
Top Tracks – Savior, Through Your Eyes, Closer, My Glorious

The best description of Love Riot is edgy worship. On Worth Dying For’s sophomore album, the group features everything from metal breakdowns and screams to electronic beats to pure, piano ballads. Even though the music is very diverse and spans multiple genres, the heartbeat of the album remains the same. The mission and heartbeat of Worth Dying For has always been worship. It doesn’t matter if they are headbanging to metal screams, or simply pouring their heart out to God with just a piano melody, Worth Dying For is still worshipping and praising Christ. I think that is really, really cool. If all that wasn’t enough, the band also features a short sermon, a very strong rap during “Stir It Up” and Trevor McNevan makes a guest appearance. With this album, Worth Dying For has easily turned worship music upside down.

I hope you have enjoyed this look at my Top Ten Christian Rock Albums of the year. This list would not be complete without honorable mentions. These albums were very solid but ultimately did not make it into the top ten.

Empty Hands and Heavy Hearts – Close Your Eyes
Alive In You – 7eventh Time Down
All Things Bright and Beautiful – Owl City
Vice Verses – Switchfoot
Patterns – Run Kid Run

Also, here are my Top five EPs of the year.

1. The EP – Wavorly
2. A Whole New World – Stellar Kart
3. Awake and Remixed – Skillet
4. Relient K is for Karoake Part 2 – Relient K
5. Hanging On By A Thread Sessions, Volume 1 – The Letter Black


  1. freaking love Red and Icon for Hire :)

  2. Thanks for reading! I totally agree. Red and Icon for Hire are two great bands.

  3. I do love Christian rock songs and admire singers who openly sing about their faith and belief in Christ. A lot of these songs are often very inspirational and certainly helps people through the darkest and most difficult hours in their lives. Thank you for sharing these songs.

    1. Thanks for the comment! I totally agree. I love musicians who are bold in their faith and their beliefs in Christ.