If you are new to Christian rock, please read this
post about the definition of Christian rock and some of the biggest questions about Christian music.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Christian Hard Rock

For this post, I want to take a look at Christian hard rock and present a few bands in this genre.

First, hard rock is a very loose genre. This means that hard rock music sometimes mixes with genres like alternative rock and metal. But, most people describe hard rock music as having an emphasized lead guitar along with a rhythm guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums. Vocally, much of hard rock features loud, raspy vocals with occasional screams. Musically, hard rock is both loud and aggressive. Hard rock is also known as post-grunge and alternative metal.

Hard rock began in the 1960s out of Blues Rock and Garage Rock. Bands like The Who and The Rolling Stones helped create the genre of hard rock. Hard rock reached its peak commercially in the 1970s and 1980s with bands like Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, ACDC, and Bon Jovi. Since hard rock music is loosely defined, most of the hard bands of the time were labeled with other genres like heavy metal, glam metal, and blues rock.

In the 90s, one form of hard rock became very popular. Grunge rock exploded with the band Nirvana, while other bands also paved the way of grunge rock like Stone Temple Pilots and Pearl Jam. In the 21st century, a new wave of hard rock music has emerged: post-grunge and mainstream rock. Bands like Three Days Grace, Seether, Nickelback, Shinedown, and Hinder are the new wave of hard rock.

Like many mainstream acts, Christian hard rock features emphasized guitars with driving rock songs. Most Christian hard rock bands choose to talk about issues of today and they also sing about Christian themes. For this post, I want to share with you six bands that are making waves in the Christian hard rock scene.

The first band is Thousand Foot Krutch. They have released 5 albums since 2001 on Tooth and Nail Records. When they began their career, they were a rap rock band. But over the last few years they have turned into a hard rock band. The song I want to share with you is called E For Extinction, which is off their fifth album Welcome to the Masquerade. E For Extinction is about how people put on masks and camouflage to hide their inner feelings and emotions from people. This song is also named after a 1960s X-Men comic.

The next group is Falling Up. They have released six albums since 2004, including a greatest hits album. Falling Up broke up as a band in early 2010, but made an announcement a few months later that they were back together. Most of Falling Up’s early work was hard rock music fused with driving piano. But, in their last couple of albums they have turned to a more experimental rock sound. Here is one of their early hard rock songs. It is called Moonlit. Most of their song lyrics are a little vague and open to interpretation. To me, this song speaks about how we should let go of our sins, secrets, and pain to God.

The third group is 12 Stones. They have been a band since 2000. They have released three full length albums and an EP since then. 12 Stones has had a lot of popularity in the secular market. They have had songs featured on WWE, soundtracks for Elektra, The Scorpion King, and Daredevil. Lead singer Paul McCoy was also featured as the back up vocalist for the breakout song for Evanescence called Bring Me To Life in which he won a Grammy for best Hard Rock Performance. The song I want to share with you is called Lie to Me off their album Anthem For The Underdog. This song speaks about a broken relationship; this could include an intimate relationship, family member, or someone you simply look up to. Lead Singer McCoy sings about how this person has messed up and it has greatly affected him and his beliefs.

The fourth group is Pillar. They have released eight albums since their formation as a band in 1998. Like Thousand Foot Krutch, they also started out as a rap rock band. After their first couple independent albums, they transformed into a pure hard rock group. They have also been nominated for one Grammy for their album The Reckoning. The song I want to share with you is off their latest album, Confessions, called Whatever It Takes. This song is about falling away from God and doing whatever it takes to get back with Him.

The next band is Red. They are a relatively new band, only released two albums since 2006. But, their first two albums have garnered huge success. Both albums were grammy nominated. Red has also dominated radio charts with nine consecutive number one singles. Their third album will be released on February 1, 2011. The song I want to share with you is off their second album called Innocence and Instinct. According to guitarist Anthony Armstrong, Death of Me is all about actions. “The song is really a regretful introspective moment, where you realize that your own actions have led you down a path you never wanted to take. You are the one who keeps tearing yourself down in some kind of vicious cycle that never seems to end,” said Armstrong. I love the concept behind this music video. It is really really cool.

The final group is Kutless. They have released ten albums including two worship albums, two special editions, and a live album. Two of their albums have also gone gold. Kutless’ name is a reference from Romans 6:23. The band says the name derives from Jesus taking away our cuts, therefore we are Kutless. The song I want to share is off their fourth album. Shut Me Out is about standing up for your beliefs in Jesus Christ and not letting anyone shut out your voice or opinion.

I hope you have enjoyed this look at Christian hard rock music. If you like this genre, here are some more hard rock bands to check out: Skillet, Decyfer Down, The Letter Black, Fireflight, Kids in the Way, and Day of Fire.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Top Anticipated Albums in 2011

2010 is over and it is time to take a look at another year of music. This list is my top ten anticipated projects for 2011.

10. Decyfer Down

Early in 2010, the band announced that they were beginning to write new songs. And in Fall of 2010, the band posted numerous videos of them in the studio. There is no official word on how the album will sound musically or vocally. But if the few short clips on their youtube video is any indication, this album will most likely be harder and faster than their previous works. I also think this album will be a great measuring stick for lead singer TJ Harris. On their last album, Crash, Harris was rushed in as lead vocalist after Caleb Oliver surprisingly left the band. This could be an album that rocks musically, as well as a breakthrough album for vocalist TJ Harris.

9. Falling Up

In January 2010, Falling Up announced that they were taking a permanent break from music. I was devastated by this news. I have followed Falling Up’s career, and loved every album that they have released. But, all hope was not lost. In October 2010, just nine months after their breakup, the band announced that they were returning to music and entering the studio in early 2011. Right before the band announced their breakup, they were released from their record label Tooth and Nail Records/BEC Recordings. This new album will be strictly independent. They have also asked their fans to help fund this album. Due to an outpouring of love and generosity from their fans, Falling Up has already passed their goal of $10,000. The band promises that this album will be a fusion of sounds from their albums Crashings and Fangs.

8. Owl City

Coming in at number 8 is Owl City. I personally loved Adam Young’s debut album Ocean Eyes. From songs like Fireflies to The Saltwater Room, this album took me on a really fun ride. Owl City first went into the studio in early spring 2010, and planned to have a release date in December 2010. No word on why the album has been pushed back, but hopefully it will be released soon. Young also promised that this album should stick pretty close to Ocean Eyes musically; he promises that he is not changing his sound any time soon. Another good reason to look forward to this album, Matt Thiessen of Relient K was a collaborator.

7. Spoken

In 2008, Spoken was released from Tooth and Nail records. Spoken was subsequently picked up by the smaller label Alien Patrol. They have not released a new album since 2007, but a new independent record has been rumored for a couple of years. But, now the rumors are finally over. Late in 2010, the band announced that they were working on new music, and released a brand new song called Dagger. You can check out the single on Itunes. Listening to the new song, Spoken has never sounded better. There is no official word on any more new music or a release date, but I will be eagerly awaiting new music in 2011 from these guys.

6. Run Kid Run

Run Kid Run entered the studio in Fall 2010 to work on their third album. This punk rock group is definitely going for the home run ball on this one. This album will be produced by Matt Thiessen of Relient K and famed producer Mark Townsend. Aaron Gillespie has also stepped in to do some guest vocals. The band has promised to also add some new sounds to their music. Vocalist David Curtis promised that you will hear bells, tuba, and strings. Tooth and Nail Records founder Brandon Ebel said, “The new Run Kid Run record is going to blow minds.”

5. Aaron Gillespie

No one was more shocked or saddened by the news last year that Aaron Gillespie was leaving Underoath than me. Many thought that he would make The Almost his full time band, but few imagined him releasing a solo album as well. Coming on March 8, 2011, Gillespie will be releasing a worship album entitled Anthem Song. Aaron Gillespie has been a part of a number of worship songs in the past with Underoath and The Almost. Songs like Some Seek Forgiveness Others Escape, Too Bright To See Too Loud To Hear, Amazing Because It Is, and Hands have all featured Gillespie’s unique take on worship music. “I love that God wants us to know Him, that we were put here as missional people to serve God and point others to Him,” said Gillespie. You can hear the first single on the record, We Were Made For You, on Gillespie’s official facebook page.

4. Red

Red has been rocking the masses since their debut album in 2006. They have dominated Christian radio for the past four years in that they have nine consecutive number one hits. Red promises to push their rock sound to the next level on this album. Lead singer Michael Barnes promises that this album will be, “a combination of our first two records, but on steroids.” This is also the first album featuring new drummer Joe Rickard, formerly of the Wedding. The album, Until We Have Faces, will be released on February 1, 2011.

3. Hawk Nelson

Coming in at number three is Hawk Nelson. Hawk Nelson is preparing to release their fifth album in seven years entitled Crazy Love on February 8, 2011. The band has already released two songs, Crazy Love and Skeletons. If these songs are any indication of the album, Crazy Love will be much different than their past works. “Part of this truth talk is us growing older and wanting to sing about what's real to us,” states bassist Daniel Biro. “The truth topics make Crazy Love the most different from past records; we are definitely more overt about faith this time. We're not scared about the truth in our lives, and it's satisfying to be real like that.” Fans will also have the chance to purchase a special two disc set. Along with Crazy Love, fans will be able to purchase The Light Sides. The Light Sides will feature acoustic versions of Hawk Nelson’s previous hits.

2. Family Force 5

Since their last full length release in 2008, Family Force 5 has released a ton of new music. They released two albums in 2009, a Dance or Die remix album as well as a Christmas record. In 2010 they were featured on the Hot Topic expanded edition of the Almost Alice Soundtrack and they recorded a cover version of the song Bulletproof for Punk Goes Pop 3. But, now it is time for their third full length album. The band made an announcement that they were in the studio recording new songs in late 2010, but no other announcements have been made. No word yet on the release date, or the style of the new record. But, if it’s Family Force 5, you know this will easily be one of the top records of the year.

1. FM Static

Finally, at number one is FM Static. Since 2003 Trevor McNevan’s side project, FM Static, has delivered three albums filled with catchy pop punk music. Their previous album, Dear Diary, definitely featured a new side of the band in that they released a concept album about a boy telling his story through diary entries. No word yet on if their new album, planned to be released on April 5, 2011, will be a concept album or not. The band has released the track listing and the title track My Brain Says Stop, But My Hearts Says Go. You can check out My Brain Says Stop on their official facebook page.

Overall, here is my list of ten albums that I cannot wait to buy in 2011. Also, here are a few more bands to look out for. These groups will also be releasing new music in 2011.

Devil Wears Prada
I Am Empire
Icon For Hire