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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Top Ten Albums from Tooth and Nail Records

Since its inception in the early 90s, Brandon Ebel (Founder) has played a major role in transforming Tooth and Nail Records into a major force in the Christian rock world.  Over the last 20 years, Tooth and Nail has managed to completely shed their humble beginnings, by releasing numerous records from some of the most important rock bands of our time.

Within my life, I grew up listening to and admiring so many of their iconic artists.  I fondly remember the ways in which Tooth and Nail had a profound impact on my early musical tastes and purchases.

For this post, I want to honor this important record label and share with you my top ten favorite albums from Tooth and Nail.  In creating this list, I am only highlighting my favorite releases, since the year 2000.  Yes, Tooth Nail was able to produce many game-changing records throughout the 1990s.  However, I mainly want to focus in on some of the modern groups within this celebrated label.  I hope you enjoy.

10.  Hanging On By A Thread – The Letter Black (2010)
Top Tracks - Hanging On By A Thread, Believe, There’ll Come A Day

On their Tooth and Nail debut, The Letter Black beautifully offers a hard rock album filled with dual vocals and driving rock and roll melodies.  However, the definite highlight of this record is the lead presence of Sarah Anthony.  Throughout the album, her voice is very polished and crisp, and, yet, she also has a large enough vocal range to pull off some hardcore screams.  For fans of Skillet or Evanescence, Hanging On By A Thread will serve as a thoroughly enjoyable ride.

9.  Songs to Burn Your Bridges By (Re-Release) – Project 86 (2004) 
Top Tracks – The Spy Hunter, A Shadow On Me, Safe Haven

In the summer of 2004, Project 86 decided to re-release their album, Songs to Burn Your Bridges By.  For most hardcore fans, they quickly noticed the substantial changes between this special release and the original one.  Not only did Project 86 include three brand new songs, but they also shuffled around the official track listing and they created some brand new artwork.  Beyond these few added bonuses, this record also features their usual mix of dark imagery and hook-driven, hard rock.  Lyrically, Project 86 has never been afraid to push the boundaries, and Songs to Burn Your Bridges By is no exception.  They place their dark themes on full display, by singing about everything from child abuse to a desperate search for truth.  After multiple spins, I have to admit, there is not a lot of hope on this record.  However, Project 86 still knows the perfect formula for putting out a great hardcore album.  With this re-release, they not only strengthened an already solid record, but they also managed to throw in enough new elements to keep their fans excited.

8.  Smile, It’s the End of the World – Hawk Nelson (2006)
Top Tracks – The One Thing I Have Left, Everything You Ever Wanted, Zero

After the release of their very successful debut, Hawk Nelson returned, in 2006, with their highly anticipated sophomore album.  For Smile, It’s the End of the World, Hawk Nelson found themselves going through a number of lineup and musical changes.  The end result was a catchy and yet mature piece of pop rock.  “The One Thing I Have Left” starts the record on a blistering note, as lead vocalist, Jason Dunn, boldly sings about always clinging to his personal beliefs.  “Everything You Ever Wanted” tragically deals with the repercussions of divorce, and “Zero” serves as an emotional plea against suicide.  Even though Hawk Nelson is not as bold about their faith as they were on their debut, Smile, It’s the End of the World is still a thoughtful and, at times, fun sophomore release. 

7.  The Everglow – Mae (2005)
Top Tracks – Someone Else’s Arms, Suspension, The Everglow

Sadly, after a ten year career, this alternative group officially called it quits back in 2011.  Throughout their time as a band, Mae was able to release three full length albums, alongside numerous EPs and special B-Sides.  However, the true high point of their career came in 2005, with the release of The Everglow.  This unique record serves as a moving musical experience, rather than just a simple album.  From the opening instructions to the artwork to the captivating melodies, Mae takes the listener on a powerful journey that only gets better with time. 

6.  They’re Only Chasing Safety – Underoath (2004)
Top Tracks – Young and Aspiring, It’s Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door, Some Will Seek Forgiveness, Others Escape

Serving as one of the modern pioneers in combining hook-driven choruses and punk vocals, Underoath managed to craft a record filled with radio-friendly screamo.  “It’s Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door” expertly mixes together harsh screams and a simple children’s choir, while “Reinventing Your Exit” and “A Boy Brushed Red Living In Black and White” are prime examples of pop hardcore.  With a combination of catchy choruses and headbanging jams, They’re Only Chasing Safety proved to be the spark that catapulted Underoath directly into hardcore royalty.

5.  Cities – Anberlin (2007)
Top Tracks – Godspeed, Hello Alone, Alexithymia, (*Fin)

If I could describe this album in one word, it would be emotional.  Almost every song on Cities highlights the wide range of emotions that we will experience throughout our lives. Anberlin beautifully sings about everything from love and loss (“Adelaide,” “Inevitable”) to moments of depression (“Hello Alone,” “Alexithymia”) to even questioning the goodness of God (“Fin”).  It’s clear, from start to finish, the members of Anberlin literally bear their souls on this record.  The end result is a crowning achievement of brutal honesty and poignant rock and roll. 

4.  What Are You Waiting For? – FM Static (2003)
Top Tracks – Three Days Later, Something to Believe In, Definitely Maybe, October  

Serving as the side project of famed Christian rockers Trevor McNevan and Steve Augustine (Thousand Foot Krutch), FM Static officially released their debut album back in 2003. Filled with eleven punk rock anthems, What Are You Waiting For is a great addition to your summer collection of music.  With raw vocals, simple riffs, teenage love, and sing-along choruses, FM Static’s debut is still the perfect album to turn up the volume and blare on a sunny, carefree day.

3.  Define the Great Line – Underoath (2006)
Top Tracks – A Moment Suspended In Time, You’re Ever So Inviting, Moving for the Sake of Motion, Writing on the Walls

From the opening lines of their first single to the blasting rhythms of “In Regards to Myself,” Underoath truly matured in every area of their sound and style.  Gone are the pop flavors and teenage angst of their previous album, and instead, Underoath embraced a much edgier and darker form of metalcore.  Their attention to detail is impeccable, and the dual vocals of Aaron Gillespie and Spencer Chamberlain truly shine.  Back in 2006, Define the Great Line was probably the most anticipated release of the year.  After the exploding success of They’re Only Chasing Safety, everyone wanted to get their hands on this record. Underoath not only handled the added pressure of their past hit, but they fully proved that they had the talent and creativity to be counted among the metalcore elite.

2.  Phenomenon – Thousand Foot Krutch (2003)
Top Tracks – Phenomenon, Step To Me, Rawkfist, Ordinary

I remember way back in high school when I heard “Rawkfist” for the first time.  Since then, I have been addicted to Thousand Foot Krutch and the vocals of Trevor McNevan.  Even though the group has released numerous top quality records throughout their career, I still keep coming back to Phenomenon.  On this album, McNevan has never sounded better. His powerful vocals beautifully compliment the group’s diverse sound.  Whether they are creating hardcore beats or performing pop ballads, McNevan’s vocals masterfully compliment the group’s popular brand of rock and roll.

1.  Children 18:3 – Children 18:3 (2008)
Top Tracks – All My Balloons, LCM, Search Warrant, Homemade Valentine

From the very first notes of “All My Balloons” to the closing riffs of “Final,” this record took me completely by surprise.  The Hostetter siblings have the maturity level of seasoned music veterans, and you could even describe their debut album as perfection.  Fueled by goth make-up and edgy rhythms, Children 18:3 is a fun and wild ride of raucous punk rock.

I hope you have enjoyed this look at my top ten albums released on Tooth and Nail Records.  As with every list, this blog post would not be complete without my honorable mentions.  All of these records are very solid, and would easily serve as worthy additions to any Tooth and Nail playlist. 

A Fire So Big the Heavens Can See It – Search the City (2008)
Last Chance to Breathe – Spoken (2005)
Lost Weekend – Write This Down (2012)
Southern Weather – The Almost (2007)
Letters to the President – Hawk Nelson (2004)