Reviews: for King & Country, Audio Adrenaline, Skillet

for King & Country– Crave
When I went to Kingdom Bound, one of the few remaining large Christian music festivals still standing, I was wowed by the live performance of this band, originally hailing from Australia.  For King & Country is simply one of the best new acts in Christian music to come around in years. Joel and Luke Smallbone, brothers of Christian music superstar Rebecca St. James, absolutely enthral with their superb vocals, particularly when they hit their ethereal falsettos.  The arrangements of these incredibly catchy songs are awesome, with piano driven pop layered below beautiful orchestration.  From the opening track, “Light it Up”, to the huge hit “The Proof of Your Love”, to the most heartfelt ballad heard in years on a Christian album, “Love’s to Blame”, there is not a weak track in the bunch.  Lyrically, this band has managed to stay clear of cliches and display depth not normally found on a debut album. Highly recommended.  In fact, go out now, grab the album and support this promising young act.

Audio Adrenaline– Kings and Queens
When lead vocalist, Mark Stuart, had to retire from Audio Adrenaline six years ago, Christian music had apparently lost one of its biggest drawing acts.  In a surprising move, however, this band has come back with former dc Talk lead vocalist, Kevin Max, to release the comeback album of the year.  The album kicks off with “He moves You move”, which shows that this new rendition of the band has a sound that is more dc Talk than Audio Adrenaline., with a big anthemic sound, clean keyboard-driven arrangements and a pleasing pop-rock presentation.  “Kings & Queens” and “King of the Comebacks” shows that this band is capable of creating hugely radio-friendly songs, a hallmark of this band’s past achievements.  Kevin Max is singing as well as ever, with “Change My Name” featuring a stellar vocal delivery.   It seems a bit odd hearing familiar dc Talk voices now fronting both this band and the Newsboys.  Regardless, this is an album worth getting for sure.

Skillet-Rise
Skillet is one of my favorite bands and this album is probably one of the most anticipated in 2013.  The title track, “Rise”, is also the first cut and roars out with their typical intense rock sound and gritty lead vocals of John Cooper, offset by Jen Ledger’s sweet female vocals.  This is apparently a concept album about a teen growing into adult and it manifests itself here with an eerie use of a children’s choir and disturbing inter-song ear candy.  The album has a bit more of a synthesized rather than orchestral feel overlaying the hard rock, which means only a few songs like “Not Gonna Die” will evoke the sound of previous albums. This creates almost an 80s feel to some of the songs. Some of this works and some doesn’t.   Lyrically, this album is weaker than previous albums, and the David Lee Roth-esque  “My Religion” is actually an unnecessary attack on organized religion as well.  Overall, I was hoping for more from one of my favorite bands.

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