I have to admit that I was a little unsure of the future when I heard these guys were rebranding and trying something new. I knew they'd keep the same lyrical style but there are so many examples of metal bands that sell out or decide to experiment far beyond what they're best at. Unfortunately, those attempts often with poor songwriting and often those bands lose a good portion of their fans. When I began hearing the songs they publicly released before the album's release, that fear was laid to rest as they sounded very similar to their old MOTS material. That's definitely not a bad thing but I began thinking, "This change is pretty subtle if the album sounds like these singles."
I have literally not touched any music by any band since I received my copy of this album. That statement alone shows how much I love it, but I'll explain why it's so incredible. This is the album that I've been looking for, for so long but never found... until now.
For the sake of your time, I won't describe every single song on this album, but don't make the mistake of thinking that any song on this release could be weak. The weakest songs on this album are stronger than many of the stronger songs that these guys released as MOTS, and that is really saying something.
The album starts with a strong track, Poured Out, which gets the energy going. It's a good song with some atmosphere to it and plenty of traditional MOTS energy. When the second track (Beggar) hits, it actually shocked me. It's a kind of heavier, groovy track at the beginning but just over half-way through switches to a melodic, emotional sound. When I first heard it, talk about goosebumps. There's just something to that track that I can't explain. It is almost everything I enjoy in music in a single track- emotion, energy, progression, and beautiful melodic bits.
Empty Words is a very energetic track and one that sounds very similar to classic MOTS but definitely has a new feel to it. The chorus is one of those that I think could have been screamed or sung, and been excellent either way. It is a song that shows fans that they haven't abandoned the sound they established before, but it also shows some of the evolution of their sound.
The full evolution of sound continues to grow more and more evident as the album progresses. Reveal, Renew is one that again surprised me when I heard it. It is one of the more progressive songs I've heard on this side of metal. It starts off fast and aggressive, switches to a more melodic section, then goes into a more chorus-friendly sound, then back into a faster aggression, a slower aggressive part, more melodic bits, a nice lead riff, back to an aggressively melodic part, then into a slower interlude that is slow and takes the listener by complete surprise. The following break is instrumental and has some nice clean guitar work that reminds me a bit of the clean guitars in the beginning of Dyson Sphere by Phinehas, and finishes with two powerful words: "Kingdom Come".
And further proving that this album is back-to-back solid, the track immediately following Reveal, Renew is, in my opinion, one of the best songs these guys have done. While their previous album (and my favorite of their time as MOTS), Struggle Well, had a similar interlude in the middle of the album in the form of the powerful spoken word Simply Grace, Quiet Life is a pretty long track clocking in at over 5 minutes, and is one of my favorite tracks they've ever done. It's almost entirely slow melodic guitar riffage with clean singing only. Now, many times when bands in this genre do clean singing, they end up being covered in girly falsetto vocals, but these guys did not fall into that trap. The cleans on this album as a whole were done extremely well. The song's emotion is drawn out and extended because of the cleaner, sung intro and this aids the emotional impact as things begin hitting the listener harder in the second half.
Songs like Sojourn are reasons why I feel this is greatest release to date by these guys. It shows off a lot of the evolution of this band's sound, being a mostly soft song with a nice back-and-forth blend of clean and screamed vocals. It has a really well-structured and progressive feel to it, and it's something different and new for these guys.
Arguably, the angriest/most frustrated song -- both lyrically and musically -- would be Convalesce, but where they probably would have gone straight hardcore with some melodic undertones in their past, they do a similar blend of clean and harsh vocals in this song. It deals with frustration of feeling doubt/disconnected from God, but then realizing God never went anywhere, which is the primary theme of this album.
Then the title track(s)... oh man. I Believe, as well as Help My Unbelief flow together flawlessly: I consider them one song. They are certainly a finale to the album thematically and musically, taking all of the previous new elements and pouring them into a single proggressive and emotional track that could be one of their best ever written. I Believe is aggressive, pouring out the frustration of doubt but begging God for release, and as soon as that all happens, Help My Unbelief comes in to catch the listener right in the heart as the emotions completely break free and flow into your ears. It could be compared to the finale of one of MOTS' most well-received songs, Epilogue. I'll be perfectly honest: I didn't actually have the track list on screen when I first listened to these songs, thus I had no idea the song had gone from I Believe to Help My Unbelief, that's how well the two flowed together. The last time I heard someone pull off a finale like this was Phinehas on their 2011 album, Thegodmachine, beginning with Grace Disguised by Darkness all the way until That I May Love You.
Now that you've read my (probably hard-to-read; sorry, I couldn't easily put this album into words) rambling, I can safely say that this will be one of the best -- if not THE best -- releases of 2016. It will go down in my book as the album that challenged the stereotypical modern metalcore sound and said, "Hey, God gave us creativity for a reason. Let's use it and make the best album we can to glorify Him!"
I personally feel this is the best album of their career. By stripping out the breakdowns, they were able to replace them with even deeper progression and extremely coherent songwriting. By removing much of the chugging, they were able to add more beautiful melodic parts while not sacrificing the energy that helped them stand out in the genre. For that reason, I can't give it any less than...
Every single aspect of this release was perfect, in my opinion. The lyrics are powerful and honest as ever, the music is a result of years of maturing and learning how to find a sound that works for them, and the overall feel is just flawlessly creative and coherent... something that seems hard to come by these days. This album, like all of MOTS' albums, will go down in my book as an album with distinct personal significance to me as I don't often come across bands whose music and lyrics impact me as a Christian man as much as these guys' music does. There could never be any question as to whether or not these guys were called to an amazing ministry. If you take my word for it, this is one of the most worthwhile purchases you could make this year, especially if you're a believer who can relate to the lyrics on a deeper level.