Review Date: 07/06/14
Review By: Iain Moss
Release Date: 05/13/14
Rating: [usr 9.5]
There are certain bands which immediately come to Christian music fans’ minds whenever “Christian rock” is mentioned, and Seventh Day Slumber is usually one of the first to do so. Seventh Day Slumber, who were formed in 1996, are widely considered to be one of the best hard rock bands out there and are further considered to be one of the figureheads of Christian rock, if not of all Christian music, and deservedly so. Aside from their musical prowess though, they’re also known for the incredible ministry side of Seventh Day Slumber and their insanely powerful testimonies and talks. Lead singer Joseph Rojas’ testimony is one of the most moving, inspirational, and intense testimonies anyone could ever come across, and if you combine that with seriously great songwriting and musicianship you not only have a great band, but you have a phenomenal ministry.
In the lead up to their new album We Are The Broken, frontman and Seventh Day Slumber founder Joseph Rojas shared a little bit about the meaning behind the album and album title, “We want people to know that no matter where you’ve been or what you’ve been through, you are not a lost cause. You are not hopeless, and you are not unloved! That encapsulates the meaning of the title, We Are The Broken.” Right, without further ado, let’s take a closer in-depth look at Seventh Day Slumber’s 10th recording We Are the Broken…
“Goodbye” opens with 40 seconds of blissful in your face guitars and pummeling drums before it all gives way to a simple snare dominated pattern with only the odd tickling of a piano’s keys to accompany Rojas’ opening lyrical efforts. Rojas’s soothing melodic vocals introduce us to a girl reflecting on her past, with makeup running down her face, not able to let go of the pain, before addressing her directly through the convicting chorus, “goodbye, tears fall from your eyes, they wash away your disguise, can’t you see the battle’s in your mind, you’re holding on to the past, it’s only holding you back, now’s the time to say goodbye.” A song about saying “goodbye” to your old sinful past and past scars, and being made new in Christ, will remind many a listener of 2Corinthians 5:17, especially through perhaps the strongest pump up rock vocals and music on the entire record, “You’re falling for the lies that bring you pain, it’s wasted time and leaves you dead inside, don’t want to feel, but these wounds are healed, do you believe me? Do you believe me?”
After a solid rock opener, Seventh Day Slumber turns the rock level down just a notch as We Are The Broken continues in the same vein through “All She Wants” with the following lyrics immediately setting the scene, “she gives herself away again, already knowing just how this will end, but she just wants to hear she’s beautiful, and tears fade like falling stars, but the pain of a broken heart remains, it won’t fade away.” As we proceed through the song, and in only the way Seventh Day Slumber can, we can really feel the pain of this girl through the poignant chorus, “she’s begging for mercy ‘cause it hurts too much, she’s losing her faith but she’s not giving up, she’s praying to Jesus ‘would you save my soul,’ begging for mercy all she wants is love.”
The title track “We Are The Broken” switches train of thought from the preceding two songs ever so slightly as they still keep with the album theme of “We Are The Broken” but shift their focus more towards offering serious hope to the listeners. A classic Seventh Day Slumber rock anthem by nature, “We Are The Broken” features a pitch-perfect head-banging chorus, plenty of soaring guitar riffs and rock drums to satisfy all dedicated rock fans, and is a nailed on certainty to be a massive hit. The chorus, “We are the broken, all that remains of our past is the scars, our eyes are open, we’re not afraid to admit who we are, we are the broken,” is prevalent throughout but takes on powerful new heights when preceded by “It’s time to find out who we are” and followed by “now we can see we were loved from the start, we are the chosen, we are the beautiful light in the dark” in the closing stages of the song, and is sure to have listeners not just singing along, but singing along from deep within their souls – a trademark of Seventh Day Slumber songs.
Opening with echoey arena bass feedback tones before driving guitars and pounding drums set us on our way, “Nothing To Lose” takes on the defiant stance that as long as we hold onto God we have “Nothing To Lose.” Laid bare on a backdrop of a repetitive bass riff, the opening vocals from Joseph pull you deep within the song from the word go, before the full band is reinstated progressively to great effect as the verse continues, “It’s such a lie, but the words keep ringing in my ears tonight, now all I want is to be someone else, undone, lost in these thoughts and feeling all alone, this has to be the last time I feel this way, so hollow unwanted, please save me from the dark, I sever whatever separates me from Your arms, waiting one more day, is one day too late, God I’m holding on to You, I’ve got nothing to lose.” Seventh Day Slumber offer a further source of encouragement later on through the equally powerful lyrics, “this time I’m drowning inside, the waves of Your love heal me, You heal me, no they can’t break me, this pain won’t end me.
Continuing the run of fully pledged hard hitting rock anthems with the same hope-filled message, “In Too Deep” has the hard task of keeping people interested in the record and to stop their attention from wandering. Not only does Seventh Day Slumber achieve that task, but they do so with flying colors. Finding a little extra within themselves, they kick things into an even higher gear as the already flawless musicianship gets even crisper, the lyrics get even edgier, and the arrangement of the two gets even better. Although they may be considered clichéd by some, the lyrics of the chorus stand out head and shoulders above the rest of the song, “I can’t save myself, I’m in too deep, as waves crash down it’s getting harder to breathe, I’m reaching out, God save me now, I’m in too deep.”
Amazingly, it takes us 6 tracks into the record for us to reach the first of two rock ballads. From the album’s trailer weeks before the record’s release, listeners knew from the audio clip of “Trust In Me” that it would be a fan favourite, and that is most certainly the case. Picture a stadium at dusk with 50,000 people all with their hands raised in the air, singing along at the top of their voices, deep in worship to our Lord and Savior with a number of sobbing cries filling the quiet moments, and you’ll get an idea of the magnitude of this song’s weight. Against one single powerful spotlight, the band take on the form of silhouettes, fading into the background as the music and lyrics take center stage, “you’ve been waiting on the rain to clear so you can dance, just a break from all the chaos, so you can catch your breath, you don’t need to see the ending of your storm to know it’s there, or see the footprints in the sand to know that I am here.” Already spine-tingling, the chorus, “there’s freedom that you’ve never known, a peace that comes from letting go, trust in me, trust in me, a love so deep it knows no end, a refuge from the storm within, trust in me,” is, as so many SDS ballads have done so in the past, sure to rock thousands upon thousands of people from the core (Even as I type this, I’m physically shaking!). Long term fans will be familiar with past ballads such as “Every Saturday,” “Missing Pages,” and “Caroline,” and, although slightly less vivid in its imagery, “Trust In Me” is easily as powerful as those Seventh Day Slumber classics.
It’s well known within the rock arena that the best way to follow such a powerful and introspective ballad is quite often a full on, no holding back, driving and progressive rock anthem, and “Comatose State” offers just that. After the respite provided by “Trust In Me” and a brief intro of distorted feedback sounds to allow the listener just enough time to gather themselves, Pillar’s Lester Estelle (who leant his superb drumming talents to We Are The Broken after long time Seventh Day Slumber drummer Jamie Davis unfortunately had to step down for medical reasons) starts us off with surging drum patterns, before the equally surging guitars from the talented Jeremy Holderfield and Ken Reed are added in to lead us into Joseph Rojas’ trademark raw vocals with a solid wave of momentum behind them. The lyrics are a call to action for for us all to “wake up from (y)our ‘comatose state,’” to “open our eyes,” to be aware of those around us who are in pain, and for us to reach out to them and not preach to them. “She said the world wouldn’t even notice if she wasn’t here anymore, so hard to be faithful to a God that she’s never seen before, and everyone’s preaching but no-one is reaching her way….now is the time for us to open our eyes, there’s so many people in pain, arise and take your place, awake from your comatose state.”
Led by distorted guitar riffs, with the odd far off scream echoing in the background and pounding drums progressing in stature, “Holding On” offers the listener yet another solid rock anthem. Featuring some clear and well placed screamed vocals, the song takes on a more aggressive nature, adding some nice variety to the record in the process, as the lyrics are a desperate cry out to God to keep holding on to us in the hard times in life. “I’m about to break down inside, I waste away but you keep holding on, no-one knows me better, you see my darkest side, so filthy so shattered, dying to be alive, God please save me, breathe your life in me, no-one knows me better, no-one knows.
Next, and to close the album out a bit too soon and in surprising fashion, Seventh Day Slumber turn their hands to the Demi Lovato hit “Skyscraper.” Offering a second taste of the softer side of themselves, Seventh Day Slumber turn the already stunning hit, into a tidier and more clean cut rock ballad version. The similarities between the two are certainly there but the difference between the two is simply stunning and I challenge you to listen to one after the other over and over a few times and try and pick your favourite between the two! It’s very close, but credit has to go to Seventh Day Slumber as, in my possibly biased opinion, their cover edges out the original. And, just like that, the album draws to a conclusion.
With 5 no 1 songs, 14 top 10 singles, and almost half a million sales worldwide under their belts, there’s no arguing with the Christian rock stalwarts’ hit status, but many a long term fan has been left wanting a little bit more from their recent more “worship with a rock feel” focused projects. Although they’ve been great records in their own rights, they’ve lacked a certain…rocky edge. Well, it’s safe to say, that that rocky edge to their music is back, and back in droves. In the lead up to the record, guitarist Jeremy Holderfield said, “With ‘We Are The Broken,’ we wanted to write songs with no limitations or expectations. Whatever riff came to mind, and whatever lyric God put on our hearts, we recorded it. To put it simply, it’s a completely honest album that takes us back to where we started. When you hear these songs there’s no doubt; THIS is Seventh Day Slumber. We couldn’t be prouder of the music.” He absolutely nailed it! THIS is Seventh Day Slumber returning to their roots, THIS is Seventh Day Slumber at their most honest, and THIS is Seventh Day Slumber at their absolute best.
Now for the big question…is We Are The Broken their best album to date? Well that’s up for debate and down to personal opinion, but, in my opinion, this is their best album to date, just edging out Finally Awake in my book. Clocking in at a smidgeon over half an hour long though, it’s their shortest album to date and that’s sure to disappoint many a fan, myself included. Saying that though, with just 9 tracks on the record they’ve clearly gone for the quality over quantity approach, an approach which is much appreciated, and hopefully indicates that another short record could be in the pipeline to be released slightly quicker than usual.
With We Are The Broken Seventh Day Slumber are not only back to their best, they may have even elevated their “best” to new heights. The Christian rock stalwarts and figureheads have once again delivered a record that packs a serious punch to it. The message of We Are The Broken is clear; ‘we are the broken’ and God is the only one who can fix and restore us. So expect in-your-face rock, expect emotions deep inside of you to be stirred up (and possibly expelled from your body), but, most importantly, expect that deep connection with God that only Seventh Day Slumber seem to be able to provide you with as you rock out to the best rock music out there.
PS. The We Are The Broken album cover is one of the best and most eye catching album covers I’ve ever come across, and it’s been an awfully long time since an album cover cover has epitomized the album, the album’s message and sound, and the band themselves, as much as this cover does. I’m not sure who designed it, but a massive amount of credit goes to them for creating a stellar and seriously captivating album cover!