Before we get too much further into 2014, I wanted to review a couple of albums and music videos from 2013 which REALLY caught my attention and the world needs to know about. One of those albums was an unbelievable free album, and my second favorite album of the year, entitled “Tell The Truth” from the UK based Christian band Twelve24. The other reviews will be coming over the next couple of weeks so stay tuned for those but, for now, here’s my in-depth review of one of the best albums of 2013.
Twelve24, formed in 2008 through The Message Trust’s evangelism training course “Message Academy,” are based in Manchester, England but are from different parts of the world with Ryan being from America, Christian being from Ghana and Josh from Manchester. Together they form a three piece with a unique sound blending hip-hop, dubstep, pop, rap, electro and acoustic all into one band. The name Twelve24 comes from John 12:24 in the Bible which says “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.” This verse is not only where their name comes from, but is the embodiment of who Twelve24 are as a band; Twelve24 are on a mission armed with their music to ‘Tell The Truth’ in this generation about who Jesus is and how He sees people, and they’re fighting against the common misconceptions that people have of Christians and God to bring the Truth! Or, as Tim Owen, former member of The Tribe and head of creativity at The Message, says, “They’re taking the big issues facing young people today and hitting them head-on. And they’re not watering down the message of hope in the Gospel.”
In August of last year Twelve24 released their free to downloadTell The Truth album to rave reviews from critics and fans alike. The band themselves share what the meaning behind Tell The Truth is, “The meaning of our latest album Tell The Truth is simple. Truth is not a thing or an idea or a concept we believe truth can be found in a person, His name is Jesus and Jesus said ‘I AM THE TRUTH’ so we simply want to tell people about Jesus. We want to Tell The Truth about who He is, what He has done for us and what He can do for you. On some songs on the album you will find our personal stories in the lyrics and a deep and meaningful moments in our lives where God has broken in and some songs are breaking down peoples stereotypes of who God is and other tracks are written as a message to everyone and anyone about what God can do for them!”
There’s a popular saying which says that you should “start as you mean to go on” and Twelve24 do exactly that with their energetic opener “What A Feeling.” Almost immediately, Ryan’s smooth and rhythmic lyrical flow kicks in and it takes just 14 seconds for the first mention of Jesus and you immediately know what the album is about, “Jesus gave me a life worth living, once was sinning, now forgiven, my life got the bright light, put Christ in the spotlight.” After just half a minute, you’re completely and utterly in the party groove as Christina takes over the singing duties to melodically continue the lead in to the drop around the 50 second mark. 5 seconds prior to that though, Josh and Ryan both jump in to really help amp it up as a collective band, boldly declaring as a unit, “All day, all night, sold out, one life, so real, no hype, I’ve got Your love for life.” Within just 50 seconds you’re pumped up, you’re singing along at full volume and you’re raring to let loose on the dance floor with glow sticks and the like in tow. Then the promised drop hits. Straight away all your worries are left behind in the rear view mirror and you are left worshiping our Awesome God in the best way imaginable, while busting out your best (or worse in my case!) dance moves. Josh then takes over the lyrical reigns as he displays his impressive flow through lyrics which epitomizes what Twelve24 and Tell The Truth are all about, “Imma give u that real life Jesus Christ, Tell the world that we seen the light, Darkest nights and winter seasons, Now im living your the reason, You never let me go, Give it up you take control, Living forgiven never reliving my sinning got me fulfilling the vision give it my heart and soul.” The song continues in the same vein both lyrically and musically speaking, smooth lyrics, interchanging between all three singers effortlessly, leading up to numerous drops into a party-esque anthemic choruses sung boldly by Christina. The choruses themselves are an embodiment of Tell The Truth as a whole, having a good time worshiping our Lord and Savior, while also being built up to go out into the world as Unashamed Christians to shine our lights in the dark places.
“Light Up the Night” follows and is the perfect example of that as it contains the unmistakable message that God is always with us every step of the way and, with Him as our Savior, He will light the way for us through the dark times in our lives. The track also encourages us strongly to “Light Up The Night” for those around us by shining our lights, as Christians, into the dark places of this world we live in; a sentiment taken from Matthew 5:16 “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” “Light Up The Night” opens with Josh’s beautifully melodic opening lyrics, “You see me flying, they can’t take me straight away, and now we’re running straight into the light, and together we can see better days, that’s why we’re never giving up the fight,” before the aforementioned messages and values are highlighted emphatically not only through Ryan’s barn storming opening verse, but also through Christina’s calming lyrics in between Guvna B’s high energy and punch packing verse and the big finish, “I’ll never leave, you’re not alone, it came from the words of the maker, You rescued me and now I’ll go and tell the world that You Light Up The Night.” Not only does this party song encourage us to go out and “Light Up The Night,” but it also encourages us to do so without fear, without apprehension, and without doubt, for our God is always behind us.
After two lively openers, “Tell The Truth,” the title track, slows things down a bit, allowing you to catch your breath and recover. A simple drum beat and few strums of a guitar are the back drop for this heartfelt song about Josh’s testimony and road to Christ. “It’s all about you and all you do, can these words be left unsaid, if I don’t speak out how will they know, so I got to tell the truth, how you gave it all and all for love, so I open up and give you all my life, this love is amazing.”
Next up Andy Hawthorne delivers a stirring and passionate 2 minute message explaining the change in today’s society and summing up exactly what The Message’s mission, and this album, is all about. Normally interludes annoy fans as they don’t let an album flow or lend an album to being played on shuffle and, although the latter is true here, that is overshadowed by the former. Andy’s message builds up towards a defiant final statement, pumping the listener up in the process. The end of Andy’s message not only ties in well with, but also flows beautifully into the 100mph start of “All The Way,”as it steadily pumps the listener up further through fast paced, fist pumping music dominated by 808s, drum samples and a driving bass beat which help accentuate Ryan’s steady staccato flow beautifully as he opens up declaring that, “This life ain’t a game, I’m going all in, it’s not about me man, it’s about Him” and going on to defiantly say “I go all the way, I won’t turn around, I know who I am, I’m not backing down, I may be young but I live a different standard out, who’s different if no-one’s standing out.”
Deliciously rich constant bass and airy synths provide the backdrop for “Outcast,” a song dedicated to encouraging the outcasts and broken down of this world to stand up and be proud of who they are in Christ. Josh’s vocals are as strong as always but it’s Christina’s vocals which really stand out and shine throughout, starting with her outstanding delivery of the opening lines which sum up the track’s message to a tee, “I may be different, may be strange but it’s alright, so call me crazy, I’m ok with all your talk like, it doesn’t bother me, somebody’s loving me, if you’re an outcast you can sing this all night.” Josh’s vocals provide the perfect counterbalance to Christina’s vocals before Christina offers up further encouragement to the outcasts through her second verse, “so what you see is not a lie not a cover up, and I believe that you and I can be good enough, no need to hide away we’ve got no time to waste, so tell the world who you are and don’t hold back.”
After the encouragement provided through the upbeat “Outcast” for the outcasts, the slow and pensive “Fall Down” offers encouragement to everyone that God has us in His hands and is always there for us, no matter how many times we fall. “Even if I fall down, I know you’ll catch me, and even if I turn around, I know you’ve got me.” Ryan delivers a heartfelt and deep ‘cry out’ prayer to God in a well constructed and delivered verse and, following an extended period of relaxing and melodic vocals from Josh, Nu Breed (from The Message’s new hip-hop band Vital Signs) delivers a stunning feature verse praising and thanking God for all of God’s blessings on his life, for always being there for him and for creating in him a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Twelve24 then pick up the pace once again with “Oblivion,” one of the stronger lyrical offerings on the project. Ryan crafts and delivers yet another lyrical masterpiece for the opening verse, followed by a melodic verse from Christina which really starts to gather pace a third of the way through leading up to an exquisitely executed drop into, well, “Oblivion!” Distorted synths fill the dub-step chorus as Christina continues the lyrics before Josh delivers quite possibly one of the strongest, and my personal favorite, verses on Tell The Truth, “This is for every time they told you you got no purpose, everyday make you feel so worthless, but nobody’s perfect, you wanna know truth but nobody’s certain, so we lay it plain, they can change your name, rearrange your fame and make you feel brand new, this ain’t a game I never stay the same, and I will praise his name, you always come through, you sympathise with my weakness, and put together my pieces, it’s so much for me, you keep loving me, man how can I deny Jesus, if you got beat they beat Him too, they hated him just like they’re hating you, I’m so amazed by this so true, I ain’t never known love like you do, that’s real.”
Every great album needs that big fun party tune, that tune you go absolutely nuts to and, although on a lively album such as this there are many contenders, “Vegas” stands heads and shoulders above the rest in that respect. While still holding true to the message of the album, “Vegas” is certainly approached more from the “fun” side of the scale and is chock-a-block full of big drops and club vibes and contains one heck of a catchy hook, a hook which will be stuck in every listener’s mind for days. Not only does “Vegas” hold true to the album’s message, it also continues the high quality lyricism running throughout the core of “Tell The Truth” which is highlighted through a clever take on the well-known phrase “What Happens In Vegas, stays in Vegas.”
The high energy dub-step/dance/pop hybrid track “Hurricane” was the first song off Tell The Truth to be released to the public through the medium of a music video (see below) and is one of the strongest offerings on the album. If there was just one song off Tell The Truth which summed up Twelve24 and the album as a whole, it would be “Hurricane.” All 3 members effortlessly deliver strong reverberating verses over a variety of music styles; Ryan’s steady flow meshes with the wandering electronic synths floating around in the background, Christina’s relaxing yet powerful vocals compliment the music down to a tee and Josh, in between his melodic snippets & lead ins to the big dub-step drops, finishes it all off by showcasing once again his impressive flow in a verse which starts off fast and continually gains momentum in accordance to the music building in the background. The lyrics themselves are the perfect summation of who Twelve24 are as a band and that their calling is to proudly represent our awesome God 116 style on the frontlines, “Can you hear the words that we speak, its alive with the fire when your breathing the life, you can feel my heart when it beats (Real Talk), coz u dont know every word is a careful thought, and the songs that we write aint made for the charts, they accounts of the life that we walk, I speak from the soul speak truth till my body turn cold, Jesus Christ came back to life passed me the torch its my time to go, I wont stop I wont quit I am all in, if its hmp or its hmv im 100% till he calls me home.”
Song wise, Tell TheTruth is rounded out by the fast paced “Freeze The Moment.” Repetitive claps amongst layers of airy synths gets the head nodding and the toes-a-tappin’ before the bass kicks in to great effect as Ryan’s verse commences and accompanies it step to step, “You make me feel like life is so amazing, I look out into creation just to find it says I’m crazy for you, another moment with you I gotta have, you set me off like a shuttle blast, now I’m over the moon I ain’t got a map, it’s ok ‘coz I know I ain’t coming back, with you I’ve found where I belong, n I finally found a home, one that I can call my own, it’s priceless and I don’t want to let it go.”
“Response,” a spoken word track and ‘altar call’ by Ryan, carries with it a message of salvation and redemption followed by a prayer which well and truly marks the end of Tell The Truth in the best possible way, and in a way The Message’s bands have been known to do in the past.
In today’s world many Christian artists are going down the road of “watering down” their lyrics and, in some cases, are desperate not to be pigeon-holed as a Christian band or artist to reach more people. Although I’ve become a big supporter of said method over the past couple of years, it is refreshing to hear a band buck that trend in a big way and from a band who are a part of The Message Trust, who’ve also brought us such bands as The Tribe and LZ7 in the past, I’d expect nothing else. Twelve24 bring us a free album full to the brim, and even overflowing, with a strong and unashamed Christian message which is clear for all to hear, and dance to. Tell The Truth is a game changing album in many ways, not only for the Christian music scene as a whole and not even only for the UK Christian music scene, but for Twelve24 themselves. Ever since their inception Twelve24 have been brimming with potential and, although we’ve seen glimpses of that potential breaking through at times, it’s safe to say that with Tell The Truth they are fulfilling that potential, and, if they continue on this upward trajectory they’re on, are ready to be considered alongside LZ7 as the figure heads of the UK Christian music industry and, as LZ7 are starting to do, make inroads into being well known in the States. Watch out world, Twelve24 is coming for ya…in a good way of course!
So grab your dancing shoes, turn the volume and bass up loud, imagine it’s summer time already and get ready to party while worshiping our heavenly Father with all you’ve got…