|Musical Style: Hard Rock||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Retroactive||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2013||Artist Website: Bride|
|Tracks: 17||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 72:12|
Like it or not, bands evolve. Some into things we like more, others not. Take Louisville, Kentucky based Bride, an act with the reputation for commonly reinventing itself and never recording the same album twice- in a positive sense either way. Long-term fans, however, remain divided, with many embracing the group’s musical twists and turns - at least since its groundbreaking 1992 release Snakes In The Playground - while others cite their displeasure. Yes, Snakes… is a work against which not only all other Bride albums have been measured (unfairly or otherwise) but is also frequently included at or near the top of most lists encompassing the best all time Christian metal and hard rock releases. Therefore, as one might imagine, standards are high and expectations to the point of unreasonable.
Hence, Bride potentially alienated its fan base in the decade that followed as it experimented with the straight-on acoustic rock of Drop (1995), the modern sounds to The Jesus Experience (1997) and Oddities (1998) and “rap metal” characterizing Fist Full Of Bees (2001). So when Bride returned to its eighties to early nineties metal and hard rock roots starting with This Is It (2003) but also including Skin For Skin (2006) and Tsar Bomba (2009), fan response was mixed. Some got on board at once and accepted the value of said albums while others struggled with works they found to be good but might not have quite been on the same level as Snakes…
The stage, as a result, has been set for Bride’s fourteenth (and what it claims to be its final) album in Incorruptible from the fall of 2013. Musically, Incorruptible continues the throwback trend the group started with This Is It but this time drawing heavily from the bluesy hard rock of Kinetic Faith (1991) but interspersed with acoustic moments akin to the aforementioned Drop. It adds up to a laid back and somber album (perhaps Bride’s darkest to date) in upholding some seventies influences that touch upon classic rock (those who have said there is a Led Zeppelin vibe to Incorruptible are not far off the mark) and at times even progressive rock.
No need for concern in that Bride has not forsaken its trademark heaviness, as “Unbelievers”, with its easy going but thick and weighty demeanor, and “We Lie”, tempered with keyboards in upholding the same guitar driven basis, make evident. “Where You Want To Go” brings a joining of the heavy set and ethereal and “Sleep On” a no-nonsense approach with strong bluesy underpinnings.
Bride can still exhibit the same raw intensity in which it has gained renown. “Darker Days”, an equal joining of the hook driven and fervent, exemplifies this best as does “All The Kids Are Gone”, powerful and high-octane in also failing to forsake catchiness. “I Want It All” plays up the every bit brazen and bold with its gritty guitar penchant.
You will also find two of Bride’s lengthiest songs ever in seven minute pieces “Free” and “Religion”. Former fits well within a progressive framework in giving rise to its share of complementary time and tempo changes (this reviewer welcomes the progressive leanings and ranks the song with the albums best). Latter is also good in taking a straightforward hard rock approach without the twists and turns- observation and not critique but the song starts to meander at around six minutes (it might have flowed better if condensed by a minute or two).
Bride even hearkens back to Drop with a couple straight-on rock tracks. Consider stirring ballad “Melting” in combining acoustic guitar and classical instrumentation with heavy rocking guitar edges. Likewise, “I Can’t Imagine” stands out with its relaxed acoustic and piano flavorings, while semi-ballad “Something I Need To Know” flows and drifts and similar fashion.
Lone complaint is that Incorruptible is a bit long with 17 tracks and over 70 minutes of music. Four songs are shorter (two minutes or less) “interlude” pieces that could easily have been cut due to cluttering the track listing. The remaining 13 are all good so eliminating further songs proves problematic. An over prevalence of quality material, obviously, is not a bad issue for a band to face.
Detractors, needless to say, remain, with many fretting how Incorruptible lacks melody. Actually, I was of similar opinion on first impression, but subsequent spins revealed the songs here to gradually grow on me. Give choice tracks “Unbelievers”, “Darker Days”, “We Lie”, “Free”, “I Can’t Imagine” and “Melting” four to five listens and tell me lack of melody is an issue. The problem being that the Incorruptible material is so deeply layered and structured (majority of its songs come in at five minutes or more) it does not lend to immediately recognizable melody. Hence, a bit of time and patience is required.
Of course, none of this happens without the efforts of brothers Dale (vocals) and Troy (guitars) Thompson. Vocally, Dale remains fresh and vibrant as ever with his signature raspy and gritty delivery that lends to the bluesy heavy rock genre. Of note is how he occasionally offers some lower register grit and angst, even trading off both styles within the same song, as he does on “Darker Days”. Troy proves masterful at brimming Incorruptible with his blues laced licks and chops. Inspired, as a result, would be the best way to describe his soloing on “Melting”, “Sleep On” and “Unbelievers”. Do not underestimate, at the same time, the contributions of bassist Brad Hollland and drummer Jay Meese. Of note is the clean production allowing all instrumentation to rise above the mix.
Lyrics prove introspective and reflective (almost soul searching) in fitting the darker nature of the music at hand. No, the 4-panel digi-pak does not allow room for lyrics, but Dale has made lyrics to most of the songs available at his Facebook page.
I find the “if it is not good as Snakes… then it is not good at all” mentality unhealthy and limiting. Yes, Snakes… deserves the accolades, but in this reviewers opinion Bride has put out several albums that artistically more than hold their own in comparison. Incorruptible is one such work in that I have come (with repeat listen) to whole-heartedly embrace its material and see myself listening to it for time to come. Those who dismiss Incorruptible (and other gems within the Bride back catalog) due to not being “Snakes II” are missing a lot of good music.
Track By Track
“Unbelievers” proves quintessential Bride bluesy hard rock. The song starts to distorted guitar feedback prior to plowing ahead in remorseless fashion, incisive and cutting for its driven verses but tempering for the somber chill that is its laid-back chorus. All the while Troy decorates things with his bluesy soloing abilities. Lyric snippet:
Flowers adorn the bed where I lay
I am anxious to know what they will say.
Will those that find me will their hearts break?
There was no other way to escape
Here is a prayer for unbelievers
Here is hope for the sinner
When push comes to shove
Darkness swallows love
Never been a blacker night
Then when we see the light
I consider “Darker Days” and “Darker” companion pieces despite the musical differences between the two. “Darker Days” represents one of the albums more up-tempo, explosive out of the gate at a relentless tempo with a keyed up low-end and hard rock riffs throughout. Chorus aligns with the songs intensely driven milieu. Fittingly, Dale adds some lower-register angst to his delivery. “Darker”, in contrast, is a light but mournful piano-based interlude (just over two minutes) piece.
“We Lie” sets a slower and more moderate tone, as airy keyboards meld with edgy guitars to put in placed a delectable 70’s classic rock environs. Hints of emotion come to the forefront in the process, particularly for the placidly flowing chorus hinting of the anthem-like. The churning bass lines of Holland rounds things out. Lyric snippet:
The thoughts the notions the drive
Never cease to amaze
This life creates the prize, the highs
Dreams within my waking day
We find we claim we take, we wake
The soul that makes us alive
We hurt we’re lost we seek to save
We fight refuse to die.
We lie, we cheat, and steal
Love we live to deceive
We risk we chance we feel
Things hard to believe
“All The Kids Are Gone” delivers a furious hard rock outburst. The song starts acoustically prior to kicking into high gear, maintaining the powerful mindset as a commanding rhythm guitar presence leads the way. Occasional acoustic moments diverge from the all-encompassing scene. Lyric snippet:
Crashing on the waves
Crashing on the rocks
Crashing to be saved
Sound like the bomb that dropped
And now we are gone
In the bleak distant
The modest spire rises high
Conflict and change
The gothic windows glow with fire
It does not get much bluesier than “Melting”. The song calmly drifts through its first minute and a half to viola and acoustic guitar, gradually building momentum until an edge of rhythm guitar steps forward to underpin its inspiring chorus. Troy, again, puts on a clinic of bluesy guitar proclivities. This one captures the Kinetic Faith meets Drop sound the best. Lyric snippet:
When I was a child I saw the end of all things
The earth unwound just like a ball and stretched out like a string
Fire in the sky lighten in the air
There were looks of doubt and screams filled the air
I don’t know
Who I am
If I exist at all
I feel I am melting / into this world of pain
I feel I am sinking / into this world of shame
I feel I am dying / you’re the one to blame
What is my purpose my future my reason to stay
Ensuing are back-to-back seven minute pieces “Free” and “Religion”.
“Free” brings its share of twists and turns, including a rollicking high-octane opening that gives way to stately verses featuring some of the albums more rumbling moments. Things cleverly decelerate for a calm and tranquil chorus laced with hints of the acoustic. In between, you will find a varied performance from Dale, with heavier and gruff edged moments joined with his trademark raspy style. Tempestuous is the overall feel at hand.
“Religion” does not translate as well in a seven minute format. Yes, very good in combining some of the groove-based flavorings inherit to Scarecrow Messiah with a no-nonsense and snarling mentality. Plenty of driving instrumental action is played up as well. The problem, however, is that “Religion” might be a couple of minutes too long for its own good. Consider, for instance, how the song lacks the variances to “Free”, which potentially lends triteness as it approaches six minutes (it would have been nice to see it cut to around five or six minutes).
“I Can’t Imagine” gives rise to a Drop influenced sound. Laid back and relaxed, the song interweaves ethereal guitars with acoustic hints for its verses while piano steps forward to bolster the introspective chorus. Female backing vocals play a fitting accenting role. Mournful and haunting is the feel at hand. Lyrics snippet:
Let me show you
There is no fear
Look into these eyes
I’m letting go
Of the life I know
Just the world below
Times I cried
There were times I died
The times I needed you the most
The nights I couldn’t sleep
I prayed my soul to keep
Found comfort in the Holy Ghost
Back to hard rock with “I Want It All”, a staunch cruncher delivering full doses of rollicking bluesy tinged swing and swagger. Guitars are full on in your face, aligning with the sass driven chorus and punchy feel that is the low-end. Female backing vocals return to spice up the lively scene.
Flowing piano gives way to rolling drums to start “Where You Want To Go”. Raw edged guitars soon take over, building upon the effortlessly flowing groove that defines the songs verses and lighter touches bestowed to its evenly tinged chorus. The intensely done blues driven guitar work proves the perfect fit.
“Sleep On” takes the more resounding stance. This best reflects itself in the blues driven licks and chops that carry the song front to back, lending to the no-nonsense mentality that comes to the forefront in the process. The improvisational vocal opening along with more female backing vocals adds to the songs versatility. Lyric snippet:
I watch your poison in my day dream
Cause the world is dying in one long scream
The chaos the friction mundane addictions
Truth and the lies sick and the twisted
Everyone has their answers
Seems to me everyone was wrong
There has only been one answer
There has only been one truth
There is a seed planted deep inside
Deep inside of everyone of you
Closing things are the lighter rock touches of semi-ballad “Something I Need To Know” (with complementing beautiful acoustic guitar solo) and gently done acoustic ballad “I Choose You” (with the melody to match).
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Unbeliever” (5:56), “Darker Days” (3:58), “Darker” (2:03), “We Lie” (4:08), “Serenade” (1:06), “All The Kids Are Gone” (4:50), “Melting” (5:26), “Free” (7:29), “Religion” (7:21), “I Can’t Imagine” (5:27), “I Want It All” (5:41), “2nd Suite For Children” (:27), “Where You Want To Go” (5:07), “Sleep On” 4:28), “Uke” (:38), “Something I Need To Know” (5:05), “I Choose You” (3:01)
Dale Thompson - Lead Vocals
Troy Thompson - Guitars, Cello, Keyboards & Ukulele
Brad Holland - Bass
Jay Meese - Drums