Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Letter 7 - Follow The Light
   
Musical Style: Melodic Metal Produced By: JD Evans
Record Label: Independent Country Of Origin: USA
Year Released: 2008 Artist Website: Letter 7
Tracks: 12 Rating: 95%
Running Time: 48:52
Letter 7 - Follow The Light

It is without a doubt that Stryper is the most popular and well known Christian band to come out of the melodic metal scene of the eighties.  The era produced several other noteworthy “while metal” groups as well, including Barren Cross, Bloodgood, Bride, Guardian, Holy Soldier, Sacred Warrior, Saint and Whitecross-  all of which signed a label deal and released at least two full length albums.  Equally able – but featuring nowhere near the longevity – are the likes of Armageddon, Arsenal, Eternal Ryte and Rage Of Angels (“one hit wonders” that, after recording a strong debut offering, were never heard from again).  The talent level of the time goes so deep that quality unsigned acts such as Soldier, Paradox and Apostle also deserve mention.  At this point I find it necessary to stop and evaluate how the current eighties influenced melodic metal scene adds up.  Well, while the shear volume of bands has dropped off somewhat, the level of ability has not, reflected in the polished sounds of Germany’s Mad Max and Ontario Canada’s hard rocking Unforsaken.  Eden’s Way, a three piece unit out of Tennessee, must be noted for the melodic rock of its very fine 2006 independent release Rock Solid.

One band that warrants consideration with the genres best – both old AND new – is Phoenix, Arizona based Letter 7.  Letter 7 got started in early 2007 by releasing its critically acclaimed debut Salt Of The Earth.  The summer of 2008 finds the group presenting with its sophomore effort Follow The Light, another high quality work also charting the waters of melodic metal and hard rock territory.  The key word here is “melodic” in that the album continues to showcase Letter 7’s penchant for composing a song with a solid chorus hook.  This is best exhibited on up-tempo tracks “Runnin’” (great radio friendly feel on this one), “Follow The Light” (non-stop energy here) and “Laodicea” (a showstopper bordering on speed metal).  Notable hooks are also delivered on the melodic based sounds of “Liar” and “Love Covers All” in addition to the top of the line ballad “Lifeline”.  Mid-tempo numbers such as the moody “Send Me An Angel”, sublime “Prayer Warriors” and heavy duty “Nail In The Cross” prove memorable as well.  

Similar to Salt Of The Earth, Follow The Light finds founding member JD Evans handling the majority of the instrumentation- including rhythm and lead guitar, keyboards, bass and drums.  How is that for versatility?  In all seriousness, JD’s work on rhythm guitar – providing for some riffs that are fast and energetic and others heading in a slower and more driving direction – helps to make this the heavier effort when compared to Salt Of The Earth.  Lead guitar wise, JD’s playing comes straight from the Rex Carroll (Whitecross) school of shredding (“Nail In The Cross”, “Follow The Light” and “Lifeline” display this best).  Yes, the soloing here is that good and helps JD to rank with todays underrated guitar heroes.

While the departure of Tom Collete, who handled lead vocal duties on Salt Of The Earth, proved a disappointment, Letter 7 does not lose anything with newcomer Steve Young.  If I were to invite a comparison between the two, Steve brings a bit more of a “high end” feel to his delivery while still exhibiting the same type of abundant range.  The best way to describe his style might be a combination of Robert Valdes (Regime) and Jimi Bennett (King James) but with a touch of Jimmy Arceneaux (Soldier) or Rey Parra (Sacred Warrior) thrown in.  Mostly staying in smooth sounding territory, Steve can hit a high note with ease (such as on “Follow The Light”) but can also reach down low and add a touch of grit to his delivery (as found on “Prayer Warriors).

Production values are professionally done, combining a near perfect mix of upfront rhythm guitar with fluidly placed lead guitar and a resounding low end.

The album starts to “In The Beginning”, a short (1:58) instrumental upheld its distance by a blend of keyboards, acoustic and rhythm guitar.

“Runnin’” delivers an abundant melody of a near commercial variety.  Standing out with its radio friendly sensibilities, the song takes a plethora of upbeat impetus and joins it with one of those infectious chorus hooks guaranteed to pull you in and refuse to let go.  I cannot help but think if this was recorded a couple of decades ago it would have “huge hit” written all over it.  “Runnin’” is a number about God reaching out to man:

I’m reaching out to you
Come and take my hand
What are you gonna do
How can I make you understand
When all is gravity and you’re falling down
And no one seems to care
I’m here to offer you an easy way out
Just call and I’ll be there
You try to hide, you’re in disguise, open your eyes 

The album heads in a slower but heavier direction with “Nail In The Cross”.  The song gets underway to several seconds of screaming rhythm guitar only to settle down to a crisp acoustic guitar for its first verse.  As initiative builds, the rhythm guitar returns in full force and leads the way to an unwavering chorus shored up by heavy duty backing vocals.  A stretch of razor edged lead guitar tops off one of my favorite numbers from the album.

“Follow The Light” begins to clashing symbols before rollicking ahead to an upbeat guitar riff.   Sustaining the energetic heading during its verse portions, the song evens out upon obtaining a brief but smooth sounding chorus that finds Young displaying the full range to his voice.  The albums title track is aptly named:

God of salvation
Oh, give us the wisdom to see
Lead us not into temptation but to victory
There is a choice which we all must decide
Living for wrong or for right
Wide is the road that will lead us to death
Narrow the road is to life

Follow the Light, run from the dark…

“Send Me An Angel” is a plodding – almost swarthy – piece that draws upon the faintest touch of a commercial sensibility.  Heavy and driving during its verse portions, the song reflects the commercial elements in question for a melodically tinged chorus in which keyboards play a distant but highlighting role.  An emotionally played guitar solo aligns itself with the songs moving feel, both musically and lyrically:

The road of sorrow must come to an end
As I turn to God’s wisdom and truth
Slain in repentance
I long to be renewed
The fullness of life has left long ago
Now I understand how lost that I am
Without you in control

Things return to an up-tempo direction with “Mystery”.  Energetically driven from start to finish, the song tirelessly romps  through its spirited first verse before reaching the succinctly delivered – but vigorous – chorus that follows.  The unrelenting impetus here will keep you coming back time and again.  “Mystery” deals with the trinity:

So many secret revelations
Wisdom beyond this age
God holds the keys to the mysteries
His ways are not our ways
Awesome adoration
Fills my wondering mind
Ruler of creation
Knew us in His mind before we were alive

Three in One
Mystery
Father, Spirit, Son
Holy Trinity

“Lifeline” represents the albums lone ballad.  Introduced to a pronounced bass line backed by a quietly played guitar, the song gracefully flows ahead until the rhythm guitar moves to the front of the mix prior to a majestically flowing chorus allowing the band to make a statement of faith.

I’ll be your Lifeline
Your main line
Never let you down
I’ll be your Lifeline
For the rest of your life
I’ll be around

A bristling run of lead guitar is added to a number that, again, gives rise to a faith based message:

The harder you weep, the stronger I’ll be when I hold you
The more you’re afraid, the closer my angels will guard you
He harder the fight, the faster your wounds I will heal
The greater the pain, the greater the love I will give

“Laodicea” can best be described as a three minute explosion of non-stop energy.  By far the albums fastest piece, the song rollicks ahead from the get go, not letting up in tempo as it races towards a breakneck chorus in which a near speed metal environs prevails.  The Laodicean Church from Revelation 3:14-22 is the subject matter here:

These are the warnings of the faithful and true
I know your deeds and I’m about to reject you
You’ve let the world come in and compromise your faith
You need to figure out just who you serve today

So be hot or be cold
Indecisions gettin’ old
You’re either for me or against me
Make a choice
Laodicea…

The palatial metal of “Prayer Warriors” proves quite the classy piece, taking a sublime mid-tempo milieu and joining it with a driving chorus (that finds Young adding an element of backbone to his delivery) and a run of technical lead guitar certain to turn the head of Rex Carroll (Whitecross).  Great song.  Spiritual warfare is the subject matter to “Prayer Warriors”:

Faith is my shield
Truth is my sword
Evil approaches
Preparing for war
Armed with the Word
Angels defend
Holding the line we’ll endure to the end
The gates of hell will not prevail

Prayer warriors
Lift up the name of the Almighty One
Prayer warriors
We fight for right till the battle is done

Commencing to a brief drum solo, “My Destiny” takes off to a forward bass line and several seconds of fiery lead work.  The song proceeds to maneuver through its first verse with the rhythm guitar pulsating in and out of the mix, gaining further initiative as it obtains an uplifting chorus on the unyielding side of things.  “My Destiny” was written from the standpoint of Christ at the time of the crucifixion:

Father if you’re willing take this cup from me
My sweat turns to blood in my anxiety
My soul is overwhelmed to the point of death
I feel my hear aching with every breath

The Spirit is willing
But the flesh is weak
Won’t somebody come
And keep watch with me

Don’t fall in temptation
Wake up and pray
The sinners are coming
I’m gonna be betrayed

“Liar” moves in a melodic based hard rock direction.  Musically, this one brings to mind other commercial metal bands such as Stryper, Soldier and Angelica with its “big hook” chorus and equally abundant backing vocals.  Despite coming in at just three minutes, “Liar” will pull you in with its gripping energy and unwavering, up-tempo initiative.  Terrific guitar solo as well.  I do not need to let you know what this one is about:

He is the father of lies
The one we despise
Prowlin’ around like a wolf in disguise
He belongs to the night

He is the counterfeit Christ
Even masquerading as an angel of light
Epitome of evil
Rotten to the core

Album closer “Love Covers It All” maintains the melodic based heading.  The song flows through its verse portions with a hint of keyboards highlighting the backdrop, not evening out until making a smooth transition to an emotionally charged chorus expounding upon the true source of salvation:

Love covers it all
Every debt has been paid
On the cross where He gave it all
I was finally free on the day I received
Salvation from His majesty
His love covers it all

Follow The Light builds upon everything that made Salt Of Thee Earth successful: catchy songwriting (there is not a bad track here), over the top lead vocals, adept lead guitar and solid production values.  If eighties influenced metal with a guitar driven edge is your cup of tea, then by all means make Follow The Light a necessary purchase.  All in all, I anticipate this to challenge Thieves And Liars’ When Dreams Become Reality for album of the year.

Review by: Andrew Rockwell

Track Listing: “In The Beginning” (1:58), “Runnin’” (4:54), “Nail In The Cross” (4:39), “Follow The Light” (4:07), “Send Me An Angel” (4:26), “Mystery” 3:56), “Lifeline” (4:21), “Laodicea” (3:11), “Prayer Warriors” (4:09), “My Destiny” (5:01), “Liar”, (3:08) “Love Covers All” (5:04)

Musicians
JD Evans – Guitars, Keyboards, Bass & Drums
Steve Young – Lead Vocals

Also Reviewed: Letter 7 – Salt Of The Earth

 

Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
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