|Musical Style: Hard Rock/Metal||Produced By: Chris Dickens|
|Record Label: Tate Music Group||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2013||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 12||Rating: 85%|
We do not have a column labeled “exuberance” as part of our review score sheet. If we did, Hostile To The Gospel, the fourth full length album from Watertown, Tennessee based Chris Dickens’ Mission Of One project, would own it. No, Dickens is not breaking any new musical ground in comparison to past Mission Of One releases - continuing to walk a find line between blues based hard rock and straightforward heavy metal - but Hostile To The Gospel finds him making significant steps and strides in the key areas of production and songwriting. Where the exuberant aspect comes into play is seeing a talented artist (through hard work, determination and perseverance) coming into his own and reach his potential in the process. Let’s take a closer look at things:
Production stands out on first listen, bursting of the full on energy and crisp professionalism not always associated with independent releases (HTTG is a self-financed project pending distribution through Tate Music Group). Yes, credit Jacob Veal (for mixing the album) and “Pastor” Brad Windlan (from a mastering standpoint) but kudos to the artist for producing what amounts an IMMENSE guitar sound. Think prime Rez Band heavy (the groups late eighties material) and mid-period Bride (Snakes… era) in terms of the guitar tones here. As a matter of fact, if I were to record a hard rock album this is how I would want the guitars to sound- and similar to HTTG leave little doubt, as already noted, that things walk a fine line between the metal and hard rock genres.
Of equal note is songwriting. Dickens, if anything, proves masterful at interweaving both his new and older material (HTTG includes re-recorded version of two songs, “I Know” and “Give In To Him”, off the previous self-titled Mission Of One album from 2008) with the type of catchy hooks and riffs to draw you in on first listen. It makes for a consistent work that brings you back time and again in that the material here is so inherently infectious. A best of both worlds scenario is the upshot, in that the distinctive Mission Of One heaviness does not drown out the melodies and hooks (and creates a repetitive effect as a result) but rather enhances them.
Another reason the album sidesteps the pitfalls of repetition is the variety to its material. Again, a foundation of metal and hard rock but with several different takes on each genre.
Those into straight-on Rez Band meets Stonefuze meets Thieves & Liars hard rock will embrace “Crashing Down On You” (a three minute rumble of plastering guitars and gritty vocals) and “No Other” (every bit the mauler but with the more accessible feel). Likewise, early nineties Bride aficionados will be drawn to the bluesy groove to “I Know”. Approaching things from a more melodic standpoint are eighties style hard rockers “Give In To Him” and “The Third Door” and Southern flair of metal worship piece “Gloryland” (a rendering of the old Gospel hymn “Just Over In The Gloryland”).
A heavier metal based direction can be found in the catchy up-tempo groove of “Feed My Sheep” and “Prodigal” (sort of like the best qualities to X-Sinner & GX Project rolled into one) and shredding riff based mentality that define “Someone Save Me” and “Walk On Water” (Whitecross couldn’t do these better). Building upon the heaviness are “Does Anybody Care” and “Hostile”, two darker and weightier tracks giving rise to some sterner if not more ominous overtones.
Vocally, the artist might not bring the immediately recognizable charisma of Glenn Kaiser (Rez Band) or Dale Thompson (Bride) but performs creditably all the same. In terms of specifics, he presents with a joining of blues heavy grit with some resonant and lower-register overtones. The resulting deeper timbre cannot help but remind one of Randy Rose solo projects Sacrificium (1991) and Healing (1993). It also does not hurt that that HTTG presents with the same type of groove driven and low-end crunch inherit to the Rose material.
Dickens plays a jack of all trades role in also capably handling bass and rhythm guitar. Guest lead guitar appearances are made by David Franey (providing much of the soloing here) with shredders JD Evans (Letter 7), Kevin Hasselquist (Sardis) and Brad Windlan (Pastor Brad) providing spot duty. Also credit the artist for (mercifully) not going the programmed drum route (his brother Darren Dickens handles much of the timekeeping duties).
Lyrically, Dickens advises that HTTG “will meet even the strictest of lyrical standards” and that it is “a metal album that does not shy away from the reality that people need Jesus to be right with God”. And for those wondering, the title track (in the artist’s words) “is about how the media seems to want to erase the Christian faith. In that sense, they are the ones that are hostile to the gospel".
Exuberance is often defined as “filled with or characterized by a lively energy and excitement”. That cannot help but describe the impression left by HTTG with repeat listen: A delectable union of hard rock heaviness and metal riffs with the hooks and melodies to match. If into any of the already noted artists - Rez Band, Bride, X-Sinner, GX Project, Whitecross and Randy Rose - then HTTG comes with a solid recommendation. In the end a fun listen that is certain to rank within my top 10 by end of the year.
Track By Track
Short (at just over three minutes) but bludgeoning (in terms of heavy set mentality), “Crashing Down On You” proves a fitting upbeat opening with incisive riffs galore and Dickens adding some gravel soaked elements to his already blues heavy delivery. Despite the tenacious scene, quite the distinct hook makes its way to the forefront in the process.
“Does Anybody Care” presents with a darker and swarthier mentality in upholding the same metal based focus. The riff action is staunch and stalwart as it gets, particularly for the charged up verses with momentum tapering slightly as things descend for a resounding chorus in which the artist offers a deeper side to his register (and intermingles with backing vocals on the subtle side of things). I am reminded somewhat of Deliverance here.
“Feed My Sheep” is a metal anthem if there ever was one. An underlining element of groove prevails - with some X-Sinner meets GX Project signatures coming to the forefront - along with one of those all encompassing hooks that will refuse to go away. I particularly enjoy how guitars muscle to the front of the mix for an instrumental section carried by storming lead guitars.
“Give In To Him” starts quietly prior to morphing into a full bore rocker. The song approaches things from a more tempered and melodic standpoint (guitars are toned down in comparison to the three previous) its remaining distance, with an uplifting chorus and spirited milieu adding to what amounts an eighties influenced setting. A complementary smooth and even vocal approach is taken.
Metal hymn “Gloryland” just plain kicks. With not so subtle unflinching guitar walls setting the tone, the song powers to profound doses of youthful energy and (as expected) bluesy worshipful flavorings- sort of like an unexpected three car pile up of vintage Bride, Whitesnake and early Resurrection Band (or more specifically a joining of southern bluesy flair and metal edged guitars).
The albums title track sets an ominous tone. Stern and grave in demeanor, “Hostile” demands your attention with its foundational bass line (placed at just the right position in the mix) and chorus as curt and succinct as it gets (backed by big doses of vocal melodies). No, this might not be the catchiest without any big sing-along melodies, but powerful and not backing down all the same.
With its groove driven and funky overtones, “I Know” would fit in quite nicely with Kinetic Faith era Bride. The song, otherwise, delivers full on energy and non-stop verve its brief (3:05) distance, playing up a direct as it gets chorus (with the over the top hook to match) and a stretch of virtuoso lead guitar from JD Evans.
Straight on Rez Band style hard rock might be the best way to portray “No Other”. The song kicks up quite the storm, with guitars crisp and brazen as they get and momentum on the incessant side of things. Chorus is infectious as it gets in continually repeating the phrase “There’s no other God/There’s no other God/We will give our praise to no other/Because we know that there are no others”. In the end what we have is another good song in an album full of good songs.
“Prodigal” represents a return to a keyed up metal based X-Sinner meets GGX Project type sound. The song proves full on intense, with chugging guitar walls dominating and ardently done chorus delivering the refuse to go away hook driven goods. A technical bass line lays the foundational backbone.
“Someone Save Me” sustains the catchy melodic metal based propensities. The song features one of the catchiest anthem-like riffs that you will here (sort of like Daniel Band) and melds it with a low-end that could not be weightier. The melodically tinged chorus serves to tie the captivating atmosphere together. Once more, JD Evans delivers the goods with his proficient soloing abilities.
The albums most laid back and subdued, “The Third Door” is the closest any of the albums material comes to being a ballad (without falling into ballad territory). I am reminded of “Give In To Him” but, again, more tempered and with added emotional elements carrying things front to back. The guitar solo has eighties written all over it.
“Walk On Water” saves the best for last with its best of both worlds scenario, emphasizing the catchy riff driven mentality to “Someone Save Me” along with a heavy as it gets guitar sound bordering on traditional metal. Chorus grooves and flows with a hook bordering on the commercial. With Brad Windlan lending his expert soloing abilities, Whitecross cannot help but come to mind.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Crashing Down On You” (3:02), “Does Anybody Care?” (4:29), “Feed My Sheep” (3:18), “Give In To Him” (4:04), “Gloryland” (3:32), “Hostile” (4:37), “I Know” (3:05), “No Other” (4:17), “Prodigal” (3:41), “Someone Save Me” (4:22), , “The Third Door” (4:32), “Walk On Water” (3:24)
Chris Dickens - Lead Vocals, Guitars & Bass
David Franey - Guitars
Jacob Veal - Guitars
JD Evans - Guitars
Kevin Hasselquist - Guitars
Brad Windlan - Guitars
Darren Dickens - Drums
David England – Drums