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
Sorrows Joy - Fallow Ground
   
Musical Style: Heavy Metal Produced By: Aaron Azevedo
Record Label: Independent Country Of Origin: USA
Year Released: 2008 Artist Website:
Tracks: 8 Rating: 85%
Running Time: 44:59
Sorrows Joy - Fallow Ground

Several “one man projects” have come out of the Christian metal scene the past decade.  The most well known, of course, is the self-titled debut of Theocracy, a 2003 release in which founding member Matt Smith handled, well, just about everything- including lead and choir vocals, rhythm, lead, acoustic and bass guitar, keyboards, orchestration and drum programming.  The ever controversial Sydney Allen Johnson of Babylon Mystery Orchestra deserves mention as does Chris Dickens, who has produced a pair of hard rock albums – Show Me The Way from 2005 and a self-titled offering in 2008 – under the moniker Mission Of One.  Tommy Johansson, the brainchild of Sweden’s ReinXeed, oversaw all aspects of the recording (minus drums) of the melodic power metal of his 2008 CMS/Rivel Records debut The Light.  Finally, Aaron Azevedo, a native of Midlothian, Texas, is the latest artist to “go it alone” on his project Sorrows Joy and its 2008 independently released full length debut Fallow Ground.

Fallow Ground delivers a mixture of classic and true metal with the occasional touch of the progressive or doom-like.  What stands out most about the project is the technical prowess of the artist’s songwriting skills in that much of the material here is not your typical “verse-chorus-verse” variety.  Take album opener “The Tongue”, for example, a single-verse mid tempo plodder or the progressive time changes associated with “Sanctuary”, the doom-ish “The Suffering” and apocalyptic “One Nation”.  Azevedo, however, proves he can compose a song with quite the abundant chorus hook as well, as is demonstrated on the catchy “Fallow Ground”, worshipful “Lift Up The Amen” and straightforward metal of “How Long”.

Azevedo, again, plays a “jack-of-all-trades” role in contributing all lead vocal, bass and rhythm and lead guitar duties.  Guest appearances are made on drums by Tony Morra and Chris McHugh.  Vocally, Azevdo brings a clean but mostly mid-octave delivery heavily rooted in the eighties.  While he might not posses the charisma of Matt Smith (Theocracy) or range of Tommy Johansson (ReinXeed), he performs capably throughout the project and perfectly complements the style of metal presented here.

Nevertheless, it is on guitar that the artist shines.  Azevedo, for a lack of better words, is the tightest rhythm guitarist you will find this side of Jimmy P. Brown II (Deliverance).  If not convinced then check out the driving riffs he imbues “Fallow Ground”, “Lift Up The Amen” and “One Nation”.  Lead guitar is also capably done, best standing out on “Sanctuary” and “How Long”.  If anything, I wish Azevedo had chosen to cut loose a bit more in this area (or bring in a lead guitarist if soloing is not an area in which he is completely comfortable).

Production values are competent if not unremarkable.  The rhythm guitar, of course, is capably done but a slight hint of muddiness in the low end prevents the drums from standing out as they should.  A bit more power and projection is needed here.

Lyrically, this is nothing less than an inspired work.  It is obvious the artist put a great deal of time and thought into the lyric process, addressing topics ranging from the character qualities of God, the second coming and faith in times of trouble.  As a matter of fact, Fallow Ground, while not a concept album, seems to be based upon an underlying theme of how God stands beside us in our most trying and difficult times.  “The Suffering” sums things up best: “Even through abiding pain/His grace and mercy they still remain.”

Heavy as all get out would be the best way to describe the blend of rhythm guitar and pulsating bass lines that get “The Tongue” underway.  The song proceeds to even out as it powers through its first and second verse, grinding ahead doggedly before transitioning to a lengthy instrumental section upheld by more forceful rhythm guitar.  Closing out “The Tongue” is female narration in Hungarian that comes across in the form of a prayer:

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks
Oh Lord touch my heart hat my tongue also would be clean

“The Tongue” is aptly entitled:

Who can tame the tongue, try and tie it down
Kill those idle words where wickedness abounds
With this tongue I curse
With this tongue I bless
“With this tongue I boast
But struggle to confess

“Sanctuary” presents time changes galore.  The song opens calmly to vocal harmonies before launching into a fast paced guitar riff.  Just as abruptly tapering to more vocal harmonies, “Sanctuary” gently drifts ahead before slowly building initiative as the rhythm guitar returns to its previous place of prominence.  Amazing.  The instrumental section that ensues is carried by some grittily played lead guitar.  “Sanctuary” finds the artist making a statement of faith:

Who do I run to
Lord where else would I go
Lord You are my Adonai
I am home beneath the
Shadow of Your Wings
Lord You are my El Shaddai

Sanctuary, Oh Lord

The albums punchy title track delivers one of those catchy hooks guaranteed to pull you in and refuse to let go.  The song immediately kicks in to a tenacious guitar riff, relentlessly plowing ahead prior to picking up in pace for a stalwart chorus of the gripping variety.  After two and a half minutes, “Fallow Ground” slows to a calmly played guitar as it moves on to an emotionally charged passage:

Break up the hardened ground
With Your Holy hands
Cast your seed all across this baron land
Speak Your word and let Your water flow
Pour fourth the rains on the fields
Where nothing grows

An extended stretch of rhythm guitar and vocal harmonies ensues before “Fallow Ground” repeats its verse and chorus one final time.  Reaping what you sow is the subject matter here:

Buried just beneath the soil
Your heart is beating
I hear the sound
Brother I’m trying to find your heart
Beneath the fallow ground

“Lift Up The Amen” combines the best elements of metal, worship and the progressive to put in place an atmosphere on the stately side of things.  Showcasing another abundant hook, the song moves its full five minutes in a sublime manner to a razor edged riff and Azevedo’s persuasive vocal delivery.  What else can you say except that “Lift Up The Amen” is inspired- and not just musically but lyrically as well:

Word of God light my way
Give ears to the proud to hear when You speak
With all of creation and Heaven I sing
To the Lord of all and the King of Kings
Sing Alleluia, life up the Amen

We confess You were manifest in the flesh
The express image of the invisible God
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain
Alleluia our Lord God, omnipotent reigns
Sing Alleluia, life up the Amen

The mid-paced “How Long” proves a classy track with its smooth sounding aura and engrossing melody.  Heavy but catchy at the same time, I can see Saint or Barren Cross doing something like this- as a matter of fact, “How Long” can best be described as the most straightforward track here (something which is an observation and by no means a critique).  What also stands out about “How Long” is its stretch of riveting lead guitar, by far the albums best.  “How Long” pleads for the return:

Hey, hey, hey Lord how long must I endure
Give me strength in these wicked times
Lord sustain and keep me pure
You said like a thief in the night
And no one knows the hour or time
So I’m watching the skies for You
As the hands of time unwind

“The Suffering”, the albums longest piece at just under eight minutes, starts slowly to an almost doom-like riff only to decelerate to a gently played guitar.  Gracefully drifting through its verse portions, the song abruptly picks up pace upon acquiring a poignantly driven chorus upheld by a biting rhythm guitar.  The inauspicious instrumental section closing out the final two and a half minutes here adds a fitting touch.  “The Suffering” deals with maintaining the faith during times of trial (and how God is always right there beside us):

Call me stricken, call me blessed
Can you reconcile this thorn in my flesh
Even through abiding pain
His grace and mercy they still remain

Through my affliction and through my tears
I am discovering
I’m not alone, You’re always right here
In the midst of my suffering

Introduced to a drum solo, “One Nation” takes off energetically as Azevedo cuts loose with a shouted side to his vocal delivery.  After a minute and a half, however, the song worshipfully tapers off as the word “Hosanna” is continually repeated, the grand atmosphere upheld for the bridge that follows as the character qualities of God and the second coming are reinforced:

All consuming flame, Holy is Your name
Righteous, merciful, the Lion and the Lamb
Come Jesus, come!  Come receive Your bride
Come take her up!  Lord draw her to Your side

Righteous Judge break the neck of the harlot nation!
Come King of Kings, Lord of Lords! God of Salvation!

A bluesy lead guitar steps forward as “Hosanna” is, again, continually repeated.  “One Nation” proceeds to pick back up in pace and close at an upbeat tempo.

“Bright” ends the album, appropriately, as an acoustic based ballad highlighting a touching melody and moving lyrical direction:

All creation groans and travails
As the Spirit intercedes
My heart and flesh cry out
As deep calls to deep

We speak with wisdom by the power of God
The mysteries of the Living Word
My Lord prepares a place for me
Eye has not seen, ear has not heard

Fallow Ground stands out with the strength of its songwriting. Technical but catchy, each track brings that extra spark of creativity that would allow it to hold up under repeated play.  Another positive is the artists amazing work on rhythm guitar.  The only constructive comment worth noting is some slight muddiness to the low end.  All around, Fallow Ground comes with a strong recommendation for fans of classic and true metal, while those into progressive and doom metal should be able to get into this as well.

Review by: Andrew Rockwell

Track Listing: “The Tongue” (4:20), “Sanctuary” (4:54), “Fallow Ground” (6:07), “Lift Up The Amen” (5:19), “How Long” (5:53), “The Suffering” (7:47), “One Nation” (6:41), “Bright” (3:59)

Musicians
Aaron Azevedo – Lead Vocals, Guitars and Bass
Tony Mora & Chris McHugh - Drums

 

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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