In 2006, pop rock foursome Sanctus Real released the emotional journey otherwise known as The Face Of Love, mixing honest and personal lyrics with radio friendly melodies. Now, almost two years and the addition of a guitarist later, the band releases their fourth studio project, We Need Each Other - a diverse collection of signature Sanctus anthems presented in what may be their most organic form yet.
A record's opening can make or break the album. When the delectable wailing guitars of the rocker "Turn On The Lights" peel out, an infectious energy erupts and listeners are treated to one of the strongest opening tracks in recent memory. As the songs trickle down the slim, ten-count track list, a further sense of growth - even from their impressive last record - can immediately be detected. While the gears shift to a more pop-based approach for the title track, a bold and monumental anthem for the importance of companionship and communication, the band maintains a sound that is altogether a progression forward, but unmistakably remains Sanctus Real. And the fact the band now features another guitarist in Pete Provost to aid original member Chris Rohman in the riff-making, the maturation and luscious songwriting comes as no surprise.
The record continues its strong opening with the raw, rock sound of "Black Coal," a song about finding ourselves as treasures in God's sight, but reveals its softer side with the dramatically more subdued "Whatever You're Doing (Something Heavenly)." It's with tracks like the latter, as well as "Lay Down My Guns," and "Eternal" that Sanctus offers some of their token, spiritually meaty pop/rock ballads, but also creates the only potential problem in that they feel at greater contrast with the album's rock numbers because those songs are that much livelier and fuller hear than ever before. Still, each track has a charm and worth all its own, and those wondering where the more upbeat songs went to will find "Leap Of Faith" to be a deliciously delivered (and slightly darker) call to anyone running from the Truth to take a chance on Him. Sanctus executes this rock track with such finesse that it seems a bit of a tease when it's followed by a string of considerably more restrained songs.
On each of Sanctus Real's previous three studio albums, the band has offered at least one heartfelt and authentic worship song while keeping it true to the band's stylings. The title track from The Face Of Love was probably the band's best to date and "Sing," on this record, comes remarkably close. "Sing" aims for a more communal use, and the simple but exuberant chorus does the trick nicely, "Sing, oh, sing with one voice / How sweet it will be when we sing / One church under one King / And we will sing!" It's so refreshing to hear a song that's undeniably worship yet, at the same time, doesn't feel like you've heard it countless times before. You have to give the guys props for accomplishing that.
As the album draws to a close, the standout ballad has to be one of the band's most unique songs for them yet - a shot at more of a folk sound. "Half Our Lives" dives headlong into something you might expect from Sixpence None The Richer before Sanctus Real, as the band enlists the help of Nashville vocalist Katie Herzig to duet with Sanctus frontman Matt Hammitt for this ode to childhood summertimes. The sentimental look back is a nice prelude to the grand finale, a thoughtful look ahead in "Legacy." The anthemic rock song takes the record out almost as memorably as it begins, and leaves the listener thinking about what kind of legacy they might leave on this earth when their time has passed. Hammitt's vocals soar as he cries, "Oh, I want to leave a legacy to be remembered / More than just a memory that fades away / Because we only, we only get one life."
Last year signaled the end of an era in Christian rock with Audio Adrenaline's retirement, leaving a great void by such an inspiring group of guys with a keen sense for writing pop/rock tunes to impact abroad. Sanctus Real's fourth album We Need Each Other is one of the first albums to really show the kind of caliber in songwriting that bands like AudioA have exhibited before them, and it looks like Sanctus Real could be ready to fill the void they left. Whether or not that's true, We Need Each Other remains a solid collection of pop/rock songs with heart and soul like few albums seem to be able to capture these days. There's no going-through-the-motions here. We've come to expect great things from Sanctus Real, and with another applause-worthy album under their belts, it's great things they continue to produce. Truly a wonderful way to kick off a new year of music!- Reviewed: 2/10/08 (PReviewed 12/25/07), by John DiBiase of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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