The digital music era is slowly putting to death the physical album. More recently, it seems like it may be starting to kill off the record label as well. More and more, artists are finding it easier to avoid the deals with record labels and put out their music independently through music stores like Amazon, iTunes and Bandcamp, which would bring in more profit for the artist. Or, no profit at all, if you decide to go through Come&Live! This is exactly what Abel decided to do. Having put out an EP with Dreamt Music (Facedown's indie rock imprint), they have since moved on to become one of Come&Live!'s newer signings. Their first free album is a full length record entitled Lesser Men.
Abel's music can fairly accurately be described as a toned down As Cities Burn from their Come Now Sleep era. The guitars and bass spend time during songs exploring, and taking the sound wherever it needs to go. Accompanied by the excellent drumming that follow along nicely, but definitely don't take a back seat, it's not hard to see why Abel is a band to watch for in the future. The music is well-written and executed, and it changes as the lyrics demand. When the lyrics call for a slower pace, like when "The Martyr" starts with "In the cold light, You looked like someone I knew years ago, before You were broken, and You loved me and said I was beautiful, before I denied You, before I could not speak Your name," the music will slow itself to just a simple acoustic guitar. The song picks up later with a faster drum beat and some punk-style riffs as they call Jesus' command ("There's no greater love, no greater call than when you said 'Come follow Me'"). The opening song, "Silver," is a slower, worshipful song that immediately jumps into the second song, "Saints." When it does, it goes from a slower tone (accommodating the worship) into a more upbeat tone when they start crying out, "If only we had eyes to see to see You with, if only we had ears to hear!" I also love the upbeat sound of "Standing Still," which spends time praising the Lord and recognizing who He is in our lives. The boys of Abel have some great chemistry with one another, and it shines on Lesser Men.
Hope and worship are two things you'll find plenty of in this album. While "Saints" recalls being far away from God when we once were so close ("There was a time when I would see visions of Your glory in every story, a hero of the faith, of Your name, with focus like a lion, but now I'm dying to see Your face"), vocalist Kevin Kneifel lovingly sings, "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, choruses sung when my blue skies are turning gray" in the album's title track. The bridge of "Atlantic: The Broken Hearted King" says "You are the One I've been waiting for, You are the only voice I hear," while its partner track "Atlantic: The Voice in the Tides" sings "Though I know there's an ocean between You and me, You still light my way." But my favorite track, by far, is "Standing Still." It's a mild rocker, and it's a calling out to simply be loved by our Father, "So I'll stand still to know You, when I just want to be loved, and You are the air that I breathe, when I just want to be loved, You are the ocean on my feet, when I just want to be loved, so I will stand still to know You more." Sometimes the most beautiful thing is doing nothing but resting in Jesus, letting Him love you.
These days, in an effort to save time and money, sometimes bands will make "new" records using previously released songs from whatever EP(s) they had out before (recent examples include Abandon and Philmont). In the case of Abel, only one song on Lesser Men is a previous recording, that being "Standing Still," which was available not on Abel's Dreamt Music EP, The Honest Love, but rather on a free split EP with a band called Lorien (it was available through Indievisionmusic.com). To record nine new songs for an album that they won't make any profit on is a testimony to their dedication to spreading the message of the Gospel through their honest and beautiful music (and if they were going to include an older song, "Standing Still" was definitely the way to go). Lesser Men is available for free download through Come&Live!, but it's worth the purchase if you decide to go through any online retailers. Either way, put Abel's Lesser Men on your list of albums to get this year.
- Review date: 10/14/10, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com