When former Flyleaf vocalist, Lacey Sturm, walked away from the band, fans were understanding of her reasons, but were obviously disappointed. The disappointment came to a crescendo when Flyleaf's first post-Lacey album was an underwhelming outing. In the meantime, Lacey did some work with Billy Graham and released her memoir, The Reason. Now, nearly three and a half years later, Lacey is returning with her first solo record. Life Screams was written with her husband and guitarist, Joshua Sturm. While Flyleaf took a more pop/rock approach after her departure, Lacey herself, has gone for the hard rock sound -- complete with screamed vocals -- that fans loved. If you thought Lacey was going to come back soft, think again.
The album kicks off heavy with the lead single, "Impossible." The chorus is an anthem to God's power as she sings, "Every morning I see another miracle. I can't believe I'm living them impossible. We are the same; we are the wonder. Another day of living the impossible." "The soldier" starts with a more mellow tone, but develops into a really rocking riff for the chorus. Two hard rockers lead into one of the album's best cuts. "I'm Not Laughing" carries a really great vibe and just straight-up jams from front to back. It gets more intense at the end as Lacey repeatedly screams, "I'm not like you!" After three solid songs, one of the more interesting segments of the record begins. In "Vanity," Lacey and rapper Propaganda (the antagonist) have a spoken word battle back and forth about love. Propaganda is the king of spoken word, and while his appearance is unexpected, it's an excellent addition. The head-banger "Rot" (originally played live as "Vanity & Rot") picks up thematically from where "Vanity" left off. Lacey sings with conviction at the end of the verse as she says, "Oh my God, save my soul." The lyrics in the chorus itself challenge what the world calls beauty with, "The most disgusting lies are dressed in beauty that'll rot. Oh my God, You've won the coldest battle we have fought; deliverance is mine from all of this beauty that'll rot." "You're Not Alone," written after the death of a family member, starts with the sound of medical equipment and a beeping EKG. Instead of just adding sound effects in to go along with the message of the song, Lacey cleverly uses the effects with the rhythm of the song; the sounds become part of the music and not just a tacked on sound to gain extra effect. This method is far more creative and impactful. The album starts taking a more mild approach starting with "You're Not Alone" and culminates with the title track and "Faith" -- which are two of the softest songs on the album (the former being very reminiscent of something like "Bury Your Heart" from New Horizons).
The placement of the live Police cover, "Roxanne," is a little odd at second-to-last, but it's extremely well done, with Lacey and her band changing the song up a lot musically. The signature single down stroke guitar rhythm in the verses has been completed replaced by a much slower picked electric guitar, but the chorus goes full on rock 'n' roll and features Lacey screaming "Roxanne!" for the final lyric each time through. Some may question why she would include a song about a prostitute on the record, but it actually goes along with the message of hope that floods Life Screams. The lyrics are actually about encouraging the character to leave that lifestyle and in no way glorify prostitution. The additional lyrics included at the end really sell the point: "I know your heart is broken and it's left you so wide open. I know your heart is broken, Roxanne. Don't try to pick up the pieces, just leave 'em where they lie. I'm gonna give you a new heart tonight." These additional lyrics change the entire outlook of the song and make it a message from God and not just from some other guy. There are a couple of other lyrical changes to point out for the purists out there. The order of the first verse is changed and the repeated "Roxanne" from the chorus is dropped. The album closer is the acoustic number "Run to You" (not the Third Day song Lacey was featured in from Revelation). Despite the high energy and screams early in the album, the album's last song is very likely the most emotionally charged vocal performance present. The lyrics are inspired by the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). The words are quite powerful as Lacey sings, "I'll let you go if that's what you want, but I hope you know my love won't stop. You say it's not true and you call me a fool, but call out my name: I'll run to you." The song is the perfect closer and after one listen, you'll understand why the live track wasn't last on the track listing (which would be a more typical placement).
Lacey Sturm leaving Flyleaf left a void for many fans. She was such a powerful force and voice, and the band's music never really felt watered-down or generic. Thankfully, she has brought that same aspect to her solo album. The music still retains a pretty good blend of riff-driven sections and melodic rock sections and the vocals and lyricism may be better than ever. Lacey's voice is raw and emotional and the lyrics match. In a world where rock music offers messages of death and suicide with little to no hope, Lacey decides to shed some light on that darkness. Life Screams is chock-full of messages that, while at times come from a dark place, offer hope to a lost and dying world. Any fan of Flyleaf, or just good hard rock music in general, will definitely want to pick this album up. The biggest detractor is the slight musical lull that occurs just after the midway point. It's only February, but Lacey Sturm has set the bar very high for what the rock album of the year should sound like.- Review date: 2/11/16, written by Michael Weaver of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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