Long time Christian music fans are likely very familiar with Audio Adrenaline. The rockers released one solid album after another and Mark Stuart was the heart and literal voice. Throughout the years, Mark's vocals deteriorated and he began giving up singing duties to guitarist Tyler Burkum. The original Audio A called it quits in 2007; about 21 years after they began as A-180. While it was sad to see them go, Mark's ailing vocals and over 20 years of memories to relish made it easier. Five years after their supposed end, Audio A was resurrected. Bassist Will McGinniss returned to the line-up alongside CCM icon Kevin Max. It was a strange thought at first, but the new group worked. Kings & Queens was a successful, although short-lived, run for the band. Seemingly, as quickly as K-Max was introduced as the new singer of Audio A, he was gone; along with the only original member in McGinniss. Another incarnation was announced, but that lasted for an even less amount of time. Finally, "Audio Adrenaline 3.0" was introduced with a completely new band. This last change has caused a lot of heartache for many fans and made others question the intentions of keeping an old band name for a completely new group. No matter how you may view the situation, Sound of the Saints has arrived.
One will notice very quickly that this isn't like any Audio Adrenaline album that you've ever heard before. "Move" starts the album with a pseudo hip-hop snare and beat. The song itself actually has potential--especially in a live setting--but things like the computerized snare make it really hard to enjoy. The lead single, and arguably weakest track, is up next. In all honesty, "Love Was Stronger" just sounds like a generic radio pop worship song (it's actually a cover of a song by worship leader Josiah James). Other than a really positive and spiritual message, there really isn't much else positive to take away from this one. The self-titled track is an acoustic number that leads into what is supposed to be a more aggressive song in "Out of the Fire." Musically, there is still a pop vibe that takes away from what could have been if it were left a little more raw and gritty; like an Audio A rocker should be. "Miracles," "Rejoice," and "Spirit Burn" follow in that order and offer up more music built for Christian radio. "Saved My Soul" is in contention with "Love Was Stronger" for the album low. The super poppy tune makes it seem like the guys were trying way too hard for this particular sound. The first really redeeming song, however, comes with "So Can I." The stripped-down piano and vocals in the beginning tell a story that is much more touching than the standard worship fare from earlier. While it would've been nice for the music to keep the plain piano going throughout, the song still ends up being one of album's best. Sound of the Saints wraps up with an interesting number in "World Changers." It doesn't sound like the Audio Adrenaline of days past, but it does have the spirit of one of those older Audio A songs. The anthem that encourages us to reach others by showing Christ's love is definitely reminiscent of past AA themes and is in line with Mark Stuart's Hands and Feet Project ministry.
As a fan of Audio Adrenaline--the real Audio Adrenaline--it's extremely difficult to listen to Sound of the Saints as an Audio A work. Musically, it's way more poppy, and quite a bit more generic, than anything we've heard in an AA record before. If you can step outside of the group's name and listen to the album as a pop/rock/worship album from a new band, it becomes a bit better. This is definitely not the worst sounding album to release in recent memory, but it just fails to impress. Hardcore Audio A fans are likely to be the most difficult to please, and rightfully so. We've come to expect a certain standard from the Audio Adrenaline name, but that standard falls woefully short here. Old school AA fans will almost certainly want to skip this album, but younger music fans, those unfamiliar with AA's impress back catalog, or those just wanting a positive Christ-centered message set to some catchy tunes should find plenty of enjoyment in it.- Review date: 5/3/15, written by Michael Weaver of Jesusfreakhideout.com
While 2013's Kings & Queens suffered a bit from a lack of central lyrical focus, it was at least an album of its own, sometimes operating as a subtle tribute to the CCM greats. Sound of the Saints takes another step back, however, by serving up ten songs without any musical ties to one another; it's to the point that if the tracklisting was shuffled in any order, the final product wouldn't change. Even the moments where Audio A tries not to blend in the standard CCM sound ring hollow, such as the title track's blatant style copy of Phillip Phillips and "World Changers" directly lifting from 30 Seconds to Mars. The album's lead single "Love Was Stronger" does improve ever so slightly with each listen, but to call it a "high point" of the album is quite a reach. There's no mistaking the talent of the band members here (it's arguable that Adam Agee's vocals sound even better here than during his Stellar Kart days), but execution falls apart on far too many of the album's cuts.
Listeners inevitably will compare Sound of the Saints to Audio A's vast discography. With every original Audio A member gone, is that fair? Frankly, it doesn't matter. If the name and music is meant to honor the legendary band from the 1990's and early 2000's, an album of this quality fails at that goal. But if this band's name is merely just a name (and "Rejoice" is not meant as a nod to the Audio A song of the same name on Lift), the album stays the same as a bore of a CCM effort that offers very few surprises. And with this lose-lose scenario, Sound of the Saints will lack a positive legacy, memorable for none of the right reasons. - Review date: 5/3/15, written by Roger Gelwicks of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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