It's not often for a new band to release an album that reminds you fondly of what it is you like about rock music. Having been weened on the 90's brand of Christian rock music, my heart will always partially dwell in that decade. Virginia-based rock quartet DecembeRadio seems to pull heavily from the nineties and before, mixing many influences they were brought up on (King's X, Lenny Kravitz, Jet, and The Black Crowes to name a few) to weave a southern rock flavor with style.
The thought of a record in 2006 reflecting some of the more fond elements of the previous decade shouldn't scare anyone off. DecembeRadio's mix of rock, pop, southern rock, and even hints of contemporary, make this a relevant release. It may just be the way DecembeRadio can mix these ingredients together along with a sense of when to be serious and when to have fun that makes this record stand out. The band's bold approach to their faith also seems to be something more frequently found in the Christian artists of the decade past. DecembeRadio's self-titled debut releases at a time when many of the bands signing and releasing within the Christian market walls are struggling not to be slapped with the "Christian band" tag. Sadly, it becomes refreshing when a band like DecembeRadio is making no bones about what they believe in.
A forward approach to their faith doesn't come without its problems however. While the sincerely catchy openers "Can't Hide" and "Dangerous" have driving electric guitars and soaring vocal harmonies, they also possess slightly corny lyrics about not being able to hide from God and wanting to live on the edge with their faith. That isn't to say all of their songs suffer from underpar songwriting. The more subdued tracks "Drifter" and "Least Of These" stand out as fairing better.
Josh Reedy's lead vocals blend elements of Guardian's Jamie Rowe and Reflescent Tide's Jeff Weiss (NOTE: for those who don't know, Reflescent Tide was a band most comparable to Creed, but who were doing the "Creed" sound before Creed even did the "Creed" sound... and they did it better). But DecembeRadio exercises their diverse and varied sound in the third track, tossing a curve with "Love Found Me (Love's Got A Hold)," a pop/rock anthem with a thick southern flavoring and even gospel elements. The soulful guitars, horn accents and gospel choir are all reminiscent of Third Day despite Reedy's distinct vocal contrast from Mac Powell. "Greed" offers a more bluesy classic rock feel ala Reflescent Tide and later Holy Soldier, creating one of the first real highlights of their self-titled debut. "Drifter" shifts gears once again for the kind of southern back porch acoustic ballad you may hear nowadays from Kid Rock, with a little melody flashback to the great ballads Bride once crafted.
"Live and Breathe" is a southern rock anthem with groovy guitar licks and an unashamed worship theme while "Alright My Friend" is a more sensitive pop track about reaching out to someone who's hurting. The band's noteworthy debut draws to an impressive close with "Razor," another driving rock highlight, "Table," a fast-paced rock track that draws comparison to Guardian's later modern rock efforts, and ends with a softer and more reverent tone in "Least Of These."
Familiarity plays out to DecembeRadio's benefit as the band's varied debut is a catchy and spiritually sound nod to the rock music that inspired these guys to get in the game. Fans of Third Day or Big Tent Revival's more edgy songs, as well as Guardian, Holy Soldier, Reflescent Tide, Creed, or just good old southern pop/rock and roll will want to tune into DecembeRadio.- Review date: 6/25/06, written by John DiBiase
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