The heavy Christian music scene lost a real gem when progressive post-metal juggernauts Hands decided to call it a day. Even though the band never made an official announcement, Hands frontman, guitarist and primary creative force Shane Ochsner alluded to the fact at hand in several interviews shortly after their 2011 masterpiece Give Me Rest was released, which was a real bummer, considering just how good of a record Give Me Rest is.
Whereas their 2009 Facedown Records debut Creator was more of a straightforward metalcore album, Give Me Rest greatly expanded upon the template set by Creator and introduced more ambient and atmospheric elements which profoundly impacted the emotional and intellectual weight of their music. It was certainly a high note to go out on, but at the same time, it was a disappointing prospect to accept that Hands' newfound musical brilliance would never be fully realized. Thank the good Lord above, then, that Ochsner shared in his fans' sentiments and decided to launch a new project in the form of Everything In Slow Motion.
Since the release of their first single Red last year, the debut full-length from Everything In Slow Motion has been eagerly anticipated, and rightly so. Red appeared to be a natural progression from Hands' Give Me Rest, and yet there was still something more presiding underneath it; the music seemed darker, yet more hopeful somehow, and lyrics more challenging, yet still worshipful. The sludge metal aspects hinted at on Give Me Rest became much more prominent, and the atmospheric elements, more refined. After a long year's wait, Everything In Slow Motion have finally unleashed their debut album, Phoenix, and let it be known with confidence that it was well worth the wait.
Phoenix is an album full of passion and conviction. It can be heard in every vocal sung by Ochsner, every guitar note strummed, and every drum hit. Album opener "Get Out" hooks the listener from the get-go and begins a musical journey that doesn't bore once, even through the very final notes of album closer "Proxima," which is one of the most beautiful songs this writer has heard in years. In fact, "beautiful" is a perfect moniker to describe Phoenix. Even in its more intense moments, there is an underlying current of beauty running deep within the album, an oft-uncommon characteristic for a metal album.
Each song stands firmly on its own warrants, and although there is a common thread which binds them all together, not once does the album feel repetitive. Ochsner's lyrics are just as personal and thought-provoking as they've ever been in the past, exemplified by the hard-hitting "Most Days," a mournful and extremely moving plight about the struggles of addiction, as well as the more worshipful "You Are." Christian Lindskog of Blindside fame gives a memorable guest performance on "Speak," and the aforementioned "Proxima" features a powerful vocal cameo from singer-songwriter Holly Ann that simply must be heard to believe. From a musical standpoint, Phoenix manages to stand out from the pack as well. Everything sounds very natural and organic thanks to a superb production job from Joshua Barber, and there are deep grooves and powerful movements to be found throughout the duration of Phoenix.
Make no mistake; Everything In Slow Motion has fully realized what was hinted at on Hands' Give Me Rest with Phoenix. It feels like a natural successor to what was Hands' opus, and manages to be even more ambitious and powerful. It's a shame that Phoenix was released so late in the year, because it opens up the possibility to this masterpiece of an album flying under people's radars. If you read this review, spread the word; Phoenix is essential listening, and one of the best albums of the year.- Review date: 12/8/13, written by Aaron Lambert of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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