It doesn't seem so long ago that homemade flyers decorated the bulletin boards of my small town college campus, urging students to come see a local band called Fireflight. Formed in 1999, they were the best kept secret of a part of central Florida that's not exactly known for its music scene, and they spent years playing shows and building a following for their female-fronted positive rock. All the hard work paid off when the Flicker Records debut The Healing of Harms introduced them to the world in 2006, and 2008's breakout hit Unbreakable captured the attention of Christian rock fans even more. Now over a decade since their career began, Fireflight is ready to unleash their third album For Those Who Wait.
The title track jumpstarts the album with a slightly new twist for them. Symphonic string flourishes are all the hard rock rage lately, and Fireflight uses them to powerful effect here. An orchestral intro clears the way for Dawn's first battle cry -- "This is for those who wait!" -- and melts into a wall of thundering rock similar to Red or Skillet. The music ebbs and flows between softer verses and pounding choruses, as Dawn's voice alternates between the triumphant screams of the chorus and the fragile whispers of the quiet acoustic bridge. It's a powerful opener all around that recalls "Unbreakable" without being a clone, taking a slower, more methodical approach than its predecessor without sacrificing the epic feeling.
Next up is the lead single "Desperate," a song with a heavier, grittier rock edge. The hook, a sort of call-and-response shared with guitarist Justin Cox, is super catchy, and the claustrophobic beats give the song a tangible, well, desperation. The first time I heard this, I wasn't so sure I liked it, but in time, "Desperate" grew on me. Sure, the "Where are you, God?" message is nothing new, but the lyrics and Dawn's delivery have an honesty and rawness that beg you to listen. When she screams, "You put me on a path I don't understand / I'm standing on a ledge waving my hands," you can believe it.
These two openers show off Fireflight's biggest strength: crafting hooky, radio-ready rock alternating between memorable singalongs, fist-pumping arena anthems, and snarling rock aggression. The first half of the album feels like one hit after the next, the kind of songs that get stuck in your head, that you can't help but sing along to. Maybe that's why I can't shake the feeling I've heard it before, and maybe that's both the greatest strength and dilemma.
It's not all rock and roll though. Unlike Unbreakable, where even ballads like "Forever" had a rock edge to them, Fireflight shows a softer side, starting with the acoustic ballad "Name." Beginning with just a quiet piano melody and somber strings to back Dawn's tender vocals, the lyrics darken the mood to a bleak hospital setting, sad verses punctuated with a hopeful chorus -- "He sees you / He loves you... He knows your name." I'm honestly torn when it comes to my feelings about this song. The message and Dawn's voice become more beautiful every time I hear it, and in the midst of so many high energy rock songs, it feels like stopping to breathe. But somehow, the tragic lyrics with a hopeful aside fall just a little bit on the "sad Christian AC radio hit" side to me. Good effort, but it kind of leaves me wanting. It doesn't help that the song is immediately followed by the aggressive "New Perspective," leaving the reflective sweetness of "Name" behind before it can fully sink in.
But when it comes to slow Fireflight songs, "Name's" mixed effort is redeemed by the album's closer "Recovery Begins." Like "Name," a quiet piano intro opens, though just a touch darker this time around. Moody textures and Dawn's hushed, haunting vocals guide this slow-burning tune to an elegant climax, dramatic yet understated. Almost seems experimental, but I love it. It sounds like nothing else I've heard by them, and stands out as the perfect closer.
I love Fireflight. I really do. I'm proud to see how far they've come, and know they can only get better with time. For Those Who Wait is a good album and helps fill today's void of well-crafted Christian rock with a clear message. But honestly, though it features several standout songs, it mostly plays in the same commercial rock lines that keep it from crossing into the realm of greatness. Maybe after such a successful sophomore album, playing it safe is the thing to do for now, but they are capable of so much more. It shows in the little touches, like the strings in "For Those Who Wait" and the intriguing texture of "Recovery Begins." This is definitely worth picking up if you're a fan, but newcomers may want to check out Unbreakable first. Not a disappointment, but not a groundbreaker either, For Those Who Wait is sure to please Christian rock fans as another entry in Fireflight's great career.- PReview date: 11/19/09, Review date: 2/8/10, written by Jen Rose of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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