New artists can be gambles for record labels. It shows the trust the label has in the talent and appeal of an artist for them to take the chance and sign them, and for good reason. Indeed, not all new artists make the big-time. Unfortunately, the newest signees to Revolution Art (the label owned by the hip hop connoisseurs GRITS), Hearts of Saints, doesn't offer much to the table to warrant much attention. Formerly known as Special D, the name change is really the only thing different about this quartet's self-titled debut.
"Dance rock" is the term the band has attributed to themselves; however, HOS's sound is really nothing more than standard pop-rock melodies with a few synths thrown in and does not compare with anyone else claiming that genre (Jonezetta being a prime example). There's nothing inherently wrong with their traditional approach, but the way the style is implemented is just not unique or especially exciting. Many of the compositions are not very creative, and there's obvious room for real musical innovation. And by the end, the overall formula for each song seems to really run together by the end of the record. Craig Felker's vocals are acceptable for the genre, and they probably prove to be the high point of the band's sound, in all honesty. These guys know how to write music, and their hooks and melodies aren't terrible, but all of it is pretty forgettable material.
Hearts of Saints' lyrics also prove to be a disappointment. No pun intended, it's fair to say these guys' hearts are in the right place, lyrically. HOS are all about Jesus, which is undeniably a very good thing, but their lyrical complexity, or lack thereof, is regrettable. "Hello Grace" is a legitimately clever personification of God's free gift, and the opener, "The Secret," is an effective wake-up call to spread the good news (as opposed to just keeping it to one's self), but other than those potential poetic standouts, there are barely any lyrical surprises to be found anywhere. With so many similar bands in this market, exceptional and compelling lyrics are a must, and while HOS is very much a ministry-driven band, this simply doesn't rationalize a musically-complacent sound or lacking lyrical musings. It's also worth noting that this album is just an extension of the band's independently-released Over and Over EP (back from when the band was known as Special D), so anyone who happens to already own that project probably won't want to pony up and pay full price for just the five new tracks.
Hearts of Saints is the sort of band that will inevitably collect a faithful fanbase over time, but will consistently fall short of critical success if they continue at this rate. Nothing here is unlistenable, but it's yet another example that contributes to the still-undeserved mediocre connotations Christian rock music can typically have. HOS certainly has good intentions, and hopefully down the road they can channel this potential into a strong album of material that's all their own both lyrically and musically, but as of now, this new artist doesn't quite make the cut to justify one's special attention.- Review date: 1/19/10, written by Roger Gelwicks of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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