Last year, Facedown Records group For Today released their debut with the label, Ekklesia. And the band hasn't stopped writing new tunes, as they're already back with a follow-up. With Portraits, For Today brings us ten tracks that all revolve around God's servants. More specifically, they revolve around different characters in the Bible and their respective experiences with God.
As of late, Facedown hasn't been a good breeding ground for great metal projects. Several recent outings, such as The Great Commission and Wrench In The Works, had a few tempo changes thrown around here and there (and even some highlights), but for the most part they just thundered their way through their album. Not so much for For Today. There are plenty of times where speed metal is running rampant, but there's a lot of slower tempos incorporated as well (such as the breakdown with vocals in the middle of "Ezekiel (The Visionary)") - Not to mention the guitars aren't so thrashy. The guitarists seem to play their instrument with purposes other than just retaining a speed/thrash hardcore sound. There is a lot of quick finger work, which makes For Today's guitarists have an accomplished vibe. The drummer also helps the music, with his on-a-dime tempo changes and oddly-structured double bass. And though the subgenre may change throughout, For Today does a good job of keeping the majority of Portraits metal. However, there are a couple songs that aren't even close to being considered metal. "Benedictus (Song of Zechariah)" is an ambient musical interlude featuring guest guitar work by Dustie Waring from Between The Buried and Me.
Lyrically, Portraits manages to surpass the majority of its labelmates - not by a wide margin, but it does surpass slightly. It's not necessarily sheer poetry by any means, as it still has some roughly-written (and barked out) lyrics, but the concept of the album almost makes up for what the lyrics lack. The concept is that the songwriter took names of Bible characters and their respective stories, identites or personal encounters with God mentioned in the Bible, and wrote the songs to relate those to himself. For instance, in "Saul of Tarsus (The Messenger)," he used Saul (aka Apostle Paul, who led many, many people to Jesus after an amazing conversion to Christianity) and talked about his own encounter of leading people to Jesus and turning over to God ("Blinded, I saw that Christ is Lord, now may the world see You through open eyes"). In "Isaiah (The Willing)," the vocalist emulates the words of Isaiah and says "Here I am, God, send me to the world," followed by "There is a burden on my heart to let the world know that You are God." Some of the lyrics even showcase two different sides of Jesus. The opener, "Immanuel (The Challenger)" displays God's justice with three simple words, "Repent or perish." Later, "Immanuel (The Redeemer)" (which features the vocal talents of Joe Musten from Solid State thrashers Advent) acts as a follow-up, touching on God's love and His willingness to forgive our sins, so that we don't have to perish. The whole lyrical concept of the album is all tied together in the album closer, the other not-metal-at-all song, "Talmidim (The Servants)." With a little help from labelmates - but not genremates - My Epic, For Today sings a plea to God for Him to make us worthy and to give us a new name.
As mentioned earlier, Facedown and great metal don't go together too often. Lately, it's just been so-so from their camp. But admittedly, For Today is able to step it up with this album, even if only just a little bit. With the great musicianship and vocals that range from typical underground hardcore growling to high-pitched screams that could rival that of The Agony Scene, this may be one of the best Facedown has to offer this year. Aside from the growling that sounds like burping (a few seconds past the three-minute mark in "Joel (The Watchman)"), their Portraits is one to at least check out.- Review date: 6/8/09, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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