"For the first time in about 7 years," said frontman David Zach, "Remedy Drive is making a record on our own."
Remedy Drive have been a staple in the Christian Rock industry for about sixteen years now, since long before their first release on a major label in 2006. And honestly, it shows. Good or bad aside, their newest endeavor, Commodity, possesses all of the hallmarks of a band who has scrapped themselves to maturity. They've weathered the tricky waters of member changes, raised money independently of a label to fund this record, and have learned the value of making an album that is a cohesive whole, rather than just a collection of singles.
Indeed, Commodity is a concept album of sorts, based around the devastating and enormous human sex trafficking industry. Zach felt the inescapable tug to be another crucial voice in speaking out against sex trafficking after traveling to red-light districts with members of The Exodus Road - an organization devoted to freeing people enslaved by the sex trade. "This record is going to take us into a dark place," Zach says on the band's Kickstarter campaign. "Hopefully, in that, it will inspire us to be a part of a movement."
Commodity does indeed inspire us to be a part of a movement, and it takes it a step further: it doesn't dwell on the darkness, but rather points continuously to the hope on the other side. Among the album's most pervasive themes is the dichotomy of light vs. darkness, and light is triumphant every time. "We'll make our way back home, because the King is still on the throne," insists the airy, bouncy pop anthem "Throne." "I can hear the bright notes over all of the dissonance," Zach sings on "Under the Starlight." Every song on this record serves as those bright notes in a sea of dissonance, as they point to the future hope of the coming King, Who will right all wrongs, defend all of the slighted, and wear justice like thunder on His sleeves.
And you can hear that thunder on the soundtrack. At every turn are huge drum sections and deep, cutting bass runs providing the backdrop for the Zach's processed vocals and Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive"-esque sound. The album was clearly mixed to be turned up loud and rocketed out to combat darkness.
Because it's a concept album, Commodity can be played through from front to back and have it feel like one big, long treatise. The songs blend together with ambient strings and reverbed noises, so that the end of one song is the beginning of the next. But this is also my biggest complaint about the album: it is flooded by sameness.
I've listened through it several times now from front to back, and there isn't a song that sticks out as being its own. They're washed with processed, hip vocals, they have booming, thunderclap drums, and they sport extensive synthed-out, thick production, but no track here says, "hear me!" Ten of the twelve songs are written in only three different keys. The anthemic choruses, perhaps interesting on their own, get lost in the sea of each other.
This is not to say that it sounds bad at all, but when David Zach says, as he did in the aforementioned Kickstarter campaign, "There are no rules, no boundaries… I've never been able to feel like there's not going to be any pressure to say it or sing it a certain way," more innovation is expected than is found on Commodity.
Remedy Drive have crafted a good record here. It shines brightest in its instrumental sections, like in "Commodity," "The Wings of the Dawn," and the entirely instrumental "The Sides of the North," which sounds like early Mutemath, particularly in Tim Buell's quite exceptional drumming.
Commodity is a good record. There are moments here that are blasts of fresh air and spots of light in a landscape of darkness - particularly the good production and the above-average instrumentals. But it simply feels too safe to be a great record. Among other releases this year in the Pop/Rock world, it's certainly worth a listen, particularly the refreshing "Take Cover" and "The Sides of the North." Its message makes it stand out, for sure, and is, if anything, the reason you should check it out. You may not love it, but you're certainly going to like it.- Review date: 8/16/14, written by Hamilton Barber of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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