Adversity has been the name of the game for Matt Sassano. Growing up through a traumatizing childhood and dealing with cerebral palsy, Sassano turned to God and music to make it, and he's no stranger to inspiring others with his story and testimony. After dabbling with a couple of full bands, he is now a solo act, but you wouldn't know it by listening to his fully fleshed out new EP, In Defiance.
Sassano recently signed with Rockfest Records, which is honestly the perfect fit for this EP, as labelmates like Seventh Day Slumber and Relent make for apt comparisons. The downside to this is that that particular style of modern nu metal/hard rock is generally pretty bland, having to work really hard to tread new ground or be captivating. Unfortunately, In Defiance isn't any exception, with uninteresting riffs and rhythms, experiments that don't work well, and paint-by-numbers songwriting and vocal work.
However, music is, has been, and always will be a great way to share your story and connect with others who can relate and may need to know they're not alone. Sassano does take every opportunity here to open up about his past and discuss the struggles he still faces. In Defiance is mostly heavier in that regard, with "Dear God" diving into his inability to find peace or strength to keep living, which is echoed in the closer, "Guilty Pleasure." Meanwhile, "Sorry Is A Dirty Word" and "Not My Name" deal with abuse and the lifelong trauma it can create. It takes a few tracks to get there, but Sassano does also offer up some hope. "Not My Name" also fights back with words of hope ("These are the scars that I am forced to live with / so pick me apart / I won't fit the mold that you fit / but there's a warrior inside me that you played a part in building"), while "In Defiance" appropriately intends to defy the world and its attempts to tear down ("They won't take us, we're standing in defiance / throw your hands up, raise the torch / bring down the lightning, can you hear it as the giants fall? / we're taking back what's ours / we've been captive in the quiet, but one voice can break the silence"). Sadly, none of the inspirational tracks make any mention of Christ as our strength, but there is at least some light to be found.
In Defiance is definitely a mixed bag - half encouraging, half downtrodden lyrics set to a style of hard rock that's popular but isn't particularly engaging or fun to listen to. In spite of this, the folks at Rockfest definitely see something in Matt Sassano, and he'll almost certainly be making some waves in the Christian rock world soon enough.- Review date: 8/22/22, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Rockfest Records
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