Studio album number eight for the seasoned band NEEDTOBREATHE finds the fellas in a more subdued and reflective state of mind. Time off from the road for two years gave the prolific group a chance to release not one, but two albums before the first anniversary of the excellent 2020 album, Out of Body. Recorded in a cabin deep in the woods of Tennessee over only twenty-one days, Into the Mystery has the intimate feel of guys and their guitars sitting around a campfire singing late into the night. There are a few up-tempo moments, but nary a full-out rocker like "Ooh Ahh" or even last year's "Riding High." That's no complaint; it's simply worth noting for those curious what kind of album to expect.
Thankfully, outside of the primarily lower and slower tempo, the other earmarks of typical NEEDTOBREATHE are present. Bear Rineheart’s lyrics are still top-notch, and his voice still sounds great. What we do get as a result of the laid-back stylings is a greater focus on all vocals. This is highly evident right off the bat with the first two songs, “What I’m Here For” and the title track. This tune will make for a great concert moment with all vocalists singing into one mic. That three-part vocal stacking harmony is simply sublime.
Other highlights are the guest features from reliable Jon Foreman and Country diva Carrie Underwood on “Carry Me” and “I Wanna Remember." The former utilizes a country shuffle, and the latter is a perfect pairing of two great vocalists. Three others that caught my ear specifically are the drum-heavy "Sunshine," the breezy road trip tune "Sittin' in the Backseat (Undefeated)" and the terrific ballad "Chances." The guitar flourishes in the latter half of the war-weary "Chances," specifically, stand out as a nice touch.
A lyrical highpoint would be the worshipful "I Am Yours," which finds Rineheart singing in amazement, “It seems like madness/I'm invited/To the table by your side /I am yours/And you are mine." It's certainly not a new statement, but always a profound one, when a human recognizes the love God has for His chief creation. In addition, "Chances" has some great lines in the chorus, "It's always hard to find/The courage to start dancing/But I am determined to/Take my chances/Peace can be hard to find/In all this misunderstanding/But I am determined to/Take my chances.” After having spent more time with them as early released singles, both "Into the Mystery" and "Chances" stood out as favorites, and after hearing the rest of the tracklist, that doesn't change.
While Into the Mystery is a fine album in its own right, it doesn’t quite measure up to past gems like The Outsiders, The Reckoning, and Rivers in the Wasteland---or even the fresher Out of Body for that matter. Undoubtedly, it has several standout songs, but the overall cohesion of the theme is lacking. In addition, a few filler songs that feel more like B-sides not fully developed are the only minor complaints to levy at the album.
Ultimately, NEEDTOBREATHE has reached the rarified air for this reviewer of being trusted to always release an album of good songs. That is to say, if I was able to avoid listening to any of the singles, then I could purchase or pre-order without fear of not liking whatever they released. I may not enjoy this album to the same degree of past work, but it's just barely. Astoundingly their fifteen-year recording career has never had a swing-and-a-miss. This streak continues with Into the Mystery, and it's made for a must-listen of 2021. Fans of the band and listeners who enjoy high-quality southern rock should definitely give this one a few spins.- Review date: 7/29/21, written by Josh Balogh of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Elektra Records / Centricity Music
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