The biggest news surrounding Lacey Sturm in 2023 was her recently announced reunion with Flyleaf -- the band she founded in 2002 as Passerby. The original lineup played their first shows in eleven years as the hype was building. While it's extremely difficult to believe, it's been 7 years since Lacey released her debut solo album and it didn't really feel like a new album was even on the horizon. Sturm has been releasing singles since 2020 with "The Decree." "State of Me" and "Awaken Love" then came out in 2021 before she went silent in 2022. Two more singles dropped in the second half of 2023, but there was still no word on a new full-length. It almost seemed as if Lacey was just releasing her final material before focusing on Flyleaf full-time (that is, if Flyleaf intends to stick around together). However, in early November, Sturm informed us all that her album, Kenotic Metanoia, would be dropping in just two weeks. It was a surprising, but welcomed, bit of news as almost no significant albums tend to come out this late in the year. The new solo effort contains the five previously released singles and ten additional tracks.
Both the intro and outro tracks to the album are interesting. Neither feels like a fully fleshed out song, but they both fit the album and serve an actual purpose. Typically, these type of tracks are wasted space, but Lacey does a great job here -- especially with the rocking riff in "Intro (My Heartbeat)" and the way that "Outro (My Heartbeat)" seems to complete it. From here, 2021's "State of Me" serves as a proper opener and sandwiches the new "Are You Listening" right in between it and lead single "The Decree." The new track briefly starts with an acoustic guitar, but quickly goes into a riff like you'd expect from a Lacey Sturm song. More impressive, however, is the absolutely huge chorus. It's a standout track. "The Decree" is sort of old news at this point, but that doesn't mean it doesn't hit hard. Lacey's screams here are as good as ever and there is a reason this was #3 on my top songs of 2020. "Terrible Mistake" starts a string of five new songs ending with "Not Your Fight" -- including a Neil Young cover "A Man Needs a Maid."
While "Wonderful" features a fantastic vocal performance, it and the preceding track provide sort of a lull in the music. Neither are bad songs, but just aren't quite as interesting musically as the first half of the album. The Neil Young cover here is an interesting inclusion. Much like "Roxanne" from Life Screams, Sturm puts her own touch on it and I'm guessing most people won't even know that the song is a cover. Young's original is just a simple piano and vocal performance to start, but boasts a big string section highlighting the middle. It's melancholy and showcases what seems to be a broken and sad man. While being considered "chauvinist" by many for years, the lyrics are actually about the struggle of needing companionship while also being fearful of getting hurt by that companionship. Sturm's version is far more aggressive than Young's, but it's not heavy by any means. This interpretation is very good, but may cause some confusion by listeners not familiar with the song's 51-year history.
"Thief" brings back the most rocking sounds of the album. On it, Lacey sings, "There's a thief in your head trying to claim his space. But it isn't his house so take your place. There's a liar inside trying to gain your trust, but it ends tonight 'cause we're falling love," before rebuking this thief, "Stay here with me, you never have to leave. Love cost me everything so tell him shove off, get back, shut up..." It's another fantastic song. "Not Your Fight" ends this section of new songs as Lacey sings of surrender. The track is a driving rock number with lyrics about God taking over and fighting for you. Here Sturm sings, "I want you to remember what I told you. Soak it in until you feel my Ghost hold you. And I will set you free from every enemy and you will sing about the way that I have loved you." From here, the message just builds on this theme for an extremely powerful moment.
The final stretch of six songs features three previous singles in "Awaken Love" and "Reconcile" -- which is right up there with "The Decree" -- kicking it off and also includes the Lindsey Stirling [violinist] featured "Breathe With Me." If you got excited by the lyrics in "Not Your Fight," you're going to love "(I Died)." Here Lacey sings, "Responsibility lands squarely on my shoulders and in eternity these choices last forever. But as Your blood intervenes, she's dying while You hold her. She only looks like me, but that's not me. Oh, call me by new name." The song revolves around Romans 6 and is a killer track from top to bottom. The final song before the outro, "End the Wars," is bit softer, but does build featuring a great guitar solo from Josh Sturm. This one also highlights an incredible set of lyrics. Sturm, sounding on the brink of tears, cries out, "Now there's only way left for me to die, and it can't be just my own cross. My blood would leave the world lost; the war was won before I ever fell. Oh God took and faced my own hell and every work He does is well." After this, the song ends with the simple, yet poignant, "Jesus Christ my ending."
I've been a fan a Lacey Sturm since picking up the Flyleaf EP in 2004. She's made some incredible music with her band, and on her own, but Kenotic Metanoia (the demand to address and respond to the truth around you; the call to leave one version of yourself behind) is her magnum opus. It's a transformational album both literally and figuratively. Not only does the album feature some of the best songs she's written from a musical standpoint, like "The Decree," "Are You Listening," and "Reconcile," but it also features the best and most powerful songs she's written lyrically with "Not Your Fight," "(I Died)," and "End the Wars." Plus, you get a song like "Thief" that blends these two aspects perfectly. Lacey has never been afraid of speaking about her faith, but these songs hit in a real and visceral way. Feelings of unworthiness and shame are all there with the clear promise of what Christ has done for us. These lyrics really make you feel — not only pain and raw emotion, but the truth of Christ’s love. They can bring tears to your eyes. There's no sugar coating it. Sure, there is some allegory or symbolism going on from time to time in the lyrics, but the most important truths are raw and unhidden -- yet beautifully written. Kenotic Metanoia is an album that I got super excited about, and was honestly let down by after my first listen, but has now sold me as one of the most important albums of 2023. I highly recommend taking some time to listen to this one where you can focus on, and read through, the lyrics with the songs.- Review date: 11/17/23, written by Michael Weaver of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: None
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