Wait...this isn't Hawk Nelson, is it? It is, but it isn't. It's hard to explain. Even though Made sounds nothing like anything Hawk Nelson has ever done before, it still feels like the same band. Maybe that's because, unlike many of the other Christian super groups that have replaced their lead singer in the last few years, Hawk Nelson didn't look to the outside. They replaced longtime front man Jason Dunn with a guy that's been in the band for almost 10 years. Lead guitarist and backup vocalist Jonathan Steingard takes the helm for the group's sixth major release. So in a sense, you could call this a new chapter for the band. Or a sequel, it doesn't matter. It's the same, but different. And that's not a bad thing.
Look up some of Steingard's solo music, like Fox Run and The Natural Anthem. His lyrical and musical maturity, even early in his career, was astounding. Not a bad choice, right? Hawk Nelson isn't just a new platform for him to write music; it's a new platform for him to share the love of God. And his debut as the new lead singer of Hawk Nelson is impressive. While longtime fans won't recognize the poppy sheen that's been thrown over their punk rock, they'll learn to like it--and quickly, as long as they don't rush to judgment. Sure, Dunn's signature strained vocals aren't there. But no one can replace that and Steingard isn't trying to. His vocals are a perfect fit for the band's new style. They're smooth, easy to listen to, and expertly crafted for hook-filled pop songs. And this album is full of them.
Change doesn't have to be a bad thing. The passion is still there. The energy is still there. The gang vocals are still there. And perhaps most importantly, the mission of the band is still there--if not stronger than ever. This isn't the first personnel change Hawk Nelson has had, anyway. Three other members have left the band through the years, but they've been releasing solid albums anyway. Why should this time be any different? God is using them, and their focus has always stayed the same.
The urgency of the band is clear; there's not just an energy on Made. Hawk Nelson isn't content with sitting on the sidelines. (They could have given up, but they didn't. That alone says it all.) This is obvious on the track "Words," which features Mercy Me's Bart Millard as a guest vocalist. When Steingard sings, "Let my words be life, Let my words be truth, I don't wanna say a word, unless it points the world back to You," he basically sums up why the band is still going. They want to tell the world about the Good News of Jesus Christ. Being Hawk Nelson gives them an opportunity to do that, and this message is found throughout the album. This can really be seen on the opening track, "More Than a Feeling," where you have to think that Steingard was thinking just this; he sings, "What I'm looking for, Is something more than a feeling, What I'm looking for, Is something bigger than me, What I'm looking for, Is something I can believe in, More than a feeling, More than a feeling." The love of God is more than a feeling, and Hawk Nelson is more than just one person or a well-known sound. It's about the message and about the truth.
Change is hard, but Made is undeniably catchy, unabashedly truthful and honestly quite hard to stop listening to. It's easy to be a skeptic and write something off without giving it a chance, but when you do, you miss out on something special. Don't let that happen with Made, because you might just miss one of the best albums of the year.- Preview Review date: 3/14/13; Review date: 3/27/13, written by John "Flip" Choquette of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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