Tooth & Nail Records new artists are always a gamble, but when they pay off, their next ventures are all the more interesting, both from the critical and audience perspective. After the great start found in Our Graceful Words, Sent By Ravens is following up their debut with Mean What You Say, their tribute to honest, well-placed affirmation. With the present theme of words at the forefront, it proves to be yet another successful project from the quintet.
Mean What You Say is a fabulous foray in the rock circle, as it does improve upon the precedent set by Our Graceful Words, heavy hitting from start to finish. In general, the compositions feel much more purposeful this time around, undoubtedly fresh products and not freeze-dried old songs from the band's unsigned past. With the trifecta of the short but sweet "Prudence," "Listen," and "Rebuild, Release," the listener's blood starts pumping without fail with the more somber "Learn From the Night" and "Never Be Enough" filling in the gaps. "However Long It Takes" and "We're All Liars" showcase the best of what guitar-crunching SBR can do, and the electronic-laced title track accentuates them nicely. Zach Riner's vocals feel especially practiced, and like the band's debut, his screams, though much fewer in quantity for this release, always come at just the right time without overstaying their welcome. While his voice won't stop the comparisons drawn with Pillar's Rob Beckley, their classic nature has made a great home with the aggressive nature of SBR's rock inclinations.
If nothing else, Mean What You Say feels very short at only thirty-two minutes, and there are a couple moments where the songs end just a little too soon ("Prudence," "Never Be Enough"). Also, sometimes the songs flow very well together, and other times they don't, which leads to a somewhat disjointed final product. This isn't to say that any of the songs aren't executed well; they just sometimes don't appear well all together. While minor complaints, they do lead to a little less polish than one would hope for a band's second effort, especially when only nine of the songs here are new. As a rerecording from SBR's The Effects of Fashion and Prayer EP, the album's closer "Best In Me" has been a fan favorite for the majority of the band's career, and though some older fans may be disappointed to see the band release an old song as the album's finale, it's a more than fitting closer. When Zach Riner is joined by his wife for the second to last chorus, chills are sent up the spine ("So just settle down/this storm won't last forever/we're built for more than this world/I'm not that strong/honestly I'm not/but you always see the best in me").
As an entire experience, however brief it often feels, Mean What You Say is a joy to hear. Just as a sophomore release should do, it mostly makes the right decisions in creating a broader picture of Sent By Ravens' talent and overall appeal. Rarely missing the mark, Mean What You Say is an early favorite for Tooth & Nail aficionados and more proof that Sent By Ravens will continue to soar high in the ranks as long as they keep improving.- Review date: 2/26/12, written by Roger Gelwicks of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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