If you've never had the chance to listen to a metal band from New Zealand, now is a great time to do so. Saving Grace is kicking off the new year for the Facedown/Strike First Records family with their new album Unbreakable, and they're doing a fine job of it.
The first thing one notices when listening through Unbreakable is the heavy emphasis on riffs. The band is very adept at putting together coherent chord progressions that are appropriately meaty and intense. If you like crunchy guitars in the vein of As I Lay Dying, then you will immediately find a friend in Unbreakable. That is not to say that Saving Grace is another As I Lay Dying knockoff, because they most definitely are not. At the same time, this emphasis on riffs leads to a lack of true solos, so the headbangers will be more satisfied than those who like a lot of shredding.
Fortunately for the album's overall sound, the guys in Saving Grace like to keep things up-tempo. They manage to avoid the ever-present temptation to let tracks degenerate into long breakdown sessions, but instead keep the pace jumping thanks to a solid drumming foundation. The vocals are par for the course: a nice throaty growl that doesn't vary much, with the exception of some completely unintelligible deep rumblings on the unfortunately-titled "Pukelips." The band's sense of rhythm combined with their riffing ability leads to some truly excellent moments. The opening riff of "The Disgusting Maw" left me with a big smile on my face. Similarly, the entirety of the final track, "The Determined Drunk," is pure driving metal mayhem that pounds and pummels like the best metal should. It also nicely incorporates a quote from the Johnny Depp film The Libertine. The only complaint that could be mentioned is that there is not a great deal of variety among tracks, but it's hard to complain when all the tracks sound great.
Unbreakable stands out lyrically as well. As we've come to expect from Facedown bands, Saving Grace have no problem being up front and honest about their faith. There's also a refreshing touch of humility in some of the songs. "Oaxaca" describes a band mission trip to Mexico where the members struggled with being confident for Christ. In "All But The Archer," vocalist Nicholas Tautuhi addresses sexual abuse in his past. In the end, he defiantly declares that despite what he has suffered, "This war is won."
It's always nice to start the year with great metal to enjoy, and Saving Grace has done just that. Unbreakable is an album that is exciting at times and at its worst is never less than a solid effort. Metal fans looking for new material to get into should do themselves a favor and check out this album.- Review date: 12/28/09, written by Timothy Estabrooks of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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