Ohio pop/rock quartet Sanctus Real returns with their anticipated junior release, entitled The Face Of Love. The album follows what the band has described as a season of immense personal trials for them, leading the record to tread ground the guys hadn't yet explored.
Although it contains within its proverbial musical walls a familiarity that remains unmistakable for the band, The Face Of Love can be easily considered a darker, more emotional effort. It's a sensitive and vulnerable project from start to finish, with the lead off song "I'm Not Alright" setting the mood of the record. Matt Hammitt's friendly and inviting vocals are appropriate for delivering a much-needed openness and honesty, "Can I lose my need to impress? If you want the truth, I need to confess / I'm not alright / I'm broken inside / And all I go through / It leads me to You." The more upbeat "Eloquent" and the delectable anthem for persistence, "Fly," serve as fitting successors. The title track changes direction nicely, breaking into an original worship song that reflects on the beauty of Jesus through imagery, and ends with a prayer to portray His likeness to the world.
The album shifts gears again to return the fans, who are possibly puzzled thus far as to where the Sanctus they know has gone, to something familiar. "Don't Give Up" is a strong rock-driven petition for couples to remain together in marriage. Addressing a startling problem in today's society head-on, "Don't Give Up" couldn't come at a better time, and couldn't feel more right at home with the themes presented on the album. "We're Trying" is also a signature Sanctus pop/rock effort that acknowledges the destructive sinful nature of man, but also the Christian's desire to try to live a better life through Jesus' example. "Thank You" is a simple declaration of appreciation for Christ's sacrifice, preceding the equally reverent "Magnetic." But if there was to be anything that disrupts what is otherwise a tightly woven package, it would have to be the latter track, which begins to unravel a bit when it unveils its somewhat sappy chorus, "You're magnetic I can't help it… I'm stuck on You." With how sincere and powerful many of the other songs are, "Magnetic" just doesn't seem to hold up among the rest. Finally, the opening guitar riff of the irresistibly catchy "Possibilities" is likely to bring a grin to Relient K fans before the album winds down with the pop/rocker "Where We Belong."
But Sanctus Real may have saved the best for last on The Face Of Love, closing with the heartbreaking and beautiful ballad "Benjamin." The song was penned for drummer Mark Graalman's newborn boy who entered the world at the same time Graalman was losing his father to cancer. "Benjamin" leads in on a lovely melancholic note, carried solely by Hammitt and a lamenting acousitc, "Rain falls outside / I think the sky must know what's happening tonight / Children born while fathers die / It's that circle of life that we all live in time." The song blooms into a melody reminiscent of something one might hear from Cold Play, but is likely to go unnoticed given the emotionally charged verses. "Benjamin," along with the album, closes with rays of hope as Hammitt ponders, "He gives and He takes, and it makes us stronger," before returning to the intimate chorus.
The Face Of Love takes daring steps for Sanctus Real, while leaving plenty of room along the way for familiar material to keep longtime fans interested. The passion and unashamed honesty of the album is its strong point, reminding the listener that it's okay to admit things aren't always going our way. The Face Of Love is a breath of fresh air indeed, and offers some of the best songwriting from Sanctus Real yet.- Review date: 3/29/06, written by John DiBiase
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