Let's take a second and talk about Star Wars - not just the first movie in the series to be released to theaters in '77, but the entire Star Wars saga. For those who don't know, the original Star Wars movies were released as episodes 4, 5 and 6. It wasn't until 1999 that LucasFilm introduced us to how the whole storyline began in episode 1, which was followed up in the coming years by 2 and 3. After the third episode, everyone thought they had finally gotten the full story. But in 2008, another Star Wars movie was released - The Clone Wars - whose place chronologically fell in between episodes 2 and 3 (pretty much an "episode 2.5"). It essentially acted as a bridge between 2 and 3.
This happens on occasion in the movie industry. Not so much in the music industry, mainly because most albums aren't really stories. But when I first listened to Showbread's latest album, The Fear of God, that's what it reminded me of - a bridge between two different parts of their musical saga. Now, I can't honestly say that it was their intention, but The Fear of God has a sound and feel like it could've been the album to come out between No Sir, Nihilism Is Not Practical and Age of Reptiles. Nihilism was loud and chaotic, while Reptiles was more structured and not quite as loud. The Fear of God has a lot of the Nihilism loudness and screaming, yet it's pretty much kept within some sort of structure, seeming like it could have been the natural transition between the two albums.
Let's look at the song "Precursor." The thick bass mixed in with the intense screaming and hard rocking drums and guitars on the chorus have Nihilism written all over it (even more so when you get to the bridge that slows down dramatically and uses a different vocal pattern, much like the bridge of Nihilism's "A Llama Eats A Giraffe and Vice Versa" AND "So Selfish It's Funny"). Then there's the lengthy title track, which has a sound very similar to Age of Reptiles' lengthy title track. At first, it almost seemed to me like Showbread was just recycling songs. But upon actually diving in and listening, the similarities are just that: similarities. Showbread just has their own signature sound, which carries over onto each new project, regardless of what stylistic changes they are going through or attempting. However, that doesn't apply to all of the similarities. Vocalist Josh Dies (who, for the first time in Showbread history, provides 100% of the vocals on this album) writes great and honest lyrics that range anywhere from love and worship to cynicism and satire. But while the creative juices are pumping for the quality of the lyrics, the vocal patterns of several of the songs suffer. Vocal patterns from Nihilism that were pretty much the same carried through a little on Age of Reptiles, and have resurfaced on The Fear of God in songs like "I Think I'm Going To See You," "Precursor," "Let There Be Raw," and a couple others. It's not a huge problem, per se, but it definitely does affect the songs a little.
Lyrically, The Fear of God doesn't focus on just one thing. "I'm Lost" is a short simple confession to God, "Until We Meet Again" is an acoustic song to a friend who has already gone to be with the Lord (that sounds like it was recorded outside and has the sound of a car driving by every once in a while that drowns out the music and Josh's singing), and "Let There Be Raw" is a tribute to Showbread's signature brand of rock that they call raw rock (featuring a chorus that would make the song a great addition to their live show). There is a little that goes along with the concept of fearing God, such as the title track (makes sense, right?). It starts off with Josh questioning God, but eventually ends up with him seeing His beauty despite the world being an ugly mess ("My world is coming all apart, I've no strength left to dry my tears, and through it all I hear Your voice, breaking my heart, breaking my will, calms the storm inside of my soul as You whisper 'Peace, be still'"). There's even a part of the song that's somewhat reminiscent of Jars of Clay's "Oh My God." Other lyrics are satirical, like in "Regret Consumes Me," when it speaks on the uselessness of man on his own ("You jumped from a plane that you thought would explode, and you slowly drift your way down, with the dead weight gone the plane flies on, the madness in flight, the safety of the ground"). "Out of My Mind" is a love song for Josh's wife, with the lyrics displaying a sense of humility in the way he loves her ("I leave a mess in my wake and I call it mistakes, but you were puckering up and demure, now you wear my ring and so you got what it takes, to make me into something more and baby that's you're allure").
Josh also has a knack for being brutally honest when he writes. When he wants to make a point about something, he does it, even though a lot of the time it starts controversy with Showbread. A good example is the other song about love on this album. "The Great Emasculation" shows the harder side of love, "Used to be a guy with big dreams and brains inside my head, now I'm licking boots instead of washing feet, now the man I was is dead, it's a lot of work when two people connect, thought love was a beautiful thing, but it feels like a shackle around my neck, feels a lot like suffocating." A lot of times love is difficult, and it feels like our actions done out of humility just end up feeling like humiliation rather than just being humble, and Josh gets that point across very well. But there was one song that actually kind of shocked me when I read the lyrics. The song isn't profane or explicit in anyway, but the honesty of the feelings he put into words were surprising. "Shepherd, No Sheep" deals with Josh's frustration with people who are only Showbread fans when they write their songs and music in certain ways. He showcases his honest feelings of bitterness toward those type of halfway fans, saying things like "If I am honest, there's part of me that hopes it makes you sick, I hope you cannot stand to hear it, or bear the thought of it, I hope that tomorrow you'll curse our name, you'll drill it in the dirt, I hope you'll not come back to us, I hope it always hurts." Harsh, right? Of course, we all have similar feelings sometimes - Josh is just one of the few that is honest enough to speak it. And, to his credit, he even goes so far as to - sort of - seek redemption in the very next verse: "But at Your feet I admit defeat, my work is now in Your hands, if they want to hear stupid music so very bad, they can start themselves a band." The anger is still there, but he shows that he's giving it all to God.
When the guys released Anorexia and Nervosa last year, I knew that they would be hard to top. Though I think The Fear of God confirms my thought, it doesn't mean that it's not a good album. The lyrics are great, and the music is classic Showbread. Even with a very different line-up than just two years ago, the writing and composition of the music definitely has not suffered. The guys are dedicated to making quality tunes with each new album, and regardless of whether or not it tops their previous releases, this is still another great one to add to your collection.- Review date: 8/5/09; PReview date: 7/13/09, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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