Monday, July 04, 2011

Sleeping Giant - Sons of Thunder Album Review

One or two good songs does not an album make. Sleeping Giant is a perfect example of that statement. On Sons of Thunder they had one absolutely amazing song (the track "Sons of Thunder") and 8 others that were either bland or awful. In high school and college I would often buy albums solely on how good a song I heard on a mix or the radio was, and upon listening to their full album be so dishearteningly disappointed. Too many bands used the trick of having one good song surrounded by an album of crap, so I may be trained to get a bit more harsh when I stumble upon that type of situation today. Sleeping Giant will be having a new album dropping this year, so I'm interested to see if they fall into the same trap once again.

Sleeping Giant’s debut album, Dread Champions of the Last Days, was panned pretty hard at Decoy and for good reason – it was nearly unlistenable. Honestly, I thought they’d break up or fade into oblivion after such an abysmal release, but like many subpar members of Facedown Records’ roster, they hung around, stuck with it, and are now back again, but this time around, fortunately, with Sons of Thunder we have a more listenable experience.

This album is definitely a tale of two sides to the same band. You got the feeling on their debut that they were trying to experiment every now and again, but were still firmly planted in the standard, clichéd, Christian hardcore arena. With Sons of Thunder the band now almost completely differentiates themselves from song to song by either staying true to their hardcore roots or, on the longer tracks of this album, stepping into a more textured slow-burn metalcore. From listening to the progress the band has made when putting together longer, building compositions, it’s a complete letdown to listen to the straight up hardcore tracks, which are all underwhelming and feel like they were included on the album just to appease older fans.

The title track is absolutely epic and, I feel somewhat odd saying it, maybe one of the best hardcore tracks I’ve heard this year. Even the overtly preachy bible quoting in the intro can’t ruin this long, slow-building, melancholic, and hopeful song. For once the Christian background of the band feels natural as the song radiates a spiritual feel, instead of the forcefully preaching nature of some of their other songs. If there were ever a metalcore version of a prayer, “Sons of Thunder” would be it. You can feel the spirituality of the band flowing through the song as it builds to a pummeling climax about five minutes in, at which point the band hammers home the song with grinding guitars and chants of “See you in Armageddon!”

After such a powerful track, you’re thrown one of the better hardcore tracks on the album, “Descending Into Hell,” but it’s still jarring to go from something so amazing to something so formulaic. The band then oscillates back to their newfound sound, mixing in some potentially song-killing quasi-rap, but it’s not necessarily as bad as it sounds. The grinding guitars make a return, as well as the ethereal tinged vocals used a few other places on the album, all for great effect. Still, this just accentuates the gulf between the two identities of the band.

If you were to take “Sons of Thunder”, “The Streets Don’t Lie”, “The Army of the Chosen One” (which has Ryan Clark of Demon Hunter contributing a solid vocal performance), and “I’ve Seen” (where Sleeping Giant play to some Modern Life Is War influences) and create a four song EP, it would easily be a four star rated EP. As it stands, though, beyond those four tracks you have a bunch of standard hardcore and a horribly clichéd and plodding piano ballad of a closing track.

Somehow, some way, Sleeping Giant need to embrace the new direction they're taking and focus exclusively on their progressive elements. They simply don’t do straight up hardcore that well. They do, however, pull off some progressive metalcore very adequately. A lot of potential has been uncovered on Sons of Thunder which wasn’t apparent that the band possessed when listening to their debut. Sleeping Giant are making strides forward and they need to continue growing to truly make an impact on the musical landscape that previously laughed them aside.

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