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Turn the Tides
Artist: 38th Parallel
LabeL: Squint Entertainment
Time: 10 tracks/34:11

The average gen-xer has seen the demise of many a musical fad - new wave, hair metal, grunge, ska and swing to name a few.  (As a sidebar, one can only hope that "Bands that sound like Creed or Blink 182" will soon follow.) Although it may be obvious to many, rapcore is now a part of the same list. Those in the genre who wish to survive are wisely moving away from the straight-edged guitar and rap sound and infusing the dying genre with other influences.  One camp has moved from center toward more straight-ahead metal, with results like Drowning Pool and System of a Down.  Moving to the far corner are others such as Incubus with harmonic moments mixed with electronics and scratching, or Linkin Park with the more obvious hip-hop influences.  It should be noted that at the past two Ozzfests, Incubus and Linkin Park respectively seemed the most out-of-place bands on the day.

This prelude leads into the introduction of the newest Christian act to ride the waves of the secular market, 38th Parallel.  The Christian music market is often criticized for tailgaiting on the fads in the music industry as a whole, but with far too many car lengths in between.  38th Parallel, however, has a better sense of timing than is typical.  Bands including Project 86 and .rod laver laid the foundation, and now 38th Parallel is moving to the same side as Incubus and Linkin Park - in fact, the band cites Project 86 as a major influence and Linkin Park as an oft-used comparison.  Fair or not, the comparison will be made again and again.

38th Parallel is a five-piece rock band sporting the LP-esque dual vocalists.  Mark Jennings and Nathan Rippke alternate on tracks and individual lines in songs, and the effect is actually a nice bit of texture. While one achieves a Brandon Boyd (Incubus) sound during slower moments and a Zack de la Rocha (ex-Rage Against the Machine) wail during more intense portions, the other has a lower, more gravelly tone.  Aaron Nordyke on drums and Jeff Barton on bass maintain the needed precision of rhythm, while Shane Moe crunches along on guitar. 

If this all sounds very promising and timely - it is indeed promising. However, it is only promising in terms of something slightly different that shows great hope for future albums.  On the debut release Turn the Tides, the execution does not live up to the obvious talent and ambition of the band.

The main issue that stands out with the record - and the one that will turn off the crowd fondest of Linkin Park and other parallels - is that the harmony is prevalent above the rock sound, giving the impression of a watered-down rapcore rather than an intense blending of contrast into the rock sound.  "Higher Ground" and in particular, with jangly guitar upfront and distortion relegated to the background, almost falls into the standard CCM radio-ready category that will definitely turn off those wanting a rock experience.  Likewise, "State of Mind" is a very catchy and listenable song, but there are points where the harmony rises too far above while the guitar is further down in the mix, making the overall impression too gentle. 

The lyrics leave no question as to where the band stands and what agenda they hold.  Even song titles such as "Three Times Denied" and "You Are My God" indicate the evangelical bent of the lyrics.  "You Are My God" in particular is quite overt spiritually, and musically as well as lyrically would be better suited to a rock-worship album.  However, there are some genuinely nice turns of phrase, such as the repeated line from "Turn the Tides":

Fix your eyes on the Son,
Get burned on the inside.
38th Parallel has created a freshman release for Squint that they can be proud of, as it is diverse and well-performed.  However, the diversity is also a roadblock, as it gives a certain inconsistency to the recording and lends the overall impression that the album is not as "hard" as advertised. There is a foundation to build upon here, and one hopes to see great things for them in their quest to bring Christ's message to both the Christian and secular market.  Unfortunately, this album will likely not make a sizable splash outside of the Christian end of the pool.

Jeff Edwards 7/14/2002

After being bumped back once, Squint Entertainment’s newest group 38th Parallel has finally released their debut album, Turn the Tides.

Unlike other recent attempts at rock music, Turn the Tides doesn’t get annoying and/or repetitive. Sounding a lot like Pax217 and Pillar, this 10-track album is definitely an ear pleaser for fans of the genre.

While the majority of the album is rock, you will also find a couple of other genres on it like soft rock and hardcore. So if you are not really a fan of harder music, I would consider checking out clips of the album before you go right out and buy it.

Overall, I enjoyed this album quite a bit. Sounding quite a bit like Pax217 and Pillar, so if you like either band I would definitely recommend that you check this one out!

Josh McConnell  07/20/02

The debut album from Ames, Iowa's 38th Parallel is a decent collection of alternative pop/rock mixed with some rap for flavor.  The group blends harmonized vocals reminiscent of Jars of Clay with rapped verses to create an effect which is genuinely their own.

The album starts with "Hear My Cry," an upbeat rocker which is a David-like call for God to come to the aid of the singer, and proceeds to the title track, "Turn These Tides," which features an effective keyboard solo as a bridge.  

The next song, "Higher Ground," is the first single off the album, and seems to be lighter in tone and sound than the first two tracks. It showcases the more melodic harmonies of the group, being completely sung.  

The songs are decently constructed.  The members of the group craft tight pop songs with catchy melodies and straight-forward, if sometimes simple lyrics.  

There's something more to stand on
Something of worth to live your life on
Higher ground
Higher ground
Build your house where love resounds
Higher ground
Higher ground
See your purpose from higher ground...
As with this example from "Higher Ground," the lyrics are not terribly profound, but effective.  

"Horizons" is a song in which all the elements come together.  There is an aggressive rap component, a catchy pop-like chorus, a decent instrumental break, and so forth.  It shows that 38th Parallel has decent talent to go along with their musical stylings.

This album is a little on the short side, being only 34 minutes long.  While this saves the album from becoming tedious, at times the songs could have used a guitar solo or some other sort of instrumental bridge, as used effectively in "Who Am I" to achieve a fuller measure of potential.  

Perhaps the greatest knock against the album is that despite the band's  attempt to carve their own niche, they end up sounding more like an updated version of Reality Check than anything else.  This is perhaps not a bad thing-- there is certainly room in the musical landscape for a rap/rock band with strong pop sensibilities-- but it just seems a little disappointing.  P. O. D.  fans will likely enjoy this album, and 38th Parallel certainly has talent; here's hoping for a second album which explores the bands strengths more thoroughly.

Alex Klages  8/18/2002


 
 

 

   
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