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Artist: Stavesacre
Label: Nitro Records
Time: 11 tracks / 46:39

Stavesacre has finally provided fans with the pronunciation of its name.  This album is technically called “stavz’aker” with hard A’s, but for simplicity’s sake, I’ll refer to it as their self-titled album.

This release is a good representative sample of the band’s work.  It offers some solid heavy work, some songs reminiscent of their Toolish Absolutes, some more melodic, accessible tunes and even one attempt at a slower, softer sound.

Let me first comment on the more melodic tunes.  I’m normally disappointed when a band with chops takes this route, but Stavesacre pulls it off.  Their brand of pop (and I’m hesitant to even call it that) still rocks.  “If Not Now” could easily be a Foo Fighters song, although Mark Salomon’s vocals are worlds apart from Dave Grohl’s.  In fact, I’d say this about “Island” and a few other tracks on this self-titled album.

The lead track, “Witch Trial,” is Stavesacre’s best song since “At the Moment.”  Slow and heavy, building up to an angry chorus:

We’re burning.
Burning so patiently.
Get out while you can.  This house is coming down.
There will be nothing left.
Hearing it live was the deciding factor in my buying this album.  “The Sad Parade” is another hard-rocker.  The vocals in the chorus have a Tears-for-Fears feel amongst all of the heavy instruments.  “Why Good People Suffer” is a great odd-time-signature piece with a message that sticks with the listener:
Should I sit in judgment,
Do I have to judge me?
I couldn’t tell you why good people suffer.
I couldn’t tell you why the bad ones run free.
God showers blessings on the righteous and the wicked.
I only know that that covers me.
My only criticism of this album is the band’s attempt to go soft in “Yes.”  Salomon has one of the most unique voices in rock.  But as great as it is for hard music, it just doesn’t work in a slow song, especially not in a duet with a female.

Nevertheless, Stavesacre represents the band at its best in several different styles.  If you don’t know the band, this is the first album you want to get.  If you do know the band, you’re getting more of the same.  But you’re getting it in a better package than before.

Dan Singleton 11/18/2002

The latest, self-titled Stavesacre album is taking heat from some critics who say it doesn’t match up to their 1999 project Speakeasy. In all honesty, it doesn’t. But Stavesacre is an album that by nearly any other band would be called a masterpiece. Lead singer Mark Soloman proves he is one of the best vocalists in rock music -Christian or otherwise-and producer David Bianco lets Salomon’s voice carry the record.

There’s nothing as immediately hook-filled or captivating as "Keep Waiting" or "Gold and Silver" here, but after a couple of listens individual songs begin to lock in. "Blind Hope," "A Place Where I Can Breathe," and "Island" are three of the band’s best songs yet, and the quality of the album as a whole is more constant than anything in the past.

Stavesacre’s lyrics have always been fresh and thought-provoking, and the writings on Stavesacre  are no exception. "A Place Where I Can Breathe" uses evocative imagery to tell us "your sons and your daughters are unwilling martyrs to the devils, priests, and other thieves, and their wars and rumors of war. I need a handgun and a hand grenade to protect me from those who keep me safe," while "Island" is more plain: "If you should wake one day to find you don’t see yourself as mine, if you should need to leave my side, you leave a better man behind."

Three songs ("Island," "The Sad Parade," and "Night Town") were originally recorded for the band’s split EP with Denison Marrs. The latter two have now appeared on three different Stavesacre albums. Ballad "Yes" is a bland affair that only looks worse compared to Speakeasy’s mindblowing "Gold and Silver."

No matter how well this stacks up against previous albums, there’s  nothing like hearing Salomon thunder "Blind hope will save the world" with all the power and emotion a vocalist can muster. Stavesacre stays at the top of their game and shows they are still major steps ahead of most other bands in the market.

John Wilson 12/11/02


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