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Chance to Breathe
Label: Tooth and Nail Records
I still remember the first time I heard Spoken. I had driven 110 miles to see Stavesacre (That's normal. Right?), and had never even heard of Spoken at the time. As the show started, there was this smallish, unassuming guy walking around reading a Bible. As the show started, he got up and introduced the local band that was opening the show. When they finished he got back up there, and all of a sudden, that smallish, unassuming image was destroyed in a sonic onslaught as Matt Baird and Spoken released their fury on the crowd.
>From that first moment, the intensity of Spoken's music (both musically and spiritually) gripped me. I remember hearing them play the song “David” for the first time that night. I was so surprised to hear that level of worship come from music that intense. Through the years, their sound has changed, and at times (A Moment of Imperfect Clarity) softened a bit, but that raw spirituality has been constant. Songs that were obviously inspired by times of soul searching are interspersed with songs of love, longing, and life in general. Oh yeah, there's also that bit of '80' radio pop in the form of a cover of Cindy Lauper's “Time After Time”; which remains so close to the original, that it doesn't really do anything other then take me back to high school.
Last Chance to Breathe is Spoken's sophomore release on Tooth and Nail Records, but they are far from sophomoric on this, their fifth album. Yes, they have changed from the hard rapcore sound of What Remains, but it doesn't reek of a sell out. I guess you could call it a natural transformation. They have returned to the screaming sounds on some of the songs. Especially "Bitter Taste" with Cory from Norma Jean. The diversity of sound ranges from hard and grating to ethereal and touching. It's amazing that all that range can come from one man. Lyrically speaking, they can write a love song to their Lord as well as they can write one to their wife, without sounding contrived.
Overall, I would say that this album will please old Spoken fans while allowing them to continue to reach out to new fans alike.
Justin Wright 9/20/2005
Having never been acquainted with music by Spoken, I knew nothing about the band so I tried to do a little research to gain a better understanding. From pictures, they reminded me of Pillar. Style-wise, I was also told their music fit into a melodic post-hardcore, somewhat but not really emo, poppy, prog-rock genre, and on top of that, they used to rap. But when I popped Last Chance to Breath in my CD player, things started to come together and though I wasn’t blown away, I must say I was pleasantly surprised at what I was hearing.
The album begins with the richly composed “September,” a song that successfully integrates catchy guitar riffs with engaging vocals and a well-formed structure. “Last Chance to Breathe” is another catchy and well-written song off the record. Spoken also took a step to add extra flavor to the album by featuring Cory Putman from the hard-core band Norman Jean in "Bitter Taste" and also recorded a cover of the old '80’s song “Time After Time” by Cindi Lauper, which seemed a bit out of place sound-wise and not enough their own style, but a well-done cover none-the-less.
Lyrically, the CD is uplifting and positive in addressing real-life issues. “Every musician, artist, student or human being gets homesick, falls in love or questions their purpose,“ says Matt Baird, vocalist. “I think this record covers all of that.” However, without Baird’s emotionally-powered vocals, I’m not sure the album would be as appealing. The vocals are what set Spoken’s music apart from all the other Christian rock groups out there. Baird’s voice has often been compared to that of Claudio Sanchez from Coheed and Cambria in mainstream media, and rightly so, and though some may describe his voice to be effeminate, it is unique and adds a special touch to the music.
One area Spoken could improve in is with their slower, softer songs, such as “Love in return” and “From the Inside.” They are too simple and somewhat boring after the first minute or so; however, it is an advantage to the band to at least have the ability and confidence to write songs that vary from their normal harder-hitting sound. Also, most of the songs sound very similar and lack a strong distinction from each other. There is no stand out amazing single or couple songs that really set themselves apart from the rest of the album and make me excited about the band and music.
Even though Spoken still has a few areas to work on, they have found a unique groove in Christian music and _Last Chance to Breathe_ is a reasonably solid album that’s worth checking out.
Sarah Verno, 11/6/05