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For the Love of the Game
Label: Sony BMG Home Entertainment & Essential Records
Length: 10 Tracks / 37:50
Before I begin, let me first clear the air. I haven't heard Pillar's entire back-catalog, nor have I thought much of them to this point.
I thought Pillar's first record, 2000's Above, was awful - trite, cliché, formulaic, riding the rapcore bandwagon (poorly), and chalk full of boring music and decidedly sunday-school lyrics. I wrote them off, and to be honest I was surprised that they not only survived that first record, but managed to put out a listenable and marketable sophomore product in 2002's Fireproof. Fireproof wasn't anything too spectacular, but it was a night-and-day improvement - engaging, slightly less predictable, and the lyrical content actually contained some decidedly less regrettable songwriting. Particularly once they had the album re-mixed and remastered in 2003, I enjoyed it. For the most part my exposure to Pillar has been minimal since, other than hearing snatches of 2004's Where Do We Go From Here. I haven't heard any of their EP's (which they started to release inbetween albums following Fireproof), and I haven't heard their 2006 effort The Reckoning.
So, with that as my background of exposure to Pillar, I must report that their new record, entitled For the Love of the Game, to my mostly uninitiated ears, sounds like a lot of other bands right now. Specifically, it sounds like a lot of other bands whose genres are dying or dead. In this case, Pillar started out as rapcore, segued into nu-metal, and now that both genres are dead they are trying their hands at the same kind of "rock and roll" that a lot of other bands in similar situations have been lately. The best example to reference would be Linkin Park, who recently abandoned their rapcore/nu-metal roots in favour of a similar rock sound on their recent 2007 outing Minutes To Midnight (with similar results). As a side, sometimes it sounds inescapably like Pillar's Rob Beckley is channelling Linkin Park's Chester Bennington, particularly when yelling.
What you have here, basically, is a rock album. Nothing too fancy, written to appeal both to those who like their music "Christian" and to those who like their music suitable for play at the local sports venue. Lyrically, Pillar isn't particularly preachy, and their lyrics aren't even remotely what we saw back on Above. Indeed, I found them enjoyable as a whole, if not particularly challenging or thought-provoking. A notable would be the second track, entitled "Turn It Up" - a failed experiment in trying to fridge-magnet lyrics together out of the names of notable albums and songs from Christian music history. The fun and/or depressing thing about it was identifying each reference offhand. As an example:
I'm drawing a black line(If you recognized album titles by Project 86 and Underoath as well as song titles by P.O.D., Bleach, and Stavesacre in there, you get bonus points.)
So, while I admire Pillar for referencing some of the great musical juggernauts of the past 15 years all in half a verse here, the song comes off as filler... ie. "we couldn't write anything good so here's something we spent 15 minutes throwing together". Can't say as much for the music - the track is one of the more enjoyable on the album - and maybe that captures my response to For the Love of the Game as a whole: mixed feelings.
This is fairly run of the mill alternative radio-rock music: at times anthemic, at times touchy-feely, and between lyrical and sonic content... pretty consistently less-than-challenging. Just like the aforementioned Linkin Park album.
If you're a big Pillar fan, you're probably already in love with The Game. If not, you might want to look elsewhere to satiate your alternative rock needs.
Standout Tracks: For the Love of the Game, Forever Starts Now.