13 tracks of rock/metal goodness
Artist: XIII Minutes
Label: Rottweiler Records
Length: 13 tracks, 47:13
I’ll start this review by saying that I’ve been a fan of the “Arklahoma”-based XIII Minutes (members are based out of both Tulsa, OK, and Siloam Springs, AR) for a couple of years now, and it has been no secret that I’ve been looking forward to this, the band’s full-length debut album. The wait is finally over, as Rottweiler Records drops 13 tracks of rock/metal goodness in this disc.
Drummer Jamie Kucinski, guitarist Aaron Smith, and vocalist Michael Rowley made the decision when they started the process of building this album not to rush it. Through their Bandcamp page, they released a series of “digital 45s” featuring tracks from the album. Because of this, by the time the album finally hit people’s hands, it wasn’t entirely new. Eight of the 13 tracks had been previously released, although the album versions are fully remastered, and in cases, rerecorded.
The first thing that struck me about this disc was the pure consistency of it. Often, when bands spend a long time making an album, especially if that stretch of time includes multiple lineup shakeups, the final product can feel inconsistent. In the same way, bands that feature elements of many styles can suffer the same fate: a “finished” CD that feels wildly uneven from track to track. That’s certainly not the case here. While the band features many stylistic influences (I hear notes of Parkway Drive, Demon Hunter, In Flames, and just a bit of Pillar at times, particularly in “Out of Time”), the CDs is remarkably consistent, both in volume levels and in the feel of each track. It doesn’t seem like an album that took three years to make. Speaking with Jamie Kucinski, he indicated there were two tracks that came out of previous, pre-XIII Minutes projects. I wouldn’t be able to tell. There are places where the album references itself; the closing riff of “This Life” is echoed both in “Out of Time” and album closer “Reckless Love.”
Secondly, let’s examine the music for a minute. Aaron’s guitar tone is just MASSIVE; the lead licks are tasty and the rhythm cooks. As both a vocalist and a drummer, I must admit that I’m a bit jealous of both Michael and Jamie. Michael swings seamlessly from cleans to growls, often from line to line in the same song, and Jamie carries a strong groove throughout the album. The rhythm is steady and the fills are ferocious. The band’s sense of dynamics is remarkable. While the album feels consistently loud, there are certainly places where a song needs to build from a whisper to a roar.
Lyrically, the band presents a strong message of hope, from “Victim-Less”, with its cry of “I don’t claim victim status!” to “This Life” and the declaration, “Claiming victory now in this present life.” From some bands, this might come off insincere or corny, but the passion here is clear; it’s obvious that this band believes what they present.
“Machaira” takes a look at believers “struggling to survive” with incomplete armor. When you have a “defective helmet” (of salvation) and are left “beltless” (without truth), it’s difficult to claim the victory that “This Life” eclares.
In closing, I want to draw attention to the final three tracks of the album. “Out of Time” takes a bit of a softer turn, with piano, strings, and a haunting guest female vocal. While it can feel like a bit of a curveball after the pounding rock of the first ten tracks, it fits perfectly.
“When You Have Suffered” is an interlude that references 1 Peter 5:10. “But after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called us to His eternal glory through Christ Jesus, will restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.” This is a timely reminder that while suffering and trials are sure to come, we will never be forsaken.
The album closes with a cover of Cory Asbury’s “Reckless Love”. This could feel like it was just tacked on at the end, just because worship music is trendy. But this is organic. The album would be incomplete without this closing declaration of faith and trust in the matchless love of our great Redeemer. The band invited some guest vocalists in for a gang vocal that ends the album; as the music fades out, the voices carry the chorus out to its, and the album’s, close.
Overall, if I have one complaint about the album, it’s that even at a full-length 47+ minutes, it feels short. Maybe we’ve gotten spoiled by double albums and CDs with 15, 16, or more tracks. However, that’s what the repeat button is for. Buy it; I think you’ll love it.