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Speakeasy
Artist: Stavesacre 
Label: Tooth & Nail Records
Time: 12 Tracks/54:28 minutes

Minuteman (sample)
Keep Waiting (sample)
Freefall (from hand to hand) (sample)

Speakeasy, Stavesacre's latest album, sounds pretty much identical to everything they've done in the past. 9/10ths of the album has that Tool vs. Helmet sound that's worked for them so well in the past, and there's a characteristic slow song in the vein of "Burning Clean." Mark Salomon and company tread very little new water here.

The good news is that it still sounds fresh and new. Stavesacre blasts their way through twelve songs, not letting the quality drop for a second. With Salomon spitting out rapid-fire lines like, "I don't believe this is what God above intended, and I wanted you to know," and guitarist Ryan Denny crunching out riffs like tomorrow died last week, the band sounds better than ever. Only one of the songs, "St. Eriksplan," drags on for too long, with its repeating chorus bordering on annoying:

No one knows 
The words I've spoken 
The paths I've chosen 
The promises that have been broken
There's even a cover of The Cure's classic "Fascination Street," which manages to maintain the moodiness of the original, while adding a whole new intensity. It's been interesting to watch Salomon mature as a lyricist since the cliché-filled days of The Crucified. Few would argue that he's not one of the best lyricists in hard Christian music, and Speakeasy reinforces his ability. The song "Keep Waiting" is a good example:
That was far away from here 
Feels like a million miles 
Under unfamiliar skies 
And more than one way far from dreams I've dreamed 
We've seen the blinding light 
There was hope, but was there time? 
Slow trigger, starting line 
Each day of waiting to see eternity
You never left my side 
You never left my mind
Every one of these songs is a gem. Stavesacre has a way of making music that seems almost magical. Still, it'd be nice to have a little variety from album to album.

Michial Farmer 11/18/99

Stavesacre's rather unique blend of melodic alternacore begins to sound the same on this, the band's third album. Too much of a good thing, however, can still be a good thing, as this disc fully illustrates.

While the band has yet to create a cut to top their classic "At the Moment," a few tracks here come close. "Freefall (From Hand to Hand)" paints a beautiful picture of just what happens when we fail God:

Freefall weightless and terrified
On I go crossing over from living to so alive
And purified I know weeping is cast for the night
And joy...

If I fall down
If I fail you
When I fall down
When I fail you
I hope to find you there
I hope to find you there
I know I'll find you there
I've always found you there
(from "Freefall")

It is this lyrical genius that marks Stavesacre as one of the hallmark hard rock bands presently on the market. Vocalist and songwriter Mark Saloman, along with cohorts Jeff Bellew, Dirk Lemmenes, Sam West, and Ryan Denny, continue to craft finely-tuned melodic rock.

If there can be a gripe about this disc, it is only that it seems musically indistinguishable from Stavesacre's earlier works. But I'd rather see the band continue to do this music and do it well, than see them try changing styles and wind up losing that unique Stavesacre vibe.

Josh Marihugh 11/28/99

Stavesacre hasn't really changed for this album, despsite an HM article where Mark Salomon inferred that this album would be different from its predecessors.  Sure, there's a touch more melody, a hint more emo, and the guitars are thicker due to new second guitarist Ryan Denny, but other than that, this is Absolutes repackaged.  There's also a lack of the high drama vocal peaks of Salomon that he exhibited so well on songs like "Burning Clean" and "Wither/Ascend." 

But with solid lyrics and songwriting, and a genre-breaking sound, why should they have strayed from their sucessful formula?  They manage to pull it off for this album, but another like this should not be made. Stavesacre needs to decide what path to choose: continue to trod this path of Absolutes era sound, or fully develop their emo and punk influences for something fresh. 

Joe Rockstroh

 

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