Hearts of Saints - For All Of Us as reviewed by the Phantom Tollbooth

As former post-punk mainstay Stuart Goddard once said, "Vive le rock!"



For All of Us
Artist: Hearts of Saints
Independent Artist
Length: 15 Tracks (58:10)

If there is one overarching complaint that seems to get lodged these days against the songs on Christian radio, it’s that far too many of them sound far too similar. Indeed, it wasn’t all that long ago that the average listener could hop in their car for that long road trip, tune the dial to their favorite hit station and hear the soul-filled sounds of Russ Taff, the spritely rock-meets-pop of Margaret Becker, the alt-rock stylings of The 77s and the inspirational pop of Twila Paris without ever reaching for the tuning dial, and, more often than not, all before they reached their destination.

These days, though, in the wake of the praise and worship music phenomenon that seems to have swept across virtually the whole of the Christian music landscape, the Top 40 is a far more homogenous proposition, where the bulk of artists, many of whom were making music during the time that the abovementioned artists regularly populated the charts, now favor the light-pop-meets-worship sound made ubiquitous by hugely successful acts like MercyMe, Casting Crowns and Tenth Avenue North.

What a surprise, then, to unearth this treasure from vocalist Craig Felker and his cohorts in Hearts of Saints. Even though they may well have been in grade school or junior high when Taff, Becker and the Merry Band of Sevens roamed the earth, their sparkling second effort serves notice of the most convincing kind that rock music isn’t dead and writing pop songs doesn’t necessarily mean playing it safe. The rock half of their two-disc latest effort is chocked full of beefy guitars, wailing vocals, air-tight harmonies and truck loads of caution thrown to the wind. To be sure, listening to tracks like “Flash,” “Wait” and the absolutely sizzling “Birth of a Legacy,” one gets the distinct impression that the HoS men have spent the requisite hours playing air guitar on tennis racquets in front of their bedroom mirrors as dreams of rock stardom danced in their nimble young minds.

While many a hard-rocking, and even pop-loving, band has fallen by the wayside when trying their hand at kinder, gentler material, such is not the case here on the second (worship) disc of the set, where Felker & Co. exhibit absolute mastery of that which we now label as the worship music genre. Indeed, “Everlasting,” with its hushed beginning, swelling midsection and reverent ending, is a textbook show of both passion and restraint. The hook-heavy groove of “Out of the Dark,” by comparison, is of a piece with the superb music penned during the then-budding modern worship movement of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Most impressive, though, is “Your Great Love,” whose elegant melody and simple, unaffected sincerity station it as the double-CD project’s most compelling entry.

The band does occasionally stray into the like-sounding sort of material that currently inhabits the better portion of the Christian pop Top 40. And their reach sometimes exceeds their grasp as they try to wed the grand statement to the perfect hook. But, given All of Us’s copious two-disc length, even with the weaker cuts excised, fans are still left with 40 to 45 minutes of bracing, melodic, and ultimately engaging material to sink their teeth into. A decided step in the right direction after the largely unimpressive self-titled freshman effort, the Saints have eschewed the safe route (i.e. making that which sounds like everyone else) and turned in an altogether different, and decidedly winning, proposition.



 – Bert Gangl, The Phantom Tollbooth (05-02-2013)

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