Release Date: May 5th 2015
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Keep Fighting
- I’ve Got the Power
- Here And Now
- Safety (feat. Stephen Christian)
- The Fallout
- Easy to Break
- We Are Alive
- Out of My Head
- This is Our Time
- Light Inside
‘…when going through change, the natural reaction is to resist and to hold on to what is familiar and comfortable. But we as believers are not called to hold on to comfort and familiarity are we? No, we are called to trust. Trust in someone bigger than ourselves…the only way to truly be able to trust through any circumstance is to continually be renewing our minds…’ With the word INNOVA being the Latin word for “renew”, it seems almost fitting for Fireflight to be releasing their album aptly about renewal, especially when this will be their first album in almost ten years not under a label. While the genre of the band has seeming been altered over the years, from hard rock, to now more of a pop/rock leaning, their message is still the same, and is still at the forefront in their new album.
Releasing May 5th (on the same day as Audio Adrenaline’s Sound of the Saints and Plumb’s Exhale…not sure which album will be more popular amongst the fans and masses), Dawn Michele, lead singer of the band, has delivered arguably one of her most powerful vocal performances to carry this 12 song track list to be my favourite album of 2015 so far. With this album being my first 5/5 review of the year thus far, this is one sure not to be missed by anyone who’s a Fireflight fan, and someone who may want to hear an album that sounds awfully like it’s label produced, even though it was recorded independently!
While it has been 3 years since their previous project NOW, Fireflight have made it worth the wait, with a stylistic shift from rock to electronic/dance one of the aspects that makes this album interesting, unique, different and engaging, compared to anything they have ever recorded in their career thus far. With both their singles “Resuscitate Me” and “We Are Alive” being polar opposites musically, we have a chance to see Fireflight expand their musical territory as they assert themselves as one of the most musically diverse female-fronted bands (aside from Superchick and BarlowGirl) that have graced Christian music within the last decade.
From the first beats of “We Are Alive”, we see a different Fireflight– one that is much more easily accessible regardless of whether you enjoy CCM, mainstream music or anything else in between. With an electronic beat underlying a song that’s as enjoyable and catchy as any pop melody that graces the radio waves, the message of living life to the full and embracing the fact we are alive is something we all ought to take into account as we live each day. While not as explicit as a theme like “Jesus is Lord and we worship You”, “We Are Alive” gives us a perspective like no other. Sometimes we can believe that our problems are so humongous that we can miss the point- that because we are alive, everything that is in our lives will in fact bring us closer to God, or at least make us learn something and understand that it is during difficult times where the Lord builds the character of His children the most. While not as musically layered as songs like “For Those Who Wait” or “Stay Close”; “We Are Alive” showcases the band’s versatility as they branch out into new seasons and new styles of music- something I myself as a CCM lover am excited about and have anticipation for.
Released as a demo in April of last year, “Keep Fighting” reminds us all to find for the people we love and the situations we’re in as Dawn expresses her belief to keep fighting for hope, love and truth in what is one of the most musically safe melodies within all of the Fireflight catalogue. Great as an album opener, it brings in listeners who have enjoyed their NOW and Unbreakable songs and brings them into a moment of perseverance with this track. While at times the song may have a touch more autotune than necessary, Dawn’s vocals are great as ever, in a song that lyrically is one of the strongest they’ve ever recorded since “Unbreakable”. “Safety”, the second single from the album, features a duet with Stephen Christian from Anberlin, and is sung from the perspective of either God or sung between friends. With the message of it being how there is someone to be our safety and comfort during times of trouble, Dawn and Stephen’s harmonies across each other is what makes this song a meaningful highlight, and gives us comfort in the words that ‘…when you need me, I’ll be your safety…’
With a heavy keyboard undertone, “Lightning” is as energetic as any Fireflight melody would be as Dawn invites us all to embrace the ‘lightning’ within us and light up the streets- and while it’s not explicit, we know that the lightning discussed in the song is that of God’s love within us and flowing through us. With hand claps, a strong drum beat, and Dawn’s powerful vocals that showcase her strong ability to deliver a solid melody while also piercing the high notes quite beautifully; we are reminded that ‘…you’re born to light it up with your electric love…they can’t contain your energy, cause you are lightning…’ “I’ve Got the Power” also touches on the theme of showcasing love all around us as from the first lyric, Dawn encourages us all to burn bright, because ‘…that’s what I was born to do, never quit, I know I won’t ever lose…’, with electronic beats and a light keyboard sound that makes not only this song but the album holistically have a lighter sound compared to their guitar based melodies of albums past.
“Resuscitate Me”, the first promotional single prior to “We Are Alive”, follows a similar musical framework as “Keep Fighting” and becomes the second guitar prominent track as we hear a theme of crying to God for resuscitation, comfort and hope; while “Out of My Head”, though repetitious at times with the tag ‘…I can’t get you out of my head…’, is unique musically with 1990s N64 sounds and a theme of admitting that God is in our heads influencing our every thought, even if at times we may want to believe the contrary. “The Fallout” contends with discussing what we’re fighting for- personally, as a nation and even in a spiritual sense as Dawn invites us all to listen to a hard-hitting 3 minute track complete with drum kicks and a light electronic keyboard presence as the melody becomes one of the most meaningful they’ve recorded since the title track from NOW, and “Easy to Break” becomes as vulnerable as ever as Dawn shows us all that we can still be human and also real- that unveiling we are easy to bend and break doesn’t make us less of a person than if we keep things locked inside.
Yet it is the tracks “Here and Now”, “This is Our Time” and “Light Inside” that have stood out for me as Dawn portrays in each of them a longing to live for now and know that it is only when we realise that the time for living is now rather than later that we can embrace the fact that the light inside of us (God’s love) is what everyone needs to see, thus fuelling us to live each day as a gift as we share life, love, hope, truth and experiences with everyone we meet. With Dawn powerfully declaring at the top of her lungs that it is in this moment where we make the most difference (rather than always procrastinating til tomorrow), “This is Our Time” is as emotive as any 4 minute melody from Fireflight would be, with Dawn encouraging us to never wait until tomorrow what we can accomplish today.
A sombre end to the album, “Light Inside” is for anyone who doubts whether they have any good inside of them after a lifetime of hurt and pain, as the poignant lyrics of how we all ought to ‘…shine where you are…don’t waste your time chasing neon lights, there’s a light inside of you…’; while “Here and Now” encourages us to take a chance on the now-with a piano and Dawn’s soaring vocals that asserts my convictions of her being one of the most underrated female vocalists of CCM currently, we are called to believe that ‘…it’s more than how You changed things, it’s how You’re changing me…’
Fireflight have come a long way from their debut album on Flicker Records in 2006. Ten years later, and a vast amount of #1 hits and singles, we have seen the band grow musically, lyrically and now stylistically, as we see how a shift in the band’s musical genres can not only be a unique and different thing, but also remind us all that bands forever change, and that relying on a band to stay constant musically throughout their whole career is like waiting for something that is a lost cause. Having said that, Fireflight have done a tremendously wonderful job at creating INNOVA and all its 12 songs. Rating an album 5/5 doesn’t come often to me- the last few album’s I’ve rated that high were Josh Wilson’s Carry Me, MercyMe’s Welcome to the New and Steven Curtis Chapman’s The Glorious Unfolding. Yet INNOVA is very much a standout of 2015, and an album to certainly cherish from the band in months and even years to come. Despite being recorded independently, the quality on the album matches and even usurps some of their previous albums past. From the enjoyable “We Are Alive” to the heartfelt “Light Inside” and the fun-filled dance number “Lightning”, this is a welcomed change for the band. Here’s for many more dance-filled albums in the future from a band that’s one of the last decade’s most underrated bands ever!
3 songs to listen to: Light Inside, We Are Alive, This is Our Time
RIYL: Superchick, RED, BarlowGirl, Plumb, Audio Adrenaline