Release Date: August 19th 2021
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- I’m Free
- By Faith
- Don’t Forget (feat. Tasha Layton)
- Right Here (feat. Stephen Christian)
- Bow Down
- All The Time
- Wonder Working
- Empty Hands
Releasing their third album God Is On The Move in 2015 via BEC Recordings, 7eventh Time Down, the pop/rock quartet from Kentucky, with musical similarities to Building 429, Kutless and Seventh Day Slumber, delivered 11 songs of rich lyrical poignancy and emotion, while also tackling broader issues prevalent to society today. These guys wear their heart on their sleeve, and after being completely overcome and challenged by their sophomore album Just Say Jesus in 2013, friends Mikey, Eric, Cliff and Austin picked up right where they left off, which was definitely a good thing! With God Is On The Move mainly comprising of the theme of God working in our lives all the time even when we can’t see the immediate effects; the BEC Recordings album was, and still is, a must listen for any listener who loves pop/rock music, or even worship music as well. Though some melodies and lyrics were slightly cliché, there’s no denying the band’s heart for Jesus, as we did and still can immerse ourselves and delve deep into 40 minutes of guitar led pop/rock goodness. However, that was then. Now it’s three years later, and with only the lead single on an unnamed album “I Have Decided” being released within that time span; I reckon the new offering is very underwhelming- sad to say.
Now let me say as a precursor, that I am not bashing 7eventh Time Down. Not at all. Their full-length albums are pretty good, and you can read my review of their 2015 album, and listen on Spotify– and see for yourself just how professionally recorded and exceptionally sung most, if not all, of their songs are. So why am I bagging “I Have Decided”? Well, I guess if you want to pinpoint one thing- it’s just that when you have been reviewing for as long as I have, you tend to pick up on things a lot, especially whether a song is lyrically engaging or not. While you would say a lyrically creative song would be something written by Andrew Peterson, this song falls into the last category. Lazy writing, repetitive lyrics that we’ve all heard before, an overuse of electronics- you name it, and “I Have Decided” has it. This track doesn’t really make me feel confident about the band’s next new album- however I will reserve judgement for the rest of the tracks when they release sometime in 2018 or in 2019. Until then, let me just say this. That I may listen to “I Have Decided” in the near future and be impacted and challenged then- but until such a time, I think I’ll stick to new albums from Phil Wickham and Riley Clemmons (which both released the same day as “I Have Decided”!).
In 2015, 7eventh Time Down previously crafted an album loaded with worshipful moments, as well as thoughtful melodies about the human condition and our place in this world as a Christian. But three years on; “I Have Decided” isn’t that ‘thoughtful melody’ and that is a shame- as the band is super talented, but the talents are wasted here. Arguably one of my favourite artists on BEC Recordings currently (alongside Kutless, All Things New, David Dunn, Matty Mullins and Stephen Christian), these men from Kentucky have not delivered enough in this song to warrant at least a listen. But the fact that these guys still have proven track records is reason enough for us to keep our ears peeled for maybe the next song which is better from them. So, as we wait on the next album, what do you think we should do? Revisit God Is On The Move? Or just binge-listen other artists’ albums? How about both?
What does it tell you about a song, or an album or an EP, when you can ‘quote’ an entire review of another song, mentally substitute out the name from the previous song to many of the current song/s you’re writing about, and it’ll still make sense? 7eventh Time Down’s latest album By Faith released this past week… and it’s a worrying sign when everything I’ve mentioned in my review for “I Have Decided” (the lead single from their 2019 album Brand New Day) as quoted above, especially rings true here. I reviewed the group’s EP I’m Free last year- and I bagged all 5 songs. I would have thought that a year would make this group wiser and much more creative… but it seems that out of the 11 long track list of 30-something minutes in duration, 5 songs are from the EP (I thought that maybe a couple may not have made it on the full album!), and there are 6 brand new songs… which are mediocre at best.
So, let’s revisit the EP shall we. And let’s take the group’s lead single from the album- “Questions”. The melody, on the surface, showed much promise. I mean, here was a supposed compelling, powerful and hopeful melody that was asking the tough questions, reminding us all that it’s ok to have doubts, to have questions, and to wrestle with God. However, what is good in theory isn’t always executed well; and that’s certainly the case here. For those who haven’t figured it out by now, I’ve quoted verbatim my review of “I Have Decided” from back in 2018- and it’s just to let you know, that my thoughts on the band haven’t changed in 4 years. It’s a shame, because God Is On The Move is an incredible album, so I know that these guys are better than what they’re releasing now. But for all intents and purposes… sub “I Have Decided” with “Questions” (and virtually any of the other songs on By Faith) and that’s how I feel right now. It’s frustrating, as I know these guys are crazily talented. “Just Say Jesus”, “God Is On The Move” and “Promises” are especially proof of this. Yet “Questions” is lacking because it ties everything up in once nice bow. And that’s not indicative of how life is at the moment. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to sort through doubts and feelings of uncertainty- and to trivialise them and put them into a 3-minute song- and then declare ‘hey, it’s ok that you have questions’ and then expect everyone having doubts to suddenly not have doubts anymore, and to suddenly be ok; well that’s a bit ignorant don’t you reckon? But hey, what do I know- I’m just a reviewer!
For the rest of the album… need I say more? It’s pretty standard and run of the mill, and probably only needs to be listened to once. As for the 4 ‘recognisable’ songs from the EP last year; “I’m Free” is a typical radio CCM style melody, as lead singer Mikey Howard passionately reiterates that he’s been made free by Jesus, yet the delivery and execution falls flat immensely. While the equally uninteresting “Bow Down” is filled with repetition galore, even if the idea and novelty of the song sounds alright in theory- a song denouncing the old sinful ways of your life and declaring that you’re not going to bow down to idols. Lyrically, the melody is probably needed- but again, the execution is pretty sloppy. “All This Time”, a pleasant, nice, piano and synth ballad that essentially declares that God has never left our side even after all this time, is exactly that- nice without being confrontational and rocking the boat; while “Right Here” (with Stephen Christian on guest vocals), musically feels out of place, as this dance/EDM tune reaffirms the heartfelt promises of God that He’s right beside us every step of the way. Does it bode well for the album, that even after listening to the 6 new tracks, that I believe that “Right Here” is the band at their ‘best’ in comparison to the other songs?
The new melodies released this year… well, they are wholistically not much better. The title track is an earnest and passionate melody about standing up for what you believe in and walking in faith in the promises and prophecies that Jesus has spoken to and over us; but it isn’t a groundbreaking song, not by any means. With Mikey relaying that ‘…by faith, I keep pressin’ on, by faith, hope is never gone, no matter what I’m walkin’ through, all things are possible with You, by faith, on the Rock I stand, always, I will trust Your plan, every step I take along the way, I will walk by faith…’; well, I just think of Danny Gokey’s “Stand In Faith”, as well as The Sonflowerz’s “By Faith” and marvel at how much better those songs were delivered in concept- cause they’re all essentially the same song, am I right? Album opener “Undefeated”, is a power-packed and energetic rock song, where lead singer Mikey channels his inner Joseph Rojas, and tries to be as rocky and edgy as can be. Yet, despite the nobility and graciousness of these lyrics- they don’t really ring out as compassionate. With the lyrics being about encouraging someone who is feeling down and may be feeling isolated and/or depressed with the way their life is going at the moment- they way this song ‘encourages’, doesn’t feel like true encouragement. Sure, it’s great to speak truth over people; but to hammer over the gospel without much tact… that’s what this song is doing. Yes these lyrics are all true: ‘…we have power that overcame the darkness, the blood of Jesus is rushin’ through our veins, when we stand up on His Word, we are more than conquerors, every enemy will tremble at His name, He’s undefeated…’. But will people struggling for whatever reason- will they be receptive to these words and the delivery of these words? Something to ponder about, I reckon!
“Don’t Forget”, with Tasha Layton, is a personal album standout, with the acoustic guitar ballad providing hope, comfort and peace to us all, with Mikey outlining that we ought to not ‘…forget who’s writing your story, don’t forget what’s always been true, when the fight don’t seem fair and the end is unclear, don’t forget who’s walkin’ with you…’; but there’s just one problem- and it is that I can barely hear Tasha on ‘guest vocals’. She’s singing light backing vocals… but that’s about it, and I call that false advertising. “Christian”, on the other hand is arguably the corniest and cheesiest song these guys have recorded. It’s a song that does not deserve a repeat listen, despite the biblical truth in the melody. With hand claps and an incredibly cringy poppy atmosphere, Mikey delivers true lyrics about the gospel- but because of the uninteresting music… this song is one that no one will take seriously, sad to say. “Wonder Working”, a thematic modern version of the hymn “Power In The Blood”, is a song that is moving, inspirational and impacting. But it doesn’t have any staying power or that something special or extra that the great songs have; while the album ender is “Empty Hands”, a spoken word-like melody, in which Mikey speaks about how all that he has to offer Jesus are empty hands and his whole entire self.
I used to be excited about 7eventh Time Down’s releases. But I’ve reached the point of no return. Sad to say, if these guys continue to make music as uninteresting as this, then chances are I won’t be listening to their future material… unless there’s a drastic ‘wow’ factor next time. I know that I vowed to never listen to their forthcoming music last time, but I only listened to this project and decided to review this project, as it was an extension of the EP. And as it stands, this is a bittersweet review- and when I want to be uplifted by something from 7eventh Time Down, I’ll just listen to “Just Say Jesus”, “Promises” and “God Is On The Move”! But… you guys might be needing this album if you are struggling with your faith, or even if your faith is intact. So listen to the album if you want to. But if you have doubts still and are deconstructing… then I’d say check out Jason Gray’s Order Disorder Reorder album from 2020, and read my brother’s review of that album too!
3 songs to listen to: Don’t Forget, Right Here, Empty Hands
RIYL: Building 429, Switchfoot, Audio Adrenaline, Seventh Day Slumber, Kutless