Motion Records/Blind Thief Recordings
Release Date: March 10th 2015
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Good Kings Highway
- Light Me Up
- Just As I Am
- When We Were Young
- That Was Then This Is Now
- White Horse
- Just As I Am (Derek Webb Remix)
- Clear (Derek Webb Remix)
- Infinite (feat. Rachael Lampa)
When Audio Adrenaline announced that Kevin Max would be stepping down as lead singer of the band back in the middle of 2014, there was much speculation of what the future of Kevin Max’s music would look like. How would Kevin sound solo-album wise as compared to during his tenure with AA? How would Audio Adrenaline sound without him? Within a month or so of him departing from the band, songs began to surface- “Infinite”, a duo with CCM/pop singer Rachael Lampa, and “Light Me Up”, Kevin’s first CCM/radio single, possibly even since “Existence” way back in 2001. Fans of Kevin’s solo music during the 2000s, and fans of the new incarnation of Audio Adrenaline (of which I am a part of) were ecstatic about the new songs- fast forward another 8-9 months, and we can hear in full Kevin’s first solo album ever since 2005’s The Blood. Broken Temples was not without its mishaps and delays- pushed back from July 2014, til August, November and now finally out on March 10th 2015.
Nevertheless, what we as fans of Kevin’s new and old music can hear is 10 songs full of energy, creativity, uniqueness and vulnerability. Created entirely through pledgemusic and distributed independently, Kevin has continued to forge himself as a powerful and poignant songwriter, and one of the most underrated vocal talents of this generation. From “Infinite” which speaks about how Christ is so much more than our minds can fathom or understand, to “Just As I Am”, an 80s feel melody full of drum beats that reminds us all that Christ takes us as we are rather than as we ought to be; this is an album for lovers of pop, rock, CCM and alternative music alike, as Broken Temples is one of the most musically versatile and ground-breaking Christian albums released in 2015 so far.
Releasing June 2014, “Infinite”, the last song on Broken Temples and arguably one of Kevin Max’s most honest and vulnerable songs to venture out into the land of CCM ever; is a clear reminder to each of us about the Lord’s infinity and our own reliance and dependence on Him. With the added depth musically and sonically that Rachael Lampa brings as she sings backing vocals, Kevin and the rest of the production team have crafted a gem of a melody that delivers lyrically in the powerful words that “…You said You love me and You know me well, when I stood tall and I tripped and fell, but now I’m Yours and I stand refined, like a piece of gold from the mountainside…’ A song that’ll encourage more listeners to enjoy a song by Kevin Max, as it hopefully will bring listeners back into the fold of listening to music from Rachael Lampa as well; what powerfully evokes emotion in “Infinite” further continues in “Light Me Up”, my favourite CCM radio single since Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Love Take Me Over”.
As Kevin states himself, ‘…this song was a grand experiment into writing a radio single. I have never really felt like I had the tools as a solo artist to accomplish this. Even on my first album, Stereotype Be, and its lone radio single ‘Existence,’ I felt bewildered by the task. Radio has changed so drastically from the days of my early songwriting in the 80’s and 90’s…’ Nevertheless, with the help of Hawk Nelson lead singer Jon Steingard, “Light Me Up” is born, a song where Kevin’s ethereal backing vocals and vocal distortion create an atmosphere that’ll deliver in a CCM radio format that can sometimes seem uninspired and distant from the unique sounds that indie/rock music can bring. With the song delving into Kevin’s own story about how he himself was searching after his DC Talk days and how Christ met him and realigned his focus spiritually, “Light Me Up” is an encouragement to us all to never stop pursuing the light which Jesus is.
With its roots deep within the story about the prodigal son, 80s music-themed “Just As I Am” with electronic keyboards, a fast tempo, and Kevin’s distinct vocals carrying a song that would fit right at home with an album from Carman in the 1980s (say The Champion or Comin’ on Strong); we are met with vulnerability and heartfelt poignancy as this little over 3 minute 30 track reminds us all that Christ takes us as we are and continuously, no matter how many times we fall short of what He wants us to be in the circumstances we are in. Channelling 80s artists like David Bowie, U2 or even Michael Jackson, this dance-pop melodic song is a standout on Broken Temples.
Again with 1980s music influences (according to Kevin himself, “Clear” is in the same vein as artists like Duran Duran or Roxy Music), we are reminded of how Christ clearly speaks to us- either through His Word, prayer and songs of affirmation, or even through other people we meet and are in fellowship with each day. Written with Jeff Pardo (who co-writes a lot with Josh Wilson), Kevin’s musical experimentations that harken back to decades past is a reminder that musical ingenuity doesn’t have to come at the expense of poignancy and lyrical genius. With Derek Webb, founder of noisetrade, remixing both “Clear” and “Just As I Am” to bring about unique versions of already great songs, it is these tracks as well as Kevin’s two promotional singles that further highlights Broken Temples as being arguably one of 2015’s most musically different and enjoyable albums of the year!
Throughout the rest of the album, we are met with songs that while not necessarily as radio friendly as the aforementioned tracks, still bring forth Kevin’s vulnerability and make us want to hear more from this powerful songwriter. “Good Kings Highway” starts the album with a powerful bang as guitars and a radio pop/rock atmosphere delivers alongside the theme of looking for love and acceptance, freedom and faith from the eyes of a person less fortunate. As Kevin explains himself; ‘…the image of the open road or highway is a parallel to life. We walk down this road not knowing what will become of us, but trusting that somehow we will survive…’ “When We Were Young” is one of the most boldest and powerfully hard-hitting songs I’ve ever heard in my life since Carman’s “Our Turn Now” as Kevin asserts his own thoughts about how society right now is cracked and fragile. A song that reminds us all that we should go back to when life was simple and not complicated with technology, disconnectedness and desensitisation; this is a song that is needed on the album, regardless of whether the listener feels comfortable hearing the lyrics and applications this song gives.
Also providing us with a pseudo-autobiography in “That as Then and This is Now” as Kevin shows us how he has grown spiritually as a person throughout his DC Talk and solo music ministry days, alongside “White Horse”, a worship song written with One Republic guitarist Brent Kutzle that gives listeners a message of longing as we wait for God to come back on a white horse and take us away to His kingdom; Broken Temples is an album for anyone who loves Audio Adrenaline (new and old), dc Talk, Kevin’s solo material, either or, or even both.
While most of the album was penned (or even recorded) prior to Kevin’s departure from Audio Adrenaline, it still has a sound akin to Kings and Queens, and reminds us all that Kevin still has a lot to offer musically and lyrically in years to come. Diverse as we hear sounds from pop to rock, worship, dance and 80s style music; this is an album that stands out for all the right reasons- making its way for me personally into a group of Third Day, I Am They, Brandon Heath and Jeremy Camp as one of my top 5 albums of 2015 so far. From “Infinite” to “Good Kings Highway’ and “When We Were Young”, Kevin’s songwriting and lyrical flawlessness creates a moment of realisation that out of something so left field (leaving AA) can bring about something so unique, powerful and hopefully life changing for many who listen (Kevin’s new album). Well done Kevin for a great album, and one to champion to anyone who is a fan of any type of Christian music!
3 songs to listen to: Light Me Up, Just As I Am, When We Were Young
RIYL: downhere, Audio Adrenaline, dc Talk, Newsboys, TobyMac