Tooth And Nail Records
Release Date: April 29th 2014
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
- Tale of Jonah
- Relight the Fire
- The Sun Won’t Sleep
- Say It Like You Mean It
- In A Breath
- Wise Fox
- Fallen Soldiers
- Left Behind
- A Little Braver
- Outshine the Brightest
- Relight the Fire (Acoustic)
Hailing from Cronulla, Sydney Australia, friends Jeremy Fowler, Nathan Cairns, Kyle Lane and Kale Kneale, who make up the latest signing to Tooth And Nail Records- New Empire, have had quite a road to success, culminating with their song “One Hart, Million Voices” was chosen for the 2012 Summer Olympics theme song on Australian TV. Performing with and opening up for Switchfoot, Good Charlotte, Relient K and Owl City on their tours of Australia in the past, the indie-pop/rock band, with a musical sound and lyrics similar to Hyland, Switchfoot and Relient K, have taken Australian radio and listeners on a fun filled journey, and their popularity now has the potential to reach every part of the globe with their label debut In A Breath, overall their third album.
Touching upon and delving into relatable and moving themes of loss, and regret and also utilising Jeremy’s distinct and catchy vocals, the band have offered us 10 songs of pure raw emotion and piano pop, with lyrics that could minister to both Christian and mainstream audiences. Already a successful and popular band here in Australia, what has now eventuated- a breathtaking and stirring label debut with great amounts of imagery and plenty of questions posed- will surely propel these four friends to stardom. With the name of ‘Jesus’ or ‘Lord’ or ‘God’ not explicitly uttered throughout the entire duration, I am certain that these though provoking melodies and ballads will make us think about the deeper and more meaningful issues of life, and may possibly get listeners to think about God, the one who gave us breath.
A glance through the track list sees some inspirational pop tunes and other songs heavily inspired by the Bible, yet each song can be viewed in a ‘mainstream’ light. And as the band minister to different types of audiences, I am sure that the gospel will be heard by many who don’t know Jesus, even if it is in a roundabout way. Opening proceedings is “Tale Of Jonah”, a deep examination at the story of Jonah sung from Jonah’s perspective, with Jeremy singing with honest and vulnerable emotion, relaying how Jonah ran away from God, away from preaching the gospel to Ninevah. Anchored by soft instrumentation, and light piano mixed with Jeremy’s serene and moving vocals, we are invited into a ballad that ultimately questions whether we are like Jonah or not, whether we are trying to do life on our own. The chorus has some amazing lyrics, and gets us thinking quite a bit. As Jeremy belts out ‘…I once was king of the world, but now live inside of a whale, and I thought I ran the world, but I’m lost without You…’, I myself am swept away in a moment of adoration and surrender, an admission of fault to the Almighty Father, but this song could also be sung to a loved on about a metaphorical ‘whale’ situation. That’s what makes the song so great- it can appeal on so many levels, to so many people with different beliefs, hopefully drawing everyone to the one true God called Jesus Christ!
With 2 singles promoting the album, New Empire have shown us that they can be overt and praise God with vertical worship, as well as being creative and shrewd in their efforts to lyrically be all things to all men and wrestle with this dichotomy in the rest of the songs. “Relight The Fire”, driven by pulsating drums and a strong electric guitar presence, this is a straight up worship song, with Jeremy earnestly praying to God, and asking Him to relight the fire as ‘…I’ve hurt, I’ve lied, I’ve cursed, I’m laughing till I cry, the ones we hurt the most I hold the closest and I just don’t know why…’. Sometimes as humans we tend to do stupid things, inadvertently hurting people along the way, and this song is meant to be us acknowledging our mistakes, and asking God to reignite the spark within us that has been buried, the thing that keeps us going, which is Jesus. With a more intimate and personal version of the song attached at the end of the track list, “Relight The Fire” is sure to please, and could be the song that moves people to know more about Jesus.
“Say It Like You Mean It”, a mainstream electronic pop tune lead by synth, has a danceable rhythm, yet is polar opposite in lyric to the first single. As the band sing with layers of imagery, about the power of love, and in particular the relationship between a man and a woman who haven’t seen each other at all, with Jeremy reminding us that once we’ve found our soul mate then we can live and say everything like we mean it, living with conviction and belief that the world is right; I can’t help but think that the song could be a motif or allegory for Christ’s love for the church, that all of His decisions are based on the immense love that He has for us! Well done for these two vibrant, explosive and haunting singles!
The beauty of recording songs that appeal to everyone is that New Empire has a kind of licence to be raw and real that Christian music doesn’t really get to flaunt, like Switchfoot are called to do. “The Sun Won’t Sleep”, an upbeat pop guitar led tune, speaks about taking risks, and stepping out in faith to the unknown, to where you want to go but you are afraid of, with Jeremy confidently and passionately outlining that ‘…I wanna go where the sun won’t sleep for days, I wanna take you where we can be amazed…’, inviting us to join him on this journey; while the confusingly titled “Wise Fox”, driven by the keys, takes a while for me to understand the profoundly clever and imaginative lyrics, with the conclusion being that this song is about the betrayal of a mentor or teacher, and them telling their student that if they could go back in time and do things differently they would (as they are wiser now) a message that is universal and relatable as well.
The power anthem “Fallen Soldiers”, in my opinion inspired by the Australian war heroes, and also the men and women in Australia that are heroes without even going to the battlelines overseas; reminds me thematically of Casting Crowns’ “Heroes”, and is sure to be enjoyed when the band play the song live. As we are encouraged to live our lives with as much grit, courage, faith and determination as our comrades who are fighting external and internal battles every day, I am once again amazed and transfixed by one of the more real tracks on the album and one of my favourites as well! With New Empire also impressing us with the inspiring and motivational guitar led “Left Behind”, complete with a captivating rap, where Jeremy honestly recounts how we as Christians should stand by our brothers and sisters, and those who aren’t Christians yet as well, not leaving them behind when the times get tough, and being loyal and a true friend; and the piano prominent emotional and personal ballad “A Little Braver”, in which Jeremy recounts and reminisces over heartbreak and loss of a relationship, yet also sings with lots of resolve and determination that he’s stronger, braver and more wiser now than before, thus each failed relationship can grow his character; it is the title track and the album closer that epitomises the band’s message and sound.
“Outside The Brightest”, once again driven by keys, and slower in tempo, is where Jeremy sings emphatically and eloquently about an older person meaning lot to him, maybe a grandparent or a mentor, and in this song he reassures him that outside the world today is very bright yet they shine brighter than the brightest star or building because of their characteristics and qualities. An inspiring a motivational tune meant to encourage us to live to our full potential and be the salt and light of the world to those who have no hope; the title track also blesses, although is probably the most emotional, as the song is about Jeremy’s mother who passed away recently. Thematically similar to MercyMe’s smash hit “I Can Only Imagine”; this poignant and lyrically relatable track allows us to grieve with Jeremy as we sing to our loved ones. The words of ‘…I’ll see you in a breath…’, is sure to challenge many as we think about the afterlife, and no doubt that is the intention of this Sydney based quartet, giving us hope and the possibility of true happiness, as we search for meaning and purpose, hopefully finding it in Jesus Christ!
Though not as overt as other Christian/mainstream acts who find themselves ministering to both believers and non-believers, New Empire do enlighten us with hard hitting personal lyrics and themes, giving us a multitude of issues and points of view to comprehend and process. Reminding us of the things worth living for, and asking the question many times of do we play it safe or take risks, I am positive that in the future New Empire will be a force to be reckoned with in both mainstream and Christian markets. One of the bands to look out for in 2014, as I think that this will be their year; New Empire’s In A Breath is for those who want a bit more lyrical complexity and layers in their music, yet still maintaining that honest, emotional, and personal touch, coupled with enough spiritual significance to pose questions and start conversations.
3 songs to listen to: In A Breath, Fallen Soldiers, A Little Braver
RIYL: Switchfoot, Brooke Fraser, Needtobreathe, Hyland, Owl City