Provident Label Group
Release Date: April 27th 2018
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Your Love Is Loud
- Safe In My Father’s Arms
- Hide And Seek
- Hello Love
- My Hope Is In The Lord
- Breaking Point
When Matt Hammitt left Sanctus Real (of which you can read my outlining of the reasons Matt left in my review of Matt’s debut album!), one could say that it was the end of an old era and the beginning of something new. While it’s true that the band could’ve quit, or promote a new lead singer from within, Sanctus Real did something different as the remaining members Chris Rohman and Mark Graalman decided to choose a virtual unknown new vocalist, at least in the CCM industry- Dustin Lollii, to become the face of the band, to become the new lead singer of Sanctus Real. While throughout the years I have always loved the band, and loved Matt’s vibrant, honest, emotional and powerful voice, Sanctus Real have delivered to us explosive and relevant hit songs such as “I’m Not Alright”, “Forgiven”, “We Need Each Other”, “Everything About You”, “Lay It Down”, “Pray”, “Run”, “The Redeemer”, “Say It Loud”, and of course the hit that maybe no one expected at the time, “Lead Me”. So the departure of Matt was bittersweet. Now I of course didn’t know who Dustin Lolli was at all, not from a bar of soap. I’m sure you may have been in the same boat as me in saying ‘who is this guy?’; as that’s how I felt way back in 2016 when the news was announced.
But I quickly became a fan after listening to the This Is Love EP, and with these three singles “Safe In My Father’s Arms”, “Changed” and “Confidence” now releasing as pre-cursor singles to Sanctus Real’s new album Changed, their first full length album with Dustin as lead singer, and their first album with Provident Label Group (which releases in a few days!); I am even more excited to hear and see what happens to Mark, Chris and Dustin as the years progress, and how they impact more and more lives for Christ. The release is a brand-new sound (more decidedly pop, to match Dustin’s soaring vocals!), but it’s still nonetheless Sanctus Real though, so never fear guys. And before I unpack this release a bit more, let me proclaim that Changed is one of my favourite album of the year (just behind A Million Lights from Michael W. Smith and Trial And Triumph from I AM THEY!), and deserves several spins on iTunes, or Spotify, or whatever your favourite digital platform of streaming is nowadays, in the coming months.
Releasing earlier this year, lead single “Confidence”, driven by stirring electric guitars and pulsating drum beats, is a hard-hitting no-nonsense and in-your-face feel-good 3 minute anthem, with Dustin ardently praying to God, asking Him to ‘…give me faith like Daniel in the lion’s den, give me hope like Moses in the wilderness, give me a heart like David, Lord be my defence, so I can face my giants with confidence…’. Extremely catchy and inspiring, the melody is one of my favourite songs of the year thus far, with Dustin relaying to us examples of heroes in the Bible who God gave confidence to. Dustin also further uses this allegory to subtly allude that we as children of the Lord Most High can rest in the fact that God will give us a sense of confidence in our lives to tackle any adversity, because even if there is still fear in our lives, we can run into any situation knowing that our God is on our side, and He has won the victory. Healing and equally needed especially in today’s society and political climate, “Confidence” is perfect as the first single from an album marking the new season of Sanctus Real.
Previously releasing in 2017, two other promotional singles are familiar when we glance down this tracklist, and I’m glad both are included to give us a sense of familiarity (which is needed considering this is an album with a new lead singer that not everyone will be used to straight away!). “Safe In My Father’s Arms” is nothing like Sanctus Real have ever done musically (and I had to do a double take in case I wasn’t listening to Sanctus Real, maybe it was Christafari?), as we are met with Caribbean style music and a reggae undertone, as Dustin skilfully highlights to us the fact that if we are feeling lost and alone, we can run to Jesus and be safe in His arms- a concept that is simple, but not sung often enough, as we all need reminders that we are safe in this broken world.
While the second promotional single is “Changed”, more decidedly CCM in nature, and was released 2 weeks early in order to provide hope and healing, as many towns were rocked by Hurricane Harvey in September 2017. Though I’m not sure how giving the song for free for two weeks helps raise money for the communities, but I guess every little bit helps, right? Thematically, this song is as inspiring and worshipful as they come, as Dustin fervently recounts that he wants to ‘…be changed, a little each day, even when I fall I’ll trust You when You say, I’m gonna be changed by Your grace, You won’t let me stay the same as yesterday…’, and across engaging electric guitars and acoustic guitar strums, I reckon this song will be THE song on the album that many listeners will resonate with, and will be gravitated to, as we remember that it is only through Jesus Christ that our lives are changed, and only through the power of the cross and the resurrection that we can overtly show others the change inside us, leading more people to know and experience the love of our Father.
The rest of these 7 songs are just as impacting, relevant, worshipful, contemplative and reflective as any other song Sanctus Real have ever done- and that is saying something considering I have always placed Matt Hammitt in high regard in terms of singing and songwriting. Well now, I can say that Dustin Lolli has made his mark, and these new songs are definitely a treat to listen to. Album opener “Your Love Is Loud” contains imagery and metaphors abound, as Dustin ardently sings out that all throughout history and creation, Jesus displays his love in many different ways, and that His love is louder (aka more powerful and much more impacting and satisfying) than anything else in this life that we may want to devote our attention to instead of the Father. No matter if we feel or even acknowledge God’s love, it is still there, permeating through the darkness. “Hide And Seek”, a stripped down vulnerable, personal and honest piano and strings driven melody, and an exquisite duet with Rebekah White, challenges us, and poses the ever true notion to us that we do not need to run away and hide from God, because as it says in Psalm 139, there is nowhere we can run, where He cannot and will not find us. Nothing is hidden from God’s sight, and while that may scare us just a little bit, it should be comforting to know that even if just one of us were lost, Jesus would go to the ends of the earth to find us (like the parable of the lost sheep), and that ‘…there’s no height, You wouldn’t climb for me, no depth You wouldn’t dive for me, no ground You wouldn’t brave for me, you go before, You made a way, You rescued my soul, there’s no place You won’t go…’
Potential single and alternative rock melody “Survival” has Dustin channelling his inner Bear Rinehart vocally, and encourages us to live for more than just surviving through each day, but rather to live a life of fullest in accordance to the plan God has set out for us (is that Bear singing in the second verse as an uncredited guest vocalist? We may never know!). As brilliantly said by Dustin on a recent blog on Jesus Freak Hideout, “…we just continue to go through our motions, day after day, trying to get ahead running on our spinning wheel like a mouse trying to escape its cage… This is not what we are called to. We are called to freedom, to prefer things that are heavenly over the temporal gain that success offers. We were built for more than stuff, we were meant to live, to love, to spread the kingdom of heaven everywhere we go. Don’t trade contentment for greed, don’t sacrifice the love of Christ for the love of stuff. Live like there is no tomorrow, live for more than just survival…”– there’s nothing much more I can say about this song- Dustin has outlined his heart for the track in better ways than I ever could!
Electronic heavy “Unrestrained” has Dustin passionately asking God to give him more and more of His love, that is unrestrained, and has Dustin vocally sounding similar to Aussie brothers Joel and Luke from for KING & COUNTRY; while the 3 minute piano pop ballad “Hello Love” is an outside bolter to be a single in the future, with traces of Sam Hancock from Luminate breaking through Dustin’s inspiring voice. As Dustin majestically and prayerfully cries out to the Father that he’s running back to Him and running back to the One He has previously deserted, and the One whom He now knows restores, redeems and heals, “Hello Love” kind of plays out like the Parable of the Prodigal Son in a short but punchy happy-go-lucky melody, sung from the perspective of the younger son.
The penultimate track “My Hope Is In The Lord” could be a potential modern day hymn in a few years, and has Dustin’s wife Sarah as a guest vocalist, and essentially plays out as an encouragement to us all, reiterating that hearing the voice of God for one second should be worth more to us than the praise of strangers (a theme sort of similar to Matt Redman’s “Better Is One Day”. Yet it is the acoustic guitar prominent reflective 5-minute ballad “Breaking Point”, the album closer, that actually resonates the most with me. Sung from the perspective of a person on the cusp of breaking down, and not really knowing where to go in life next, we are presented with a track full of emotion and honesty, as Dustin relays that it is in the situations where we are the most desperate that we hear God’s voice the most, as ‘…it’s here on the edges between Your heart and mine, I am just a man, and You are the divine, and I hear Your voice calling, call me from the dark to have my heart, so here’s my heart…’. There are many times in my life that I have been uncertain about the future, and this melody gives me hope that God is moving even when I don’t see it. All I need to do is to keep my eyes and ears open to His voice. Well done Dustin, Chris and Mark for delivering an overall compelling album that has me declaring God’s praises, and extremely excited for the future of this newest incarnation of Sanctus Real.
I don’t think that anyone can replace Matt Hammitt- his presence as Sanctus Real frontman exudes confidence, and as lead singer, Matt brilliantly built up a band from humble beginnings to wordwide stardom. But Dustin’s offerings here have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt (at least to me!) that God still wants Sanctus Real to continue, and though we all know the saying that the lead singer makes the band, in some cases, like this band, the band is bigger than any one member. Whether Dustin Lolli can maintain that fanbase of Sanctus Real, and continue to present us with relevant and heartfelt melodies in the years to come is anyone’s guess (but I am indeed hopeful and quietly confident!), yet from listening to these new songs, the future is looking way bright. I’m sure you all have your thoughts on Dustin’s elevation to lead singer of an already existing, popular and respected band, yet one final thing that I can say to you all (before I go back and jam to the entire Changed album yet again!), is to reserve your judgements until after release date in a few days. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you hear. I know I was!
3 songs to listen to: Confidence, Changed, Breaking Point
RIYL: for KING & COUNTRY, Needtobreathe, Luminate, Abandon, Newsboys, Kevin Max, Peter Furler, Zealand Worship