FRAMEWORK RECORDS / The Fuel Music
Release Date: March 5th 2021
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
My God is Still the Same
Sanctus Real has been a band that has released powerful music and standout albums every so often over the last 20 or so years. The band have had tremendous success over the years, ever since their first independent album released in the late 1990s. Since signing to Sparrow Records in the early 2000s, the band has worn its heart on its sleeve. With songs like ‘Lead Me’ discussing about the theme of standing up and leading the family as fathers, husbands and men in general (with the help of the Lord, of course), ‘Lay it Down’ encouraging us to lay down our troubles and worries at the foot of the cross, and ‘We Need Each Other’ showcasing the very need for us to be around people, that our company and camaraderie is what is going to allow us to get through this life not alone; we are reminded that such a band exists where they are not afraid to discuss and sing about themes that would otherwise be swept under the carpet. Fast forward till 2021. Lead singer Matt Hammitt left the band in 2015, and with such a dramatic personnel change that undergoed at a time where many lead singers of many bands were moving on to other places (Kevin Max and subsequently Josh Engler both left Audio Adrenaline, Adam Agee took over, Jon Steingard took over from Jason Dunn as lead singer of Hawk Nelson); worship leader Dustin Lolli picked up from where Matt Hammitt left off.
And while with any lead singer change, we can all become hesitant at first, what transpired was something unique and different- This is Love EP dropped early in 2016, featuring more of a rock sound that was present on their earlier albums The Face of Loveand Fight the Tide; and then came Changed in 2018, that featured the chart-topping radio single ‘Confidence’ and other standouts like ‘Safe in My Father’s Arms’ and the title track. Dustin fit right in with the band, and while as a sound, Sanctus Real was moving from more of a rock-anthem based band to more of a pop-radio friendly atmosphere, the band’s message and heart continued to stay the same, giving us songs borne out of local ministry and what people have been dealing with in their churches at home. We saw another album drop in 2019, Unstoppable God on August 30th, and featuring songs like ‘Jesus Loves You’, ‘Today, Tomorrow & Forever’ and ‘Lazarus’ to name a few, the band continued to be one of my favourites within the CCM sonicspace. Now in 2021, Dustin Lolli, Chris Rohman and Mark Graalman have presented to us another song to listen to, possibly from an upcoming album, or even just a standalone one- ‘My God is Still The Same’.
The first single of maybe many more songs in this COVID-19 season of life, Sanctus Real’s song is a reminder, a declaration to us all, that irregardless of the difficulty of our seasons that we face, we can be assured that God never stops being who He says He is. And while the song is plagued a bit by a repetitious chorus (like a lot of CCM has), the song nevertheless reminds us of how need and dependency on God, who never changes, to give us perspective in a life that always changes. With the song at the radio-friendly length of 3:25, Dustin, Chris and Mark have created a song that can easily succeed at radio, but also still give us a personal connection to the lyrics, as we realise and understand that God is still the same, He never changes and reminds us to always trust Him in light of this truth.
‘…Now more than ever we know the message we want to share. If there’s one bit of good news we have during uncertain times, it is that God is the same today as He was yesterday, and that is a hope worth sharing…It would be easy to think of these times as uniquely difficult. For the most part a lot of what we’re experiencing is something totally unseen before by our generation. There were so many questions without answers as the weeks and months of 2020 passed by with what seemed like an unending amount of bad news. Dustin and I knew we had to write about God’s steadiness throughout the ages as a way to encourage people right now. There was one thing we felt we could communicate with certainty no matter how quickly everything around us had changed – that our God is still the same…’
While it can still take some getting used to, hearing Dustin’s voice instead of Matt’s, let us know that this isn’t the first lead-singer change in a prominent CCM band- Newsboys being a very big example of a lead-singer change that has resulted in success still. Sanctus Real bring about the same message. Yes, there will be some die-hard fans that will boycott anything without Matt Hamiitt…and that’s ok. Then there are others, like myself who are indeed open to Dustin and his perspective on the music. And that’s ok, too. ‘My God is Still the Same’, Unstoppable God, and maybe even Changed before, are being held to the standard of all of Matt Hammitt’s albums previously, when to be honest, they should be compared to themselves. In essence, a lead singer change can be a band change without the band change. Because like it or not, the lead singer makes the band. And for me, since coming into the fold in 2016, Dustin Lolli has recaptured a vibrant spirit and made the band continue, when I’m sure there was every intention to quit at the end of 2015. Nevertheless, here we are with ‘My God is Still The Same’, a song that I’ve enjoyed and I’m sure others will enjoy, if they love and appreciate similar artists like Tenth Avenue North, Casting Crowns or Sidewalk Prophets. No, they’re not similar to Sanctus Real 1.0, because they’re not, and I’m sure they’re not trying to be. I’m sure once we understand that every new singer doesn’t have to emulate the previous one, and that a new sound can be developed for the better, the sooner our judgements of the band and albums once there’s a turnaround of lead singer, can decrease.
RIYL: Matthew West, MercyMe, Zach Williams, Tenth Avenue North, Kutless