Dream Label Group
Release Date: April 29th 2016
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Diamonds in the Dark (J.G.F. Remix)
- Epic (Josh Sentner Remix)
- Fightback Soundtrack (Östberg Remix)
- Diamonds in the Dark (Kevin Aleksander Remix)
- Northern Lights (Interact Remix)
- Phoenix (Fraught Remix)
- Northern Lights (Malmen Remix)
- Phoenix (Unikron Remix)
Releasing their debut label album Fightback Soundtrack to stores in 2014 via Dream Label Group, to much listener and critical acclaim and praise, pop/punk/worship band We Are Leo, who in my opinion have filled the void of the pop/punk version Hawk Nelson (who have now been replaced by a more CCM version of the band now with Jonathan Steingard at the vocal helm!); have recently unveiled their debut remix album, titled Fightback Soundtrack: The Remixes. Though the debut album contained quite a lot of electronic and remix-y sounds (which is the closest that we as listeners are going to experience that is similar to what Jason Dunn made popular!), and in my opinion probably didn’t need to be released as a remix album anyway; what has surfaced is high quality new recordings and renditions of some of the band’s biggest hits. While I would have liked to hear a brand new studio album from David Duffield and his friends (perhaps one is coming at the end of this year?), this EP is definitely worth a listen, to tie us over until the next ‘proper’ release. With a strong faith in Jesus embedded throughout, electronic, danceable beats, and inspiring lyrics as well, the four friends are well on their way to being extremely popular and well respected in the future. With 5 songs being represented in this EP with a total of 8 tracks (3 songs are remixed here twice!), We Are Leo’s latest effort is one of my favourite remix releases, since Britt Nicole’s The Remixes!
Opening the album is the J.G.F. remix of “Diamonds In The Dark”. Originally a radio friendly pop rock mid-tempo guitar led track, and now containing a whole lot more synth and remix effects reminding me of soundtracks of video console games (as well as a massively altered musical structure, leading to an instrumental bridge that lasts about half the track); the band covertly remind us of God’s faithfulness and His immense love for us, and His hope that we can and will shine like diamonds for His glory. While remix #1 is fun to listen to, it’s almost unrecognisable and would require a diehard fan of the band listening to fully understand the message behind the song. Yet Kevin Aleksander’s remix of the same song further on in the track list is somewhat ‘better’, in that the keys and synth are more prominent compared to electronic remix effects. But in this version, as in the previous remix, verses are omitted and song structure is massively altered. If you’re looking for musical sameness and familiarity in these two remixes, then you won’t find it unfortunately, but that doesn’t mean these two remixes are bad- they’re actually quite catchy and listenable!
Similarity, just like in “Diamonds In The Dark”, is the key in this EP, with the two remixes of “Northern Lights” sounding quite alike, but slightly different as well. Indeed, the strength of the mid-tempo electronic ballad lies in the lyrics, where David shows us his prowess as a songwriter, and his extraordinary vocal ability similar to Adam Young of Owl City. In this case, this song compares the hardships in our life to the winters in the Arctic, and God’s love is interwoven in the metaphor as well, which makes for an interesting song, as we hear that ‘…under the northern lights, Your love will keep me here…’. Musically, both remixes contain an ethereal atmosphere, with the Malmen remix using a touch more electronics and guitar, than the simpler remix from Interact, which employs the quicker tempo. “Phoenix” is next (also with 2 remixes!), and the band tackle the concept of rising from adversity through imagery and metaphors, specifically of a phoenix and other forms of comparison with fire. Driving home the point that Jesus brings us new life, but with that we need to die to our old self; we are reminded that our new lives spring out from our old life like a phoenix out from the fire. Driven with strong keys and synth, and added electronics in both remixes (with both mixes being heavily reconstructed, and hence sounding nothing like the anthemic original version!), “Phoenix” is such an inspiring melody, highlighting David’s stirring vocals, kudos to the band for creating a gem!
The Josh Sentner remix of “Epic”, somewhat lives up the name of the song musically, as we are still bombarded from every angle with plenty of synth, drums, hand claps and guitar. Yet the more subdued remix (compared to the much more explosive original version!) accentuates the superficial lyrics a bit more, as David fervently cries out ‘…tonight is gonna be epic, feel’s like a rollercoaster…now that our heart’s are closer…’. Though we know the band’s hearts are for God, the lyrics are somewhat lacking even though the catchiness and contagious beat of the melody almost makes up for the lyrical mishap! However it is the emphatic and inspiring title track that is the pinnacle of the remix album, lyrically, thematically and musically. The song that stays the closest to the original recording out of all 8 melodies; the ball of energy and a fun melody of pure pop goodness, has plenty of catchy hooks to keep us interested and ready to dance. Thematically, the song speaks about chasing your dreams and never quitting because God is on our side and He will never give up on us, and it’s a great message to impart to listeners! As David ardently relays to us that ‘…I’m standing on the edge of my Destiny, I wanna fly, but I’m still waiting for wings, hope pumps thru my veins…’, we are gently reminded that Jesus has our future plans in the palm of His hands- a notion that should excite us immensely.
So, there you have it. A summary of We Are Leo’s debut remix album on Dream Label Group. But did the album live up to my expectations? I think that Fightback Soundtrack, though sometimes sounding cliché and cheesy, is recorded well, and is a joy to hear these young men of God create meaningful pop/rock and dance music, that can transcend any belief system. The remix album further cements this notion and my viewpoint, that these guys have immense passion in and love for Jesus. An album not to miss if you love artists like Owl City and Hawk Nelson, as well as acclaimed remix producer David Thulin, Fightback Soundtrack: The Remixes, is one to look out for and dance to, as we anxiously wait for We Are Leo to release their next full length studio album! Well done We Are Leo, I look forward to your next album of pop/rock and dance genius!
3 songs to listen to: Epic (Josh Sentner Remix), Fightback Soundtrack (Östberg Remix), Northern Lights (Malmen Remix)
RIYL: Loftland, Capital Kings, Hawk Nelson, Owl City, Anthem Lights, Manic Drive