October 2, 2006

CD Review: Pillar - The Reckoning

I had never heard of Pillar before hearing this, their fourth album. The Reckoning is a strong album from start to finish. It is a collection of some straight up melodic rock that gels in a way that just holds your attention. It's not heavy, nor is it terribly flashy, what it is, is a rock album that has a strong focus on melody and song writing.

While looking up some information on the band, I discovered that they are a Christian act. I found that surprising, not in a bad way, I just did not get any type of religious vibe from the album. One thing that I have realized over the years is that once a band is labeled Christian, it is usually a death knell for any popularity, as we all know, when it comes to hard rock it is all about sex, drugs and rock 'n roll. Not that it has to be, or even should be. Some bands do break through, with a recent example being P.O.D., who have put out a few good albums, and back it up with a high energy live show.

Pillar is a solid band that could break through into the main stream. From what I have read, they have put together a solid career thus far, building a following along the way. Something that I think will help them in the long run, is that the lyrical content does not beat you over the head with any type of Christian agenda or sermonizing, rather the lyrics are strongly positive and upbeat, matching the music playing with them.

Rob Beckley leads the band with his very melodic singing, which will often break out some rough edge growls when the chorus calls for it. Backing him up is Noah Hensen on guitars, with a strong crisp sound in his riffs and fills, he didn't blow me away, but he carries the music side with his catchy sounds that catch inside your head and rattle around for awhile. The rhythm section is comprised of Lester Estelle on drums and Kalel on bass, they fill out the sound nicely, particularly Estelle's booming drums. Their playing was produced by themselves with Travis Wyrick, and the end result is a very smooth, well produced sound that is clean and easy on the ears.

The Reckoning gets off to a good start with the catchy, funky groove of "Everything." The rock continues with "Awake," which starts with a nice little bass line to kick off a slightly slower jam. The title track features some nice uptempo riffing, slightly reminiscent of Audioslave. There is also the requisite ballad, "The Last Goodbye," a song that urges you to not take your loved ones for granted. In singer, Rob Beckley's words: "I was out with a friend who got a phone call that one of his sons was in a car wreck. On his way to the accident, he passed another wreck. As he pulled up to the first car wreck, he found out that his son was dead. Then he got a phone call that the wreck he had passed minutes earlier was his other son. So, both of his sons died in almost simultaneous car accidents. Take advantage of the opportunity to tell your spouse, parents, or kids that you care about them because you never know.”

There is one other ballad on the album, "Angel in Disguise," and it immediately follows "The Last Goodbye," for a rather mellow middle section to the album. Fortunately, there is more adrenaline yet to come, particularly with the heaviest cut on the disk, "Crossfire." This adds a little needed crunch to the disk. The Reckoning comes to a mellow and melodic note with the final song, "Wherever the Wind Blows," a nice album closer with its strong melody and easy going feel.

The worst thing about the disk is that it is so solid at what it does, it pretty much plays everything towards the middle. In other words, while the songs are good, the production strong, and the band tight, it does not stand out from the crowd. And I think this is what may ultimately hold them back.

Bottomline. I like the album. I enjoyed the melodies and the strong production values. I even feel inclined to check out the rest of their catalog. This is a solid example of good Christian rock, and I encourage you to check them out, even if you do not share their outlook, you may enjoy their music.

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