The year was 1633 and Rembrandt was painting 'The Storm on the Sea of Galilee'. According to the Bible, there were 13 men in the boat (Jesus and his disciples), but in the famous painting there are 14. The artist had painted himself into the picture.
Titled The Struggle, Tenth Avenue North have drawn on both the Biblical and the artistic to create their third studio album. Rembrandt’s painting makes up the artwork on the 12 track album of pop/rock tunes which often touch on the topics of pain, suffering and sadness.
These somewhat depressing themes are thankfully balanced with hopeful theology about how Jesus is in the midst of the struggle/storm with us. But while we’re on the subject of theology, it’s worth noting how at least one of the tracks has already caused debate among fans.
The album opener, 'Shadows', declares only God can “keep me from chasing after the shadows”. 'Don’t Stop The Madness' asks him: “Don’t stop the pain surrounding me… If you promise pain, it can’t be meaningless so make me poor if that’s the price for freedom.” Is this the band asking God for hard times?
Whether they are or not, painful emotions are experienced by everyone at some point in their life. Tenth Avenue North’s lyrics, therefore, have an extremely wide (perhaps universal) appeal. Their music is also likely to entertain; slotting into a comfortable middle-of-the-road sound. The band might not be lauded for their creativity, but their music will be enjoyed by the majority– especially as almost every song is radio-play friendly.
By far the best song is the band’s first single, 'Losing'. The first half of the song has a rhythmic but simple driving beat. The pre-chorus has a great organ and piano sound and the vocal layers are superb. The band are honest in their lyrics, explaining how forgiveness is a choice: “Oh father give me grace to forgive them because I feel like the one losing”.
The song feels like it’s building into something special when suddenly all the instruments fade to the sound of hand claps and xylophones. Then there’s a musical ambush of the most excellent quality; a jazz influenced piano starts up and the listener is transported into a gospel infused kind of rap. The band builds back into the chorus, which is now up an octave. Sadly, the musical journey is over all too quickly; meaning the listener will no doubt hit repeat and play the song over and over again.
There are other good tracks. 'Grace' has a similar chord sequence to U2’s 'Stuck in A moment You Can’t Get Out Of' while 'Hostage Of Peace' is reminiscent of Starfield and some of NeedToBreathe’s more heavy material.
All in all it’s a solid effort, and the introduction of another band member has certainly added depth for this recording. The final track is the most overtly Christian song on The Struggle. The piano led ballad is a beautiful and fitting end to a recording which isn’t really about struggle and pain. It’s about the man in the middle of the struggle. 'The lamb of God' is therefore an appropriate ending to this new recording from Tenth Avenue North. The band continues to succeed where others have fallen into obscurity: making popular music that’s both popular and wholesome.
Rating: 8 out of 10
January 22nd, 2013 - Posted & Written by Sam Hailes