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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews


  • reviewed by Andy Argyrakis Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Aug
Sounds like … a cross between the hard-driving rock of Pillar and the heavy hip-hop sounds of John Reuben, with liberal doses of reggae thrown in for good measureAt a Glance … Engage takes after the well-received Two Seventeen, with its slick hybrid of hip-hop-soaked alternative jams loaded with flavorful percussion and reggae beats.

Two years ago Pax217 was just one of the many alternative bands trying to be heard and to earn a prime spot on the national touring circuit. Since then the band has achieved both goals thanks to their Two Seventeen debut, which led them to four top-five rock radio singles, a spot on the Extreme Days soundtrack, and road trips with Festival Con Dios and The O.C. Supertones, just to name a few. Much of the reason for their immediate acceptance at radio and on the road was their uncanny ability to string together bits of boisterous alternative rock, elements of hop-hop, and plenty of reggae, surpassing many of the bands around them who merely stuck to one style.

Pax217 maintains their commitment to genre-bouncing on their follow-up Forefront disc, Engage, earning an extra boost of confidence from producer Phillip Steir (known for his work with No Doubt, Live, and Vitamin C). Chances are, close followers of the group already are familiar with the explosive title cut and the scorching jam "Tonight," both of which were featured on Pax217's spring tour. "Engage" has a momentum-building hardcore attitude with occasional spurts of reggae beats, while "Tonight" is a whirl of chunky guitars, bouncy rhythms, and brimming harmonies. "PSA," another song with a striking reggae/rap ambience, contains bountiful hooks and a vivid storyline about a believer in the midst of inner struggle: "You can't control even a second of your soul / Cause what you think is yours, you need to let go / I know, but I keep fighting this flesh / Even though I know I put it to death."

Other heavy hitters include "Fly Away," "I'll See You," and "Yesterday," all set apart by their strategic clatter of percussion and guitar grit over unpredictable vocals. "Fly Away" explodes with free-flowing yet effective bombast, as does "Yesterday," which builds off the echoing chorus of "Check 217" from the last album. "Dream Away" incorporates choppy guitar patterns with an empowering message of turning over daily concerns to the Lord: "It's better to lift your head than to take the worry to bed / So rest assured and dream away for tomorrow when you wake / What you had asked for is what you'll get today." Even more entertaining is the most schizophrenic song in the group's catalogue, "What is Love." The cut begins with a haunting guitar jangle followed by somewhat hushed and distorted vocals, eventually working its way up to vigorous intensity for each chorus.

Tunes such as "Move on This" and "Countin' Down the Days," the disc's slowest two cuts, showcase the most obvious stretch of Pax217's versatility. The first easily could be grouped right next to P.O.D.'s "Set Your Eyes to Zion," while the second treads the same line as Two Seventeen's album closer, "Until the Sun." "Countin' Down the Days" probably will be left out of the band's concert set list due to its peaceful nature, but the track's soothing balladry allows listeners to reflect on meeting up with loved ones in the afterlife: "I am gonna see you in a little while / When I die I'll see something beautiful / Come and see me sometime."

If you liked what you heard on Pax217's first album, Engage is a safe bet because you'll hear a lot of the same elements in slightly different contexts. For those new to the group, it's almost guaranteed you'll be grooving along to Pax's energetic beats and singing with their clever lyrics shortly after giving the album a spin. Fans will get a shot at singing those words right back to the band when they hit the road with Squad Five-0 and Ill Harmonics in the coming months and then make several major festival appearances (including Cornerstone, Alive, both Creations, and Kingdom Bound) this summer.