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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews


  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 1 Jul
Sounds like … the Christian pop 'n' worship of FFH with occasional nods to MercyMe, Selah, By the Tree, and Scott KrippayneAt a glance … Palisade's vocal harmonies are pleasant and their desire to minister through music is admirable, but there's absolutely nothing on their self-titled debut that hasn't been heard beforeTrack ListingThe Closer I Get to the CrossComing Back AgainFamousLet It All GoWhen We See GloryThe OriginalTake All of MeYou SaidListen to My LifeWindowIt Is Well

Tempting as it is to describe Palisade with only three letters — surely some sort of music review record — it's only fair to properly introduce this young trio to readers. Brandon Peffer, Jeremy Noel, and Ashley Jett are three preachers' kids. Noel began writing music as a teen and met Peffer while attending Kentucky Christian College. Jett joined up by answering their Internet classified ad for a female vocalist. Bound by their passion for ministering through music, the group took their name in reference to God as our refuge and strength — our sure defense. Performing at churches, camps, and conventions, Palisade built a local following and recorded two independent projects. Soon after, Fervent Records discovered them and paired them with Jeromy Deibler of FFH to produce their self-titled national debut.

FFH — there are the three letters as promised, and I apologize for using them so much here, but the comparisons are inescapable. Palisade is one of the clearest examples you'll find of a producer's sound and style overwhelming that of a new artist — or else a new artist perfectly emulating the sound of one of their chief influences. Under the circumstances, it's probably the former, since the same thing happened to a lesser extent when Deibler produced Big Daddy Weave's debut.

Regardless, Palisade has FFH down to a T — good news for fans of the group's tight harmonies, but unfortunately spelling ZZZ for those tired of pretty-but-bland Christian pop. The comparison is uncanny on "Let It All Go," co-written by the trio with Deibler, and the pleasant leap-of-faith pop song "Window." Elsewhere, the FFH-penned "Take All of Me" is an honest but routine ballad of surrender that one would expect from the established band. Palisade and Deibler work best when they try to take their familiar sound in a new direction. "The Closer I Get to the Cross," for example, resembles FFH trying to emulate Coldplay's "In My Place" or "Politik" by playing with dynamics. Derivative, yes, but it's still more interesting.

Palisade's lack of originality extends to their songwriting, with the members only co-writing four of the eleven tracks. One, ironically titled "The Original," is a carryover from Palisade's independent projects, a funky quasi-rapped pop song that reminds us that we were created in God's image. Another is "When We See Glory," a formulaic Christian pop ballad about someday seeing Jesus face to face for the first time. It certainly doesn't help that Palisade fails to express the subject with anything new to say, though it's so much like Building 429's "Glory Defined" and MercyMe's "I Can Only Imagine," perhaps it too will become a smash hit single.

The rest of the tracks rely on songs old and new, written by familiar names like Scott Krippayne, Tony Wood, Mark Schultz, Kyle Matthews, and Reuben Morgan, in addition to FFH. It's unclear why the trio relied on other songwriters when they've relied on their own material to this point. If the numerous songs they've written aren't good enough, why the rush to record an album of songs that aren't theirs, especially when they're not much better? "Listen to My Life" blandly challenges us to let our light shine, and "Famous" is yet another generic pop 'n' worship song that celebrates God's glory a la Chris Tomlin's "Famous One." There's also a sufficient cover of the Hillsong anthem "You Said" and a simple rendering of "It Is Well," a classic hymn that's yet to grow old for me, but could soon considering how often it's been covered lately.

When an artist suggests that they have placed ministry over artistry, while intended with noble sentiment, it often indicates lesser musical quality. It also unfairly places guilt on anyone who disagrees with that sentiment, mistakenly implying that they are somehow placing an earthly calling above our heavenly calling. Ministry and artistry are not mutually exclusive, however, with numerous artists over time successfully joining the two to create something more powerful and meaningful. Sadly, albums like this only give more evidence of the Christian music industry's inability to think outside the box. The optimist in me wants to believe that Palisade is capable of far better than this formulaic approach.