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Picking Up the Pieces

  • reviewed by Andy Argyrakis Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Apr
Picking Up the Pieces
Sounds like … basic, unoriginal post-grunge modern rock that will appeal to fans of Creed, Lifehouse, The Calling, and Collective SoulAt a Glance … despite Seventh Day Slumber's all too familiar modern alternative rock sound, the group does it well and shares a gripping testimony

Already a staple of indie alternative circles with two self-released records and a few moderate hit singles, Seventh Day Slumber need not worry about their national debut finding a captive audience. The band has developed a sturdy following thanks to its regular appearances at the Acquire the Fire teen conventions, which make up part of their 200-date travel itinerary every year. Given Seventh Day Slumber's receptive fan base, it only makes sense to take its latest recording to a national level, which comes courtesy of the Crowne Music Group and WEA distribution.

Even though Seventh Day Slumber sounds like every other current flavor of the week on their latest endeavor, Picking Up the Pieces, the members sure haven't come from the typical backgrounds of growing up in the suburbs and playing church youth groups. Instead, they were a group of anguish-ridden youngsters who, after a series of extremely challenging circumstances, nearly abandoned their faith and any sense of hope in their lives whatsoever. Singer Joseph Rojas struggled with drug addictions and was in and out of rehab or jail throughout his late teen years and early adulthood, eventually reaching a $400 a day cocaine addiction. Fellow core member Jeremy Holderfield's issues may not have been as extreme, but coping with his parent's divorce after 31 years of marriage let to a period of anger, depression, and separation from God nonetheless.

It's from that biting perspective (as opposed to the band's diversity free musical makeup) that makes them a valid force in Christian music today, hitting on issues that no one else would touch with a ten foot pole. The potent, suicide discouraging imagery on album opener "I Know" is one of the many lyrical examples that are far from sugar coated, despite the predictable guitar grunts and throaty, post grunge vocals. On "Running Away," Rojas once again slumps into throaty Scott Stapp and Eddie Vedder singing mode, but at least the lyrics are bold, touching on people's tendency to back down from problems instead of facing them head on. Lines like: "Followed my feet to nowhere again/Wherever I go there I am/I'm stuck on this road/Life just keeps passing me by/What can I do to get beyond these walls that are laughing at me?/Sentence to life and the prison is my mind" point to members' self-admitted spiritual demise.

Allusions to addiction and the desperation involved in recovering from depression are further unfurled within the scopes of "Spiraling" and "Something." Again, both cuts are predictably cut from the same cloth as say a Lifehouse or The Calling at their heavier moments (with hints of Collective Soul), but its impossible to ignore the vulnerability expressed in their messages. "Spiraling" talks about walking off the narrow path and wandering down a continuing funnel of sin while "Something" is an all out plea to be released from hopeless entrapment. Melodramatic cookie cutter ballad "My Struggle" (practically a Staind or Tantric clone) and militant modern rocker "Candy" (Default or Fuel anyone?) also fit into that thematic category as Rojas looks back on his very own Prodigal son story.

It's with that track, along with the title cut, that the pendulum swings toward members' personal redemption, which is intended to lead struggling listeners to do the same. The chorus of "Picking Up the Pieces" is a particularly assertive prayer for recommitment to Christ, though it warns that struggles and challenges will still remain after that decision. Rojas moans in humility: "So I'm picking up the pieces once again/Falling to my knees/That is where I saw your hand/I've been here way too many times."

If Seventh Day Slumber had a more inventive musical direction, then Picking Up the Pieces would be far more compelling — a much more comprehensive picture rather than an incomplete puzzle. Regardless of what it lacks, the band may be the only lifeline to young people on the fringe of the faith or to those who have turned their backs on it completely. Very few Christian acts are willing to go out on a limb with such unhindered emotion and personal revelation and, for that, Seventh Day Slumber should be commended. I only hope that next time they hit the studio, members will be less prone to copy other bands' sounds and be more dutiful in carving out their own.