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The Art of Breaking

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2005 1 Jul
The Art of Breaking
Sounds like … ditching their rapcore/nü-metal style, TFK embraces a retro-metal sound akin to The Darkness, Disciple, Foo Fighters, Seether, Pillar, and even classics like Bon Jovi and Stryper to some extent.At a glance … though some of TFK's third album could be considered inane and repetitive, give them credit for taking their rock sound in a new musical direction that's mostly effective.Track ListingAbsoluteSlow BleedThe Art of BreakingStrangerHurtHand GrenadeMoveHit the FloorGoMake Me a BelieverBreathe You In

Having sold more than 200,000 copies of their first two albums—Set It Off (2000) and Phenomenon (2003)—Thousand Foot Krutch has certainly been established as a success. But while most bands spend years honing their specific sound to find an audience, the members of this Canadian rock trio have dabbled with multiple styles. In the late '90s, lead singer/guitarist Trevor McNevan started out enamored with hip-hop before diving into the nü-metal rapcore of TFK with drummer Steve Augustine and bassist Joel Bruyere. Also, McNevan and Augustine released a successful punk rock side project (What Are You Waiting For?) in 2003 under the alias FM Static.

Now, TFK has undergone yet another music makeover, and it'll be interesting to see how fans respond to The Art of Breaking. Aided by acclaimed producer Arnold Lanni (Our Lady Peace, Simple Plan), the band has ditched the rapping and hardcore screaming in favor of a sort of neo-heavy metal sound—like P.O.D. did for their 2003 self-titled effort. Though still loud, this album isn't quite as bombastic as Phenomenon, but more raw with a pristine mix that allows everything to be heard distinctly (including the lyrics). If nothing else, credit TFK for recognizing that too many other bands are tackling the overdone nü-metal sound, thus deciding to take a new musical direction.

To hear the change, listen no further than the opener "Absolute," combining pop verses with a throaty metal pre-chorus and an infectious rock chorus—you can almost imagine a classic metal band like Stryper handling this one. The virtually identical "Move" and "Go" both demonstrate that TFK has discovered the power of the mindless shout-along chorus, and the generally thunderous feel of those two tracks should still prove palatable to nü-metal fans. Those looking for this disc's breakthrough track—TFK's next "Rawkfist"—will probably latch on to the knockout "Hand Grenade," with old-school metal guitar licks and a high wail of a chorus that evokes Three Days Grace or The Darkness with less camp.

But many of the songs can become monotonous, if not overly repetitive. By the time "Hit the Floor" and "Go" come up, there's a sense of déjà vu with prior tracks. But "Hurt" stands out as a striking example of contrast. Much like a storm, it builds from a tense verse into a louder pre-chorus, only to drop the bottom out for a surprisingly tranquil chorus consisting only of piano and wispy vocals. The closing ballad "Breathe You In" also provides a welcome change in pace, though some might say it's stylistically more in step with the formulaic pop/rock of Building 429.

It's not just the music that's changed for TFK. Though the band members are very up front about their Christian faith, they've become considerably less explicit in expressing it lyrically. This is an artistic improvement to some extent, though it's almost to the point of vagueness in a few instances. "Go" could be interpreted as words of praise to God for completing us, but the chorus is almost incomprehensible in intent: "Go, when I feel, like I feel, the way I feel/Go, I'm into you, just help me find a way this time." The same is true with "Hit the Floor," which perhaps refers to falling prostrate in response to feeling God's presence. Even "Make Me a Believer" is a tad unclear in who it's directed to, despite the seemingly clear-cut title.

McNevan says the album's title refers to how we each respond in different ways to the breaking points in life. This is reflected thematically throughout the disc, such as the title track about a friend helping another cope with hurt before self-destructing. Likewise, "Stranger" could be understood as someone wrestling with sinful nature, and "Hand Grenade" similarly offers a prayerful plea from one who's close to self-destructing, presumably seeking guidance from above.

While the shout-along choruses and faintly spiritual lyrics should be enough to please most of TFK's large fan base, some will feel that too much has changed musically. On the other hand, some critics will say TFK's songs are still inane and formulaic, but others (like myself) will view this album as a step in the right direction. All to say, it's a good rock record, not a great one. The old adage, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," is often used as justification to retread familiar artistic ground. With The Art of Breaking, Thousand Foot Krutch demonstrates that there's value in making some significant changes.

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