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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

The Beauty of the Unknown

  • reviewed by Andy Argyrakis Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2002 1 Dec
The Beauty of the Unknown
Sounds like … a base of hardcore intensity mixed with elements of alternative rock, punk, and even a few hushed and heartfelt acoustic momentsAt a Glance … Justifide's ability to relate to teens, bounce around genres, and weave Christian themes in clever contexts only deepens with their solid follow-up to their debut.

When we first heard Justifide, it was early 2001 and the hard-edged trio had just signed a split deal with Ardent and Cul-de-sac Records. Under award-winning producer Billy Smiley (of classic Christian rock band Whiteheart), Justifide released their promising debut Life Outside the Toybox, appealing to fans of P.O.D., Project 86, and Creed. After the album hit stores, Justifide — brothers Jason and Sambo Moncivaiz and friend Joey Avalos — took to the road with Skillet's Alien Youth tour, and along with Pillar turned in a sizzling set each night before the headline artist.

After a year on the road, the guys have learned the ropes of the music business, developed their already tight sound all the more, and continue to foster relationships with their mostly teenage fan base. The three guys, who are not far removed from being teens themselves, have a heart for ministering to their peers, as all three members come from troubled homes that resulted in a path to excessive drug and alcohol use. But Jason, Sambo, and Joey are long cleaned up from their previous addictions and therefore can speak with empathy to those experiencing the same types of problems. Indeed the topics of brokenness, heartbreak, and loss are prevalent on The Beauty of the Unknown, but so are issues such as surrender, acceptance, and renewal. The fact that all those expressions (written by lead vocalist Jason) are backed with forceful yet effective aggression only help the band's cause in getting their messages to young people. As with their debut, their pursuit of artistry is apparent.

You'll want to duck out of the way as the album's opener, "Face to Face," charges from your CD player, unloading a trail of gritty guitars, Jason's booming vocal groans, and melodic velocity. Like P.O.D. and Pillar, Justifide will have you eating up every moment of their intense genre-bouncing musical patchwork. And you'll stay particularly satisfied during equally aggressive tracks "Anymore" and "Pointing Fingers," where the guys evoke the potency of fellow hard rockers Chevelle and Taproot. Out of those three cuts flanked in rambunctiousness, "Pointing Fingers" provides the most gripping thematic framework, as Justifide compares the church's modern-day hypocrites to the Pharisees in biblical times: "No more pointing fingers / So take that spotlight off yourself, cuz your sin still lingers / Enough of making others feel less than you, that's all you do / Man, what am I left to do but call you out."

Justifide is never afraid to honestly express themselves, nor are they shy about using attention-grabbing musical elements to help their points sink in. For instance, the rumbling guitars, hints of reggae, and inflamed vocal presentations throughout "Escape" truly drive home the fact that God is our refuge and strength. Justifide doesn't just have a heart for those who have at least been introduced to Christ at some point in their lives, they're also fully aware that some listeners may be introduced to the Christian faith through their music. That's why Justifide included songs such as "To Live" (an explanation that life isn't worth living without Christ) and "Someone to Blame" (about moving on after abuse instead of seeking revenge).

I really admire Justifide's ability to cover all that ground under hardcore, alternative, and quasi-punk pretenses, but I'm also amazed that they can strip down their sound to a near-acoustic hush to deliver a few of the disc's most touching moments. Jason sings of a painful breakup during "I Wouldn't Know," pays tribute to a special unidentified someone in "This Song's For You," and sings of losing a loved one on the gripping "Goodbye Without You." "I still remember like it was yesterday / And we were together, but now you seem so far away," Jason ruggedly croons. "And I can't see myself without you, without you."

As alluded to on the title of this album, the members of Justifide may be content not knowing what tomorrow will bring. But if their musicianship and songwriting capability on this project is any forecast, then they'll probably be rocking out for quite some time. Whether or not you've heard of Justifide before, you'll be taken in by their instrumental onslaught and hopefully will take time to delve into the meat of their message. Once again, the trio thinks outside of the "toy box" when it comes to the disc's overall mechanics, and hopefully the industry and the public will recognize that, allowing the group to find an increasingly receptive audience.