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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Turn the Tides

  • reviewed by Andy Argyrakis Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2002 1 Jul
Turn the Tides
Sounds like … two vocalists dueting over hardcore rhythms immediately call to mind Linkin Park, with elements of Pillar and IncubusAt a Glance … 38th Parallel may have more depth to their message than their mainstream counterparts, but their musical offerings are predictable and typical of the nu-metal craze.

While bands such as Linkin Park and Incubus were touring the world and Nickelback and Default were making their way from Canada down to the states, a small rumbling was taking place amidst the rolling prairies and endless cornfields of the Midwestern United States. Taking nods from such nu-metal mainstream giants, 38th Parallel came from Iowa, and their main training ground was Des Moines' prized venue Frank's House of Rock. Boasting two rap/rock vocalists and an arsenal of breakneck rhythms, the group was a shoe-in when it came to opening slots for top national acts, such as Bleach, Relient K, Five Iron Frenzy, Earthsuit, and Stavesacre, when they swung through town.

Going from a small town success story to a major label recording contract wasn't exactly the group's goal, but unbeknownst to them, others in their local scene were rooting on their behalf. A nearby radio station representative played material from 38th Parallel's demo recording on air, and after receiving favorable listener response, he contacted Word Records. This situation repeated itself with a Seattle radio station. Finally, the folks at Word requested a copy of the demo, a rarity since record labels constantly are inundated with unsolicited recordings from bands hoping to hit the big time. Apparently they liked what they heard, as they soon arranged a deal through the label's alternative branch, Squint Entertainment. Turn the Tides is the result.

Songs such as "Higher Ground," the title track, and "State of Mind" explode with effective hooks and the one-two punch of vocalists Mark Jennings and Nathan Rippke. While one takes the more melodic route, the other contributes a fast rap/throaty-rock vocal combination. That's all well and good, providing the basis for high-volume stereo play and mass hysteria at concerts, but it's exactly what Linkin Park has been doing since their 2000 Hybrid Theory hit stores. Although not as feverish in pace, cuts such as "Clouded" and "Hear My Cry" also feature the same predictable rap/rock combination falling into the same pool as mainstream acts such as Trik Turner, Quarashi, or Hoobastank. "Who Am I" is one of the few cuts that finally ditches the group's nu-metal tendencies for a bass-heavy groove and elements of funky percussion. It's not totally original though, as everyone from Pillar to Puddle of Mudd has a tune or two like that in their repertoire.

The main unique talent 38th Parallel brings to the table is their unashamed approach to faith, an element that's completely absent from the music of their mainstream peers. At the same time, with metaphoric language they present real issues with which believers struggle. "3 Times Denied" is a standout example, looking at New Testament Apostle Peter's denial of Christ through the eyes of five guys who admit they've done the same. "Breaking bread, pouring wine / Speaking mysteries to stretch my mind / I failed to follow the meaning / Of 'flesh and blood' that I swallowed / Dipping bread in a dish calling out a traitor / I'm hoping you'll explain this sooner or later."

Inspired by the recent death of a friend, the song "Whither" also addresses believers' guilty behavior, but in this context points the finger at believers who look at the AIDS epidemic as a "sinner's" illness: "But we don't see, we've made ourselves blind / And we don't care, we've closed our minds / And we don't move, we're so paralyzed / As we sit in heartlessness watching him die."

The 10-tracks on Turn the Tides wraps up with those 2 songs, making the album clock in at just over 35 minutes — only slightly more than what you'd expect from an EP but not quite what you'd expect for $15. Overall, 38th Parallel is an easy recommendation for those looking for a Christian alternative to Incubus and Linkin Park, but it's hard to give their debut a strong recommendation when it's sharing shelf space with such impressive albums as P.O.D.'s Satellite, Pillar's Fireproof, and Pax217's Engage.