Forte Exclusives

Glass Hammer to Re-Release The Inconsolable Secret

posted Jun 1, 2013, 6:10 PM by Sarah Brehm   [ updated Jun 1, 2013, 6:14 PM ]

Glass Hammer is Chattanooga’s progressive rock secret. The band formed in 1992 when Steve Babb and Fred Schendel wrote and recorded a concept album based on the character Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, titled Journey of the Dunadan. Over the past twenty years Glass Hammer has had a variety of band members—including vocalist Jon Davison who is currently singing for Yes—yet Babb and Schendel have remained at the core of their thirteen studio albums. On June 25, Glass Hammer is set to re-release 2005’s The Inconsolable Secret, which you can pre-order from their website. I sat down with Babb and Schendel to discuss the re-release and their thoughts on Christianity and music.


Sarah Brehm: The Inconsolable Secret is a concept album. Can you talk me through the story?

Babb: Lyrically, it’s based on a poem that I wrote. If you were to just pick up the lyrics, which will be printed in the booklet of the re-issue, and you tried to really figure it out, you’d know it was about knights, you would know that there is a princess and a king and a battle, and you’d probably detect there is an allegory, and it’s probably a Christian allegory. I think as you listen to the music, we’ve always tried to make it that you’re free to kind of interpret it however you want.

Tolkien detested allegory; C.S. Lewis used it quite a bit. They were good friends and critics of each other, and I love them both. Tolkien’s problem with allegory was that usually the moral or the allegory consumed the story. So, I tried to do something that could stand alone as a story and if you want to read the metaphors and interpret them as Christian I think they very much are. The king represents God; the princess represents either the church or an individual. There’s a witch in the story who represents temptation; there’s an evil knight who represents pride and the fall. All of that wrapped around a story about a curse.

There’s a quote from C.S. Lewis that started it all—“I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence.” (from The Weight of Glory).

Brehm: What’s the name of the poem?

Babb: It’s called “The Lay of Lirazel.” We’re releasing an audio version of the poem, and it tells in-depth—it’s over two-and-a-half hours long—what the story is. 

Brehm: So the poem came first and then the album.

Babb: Well the music was probably being written simultaneously. It was Fred’s idea that we should write an album that was a soundtrack to something. And I just came along and tried to fill in what that something would be. So music simultaneously to the poem and we just pulled what we could out of the poem and re-drafted it to make it fit the music—very complicated, probably too complicated!

Brehm: Are the lyrics verbatim to the poem?

Babb: No, they’re adapted. That’s why as a writer, I kind of insist that people come along and read [the poem]—or now they can listen to it. Which, admittedly is asking a lot of a music listener, but with progressive rock frequently being about epic ideas, hopefully our audience will embrace this epic poem. 

Brehm: Was it hard to focus just on writing the poem, or were you already thinking about how to adapt it lyrically? 

Babb: No, I just went with it. To be honest, every time we start to write, I pray. And one day—I chalk it all up to God—some inspiration will come, and then I just fly. It all starts to come out; there’s no thinking about it at all. My wife can tell you, cause she watched me write most of it, that I’d come out of the room with fifteen pages of stuff that rhymed perfectly. And I don’t know how that happened—I’ve just read so much that it all just kind of spilled out. 

Coming back to it lyrically though to try to make it fit it into the music it was a little unwieldy. I tried to smooth it out the best I could.

Brehm: What made you decide to re-release The Inconsolable Secret?  

Schendel: As soon as we released it initially, we decided that we weren’t entirely happy with it. We liked it in terms of composition, but we had a philosophy when we did it initially that we wanted it to be very stripped down, all direct, very ’70s type of production where there weren’t a lot of overdubs. We wanted it to be not over produced, which is kind of ironic when you consider conceptually what a huge thing it was. It seems almost a bit of a paradox that we took one philosophy with the production of the album that was almost diametrically opposed to the philosophy in the creation of the album.

It was such a gigantic undertaking; we just hit a wall at some point where I don’t think either of us could work on it anymore. We were at a point where we had to just stop and put it out. As soon as that happened, and we had a chance to catch our breath we started thinking very much about how if we’d continued to work on it, what that might have entailed.

Especially in the drum sound, we took a very minimalist approach to the way the drums sounded—this has nothing to do with the drummer. Matt [Mendians] did a terrific job; he played great on that record. We just felt that maybe we hadn’t made the kind of production decisions that we would have if we hadn’t been so worn out when we mixed the thing down. We just really started thinking about how we might have made the whole thing bigger sounding. That was the genesis of our desire to revisit it. Once we started actually doing it—this started around 2008—it took three or four more years of just kind of occasionally taking it out and listening to it, then getting busy on a new project, and shelving it. It took forever, but eventually we got to a point where we had remixed it and done some more overdubs; at that point we had met other musicians, like Kamran Shikoh who’s the guitar player of the band now; we thought it’d be nice if he added some guitars because that album really doesn’t have a whole lot of guitar on it.

Steve contacted Jon Davison and got him into the band as a singer. We initially did that specifically for The Inconsolable Secret project, and then he became our full-time singer because we liked the results.

Babb: There’s another thing that stopped us along the way which was when we let our fans know that we were thinking about re-doing it. They’d say, ‘Why?’ Nobody was complaining about the sound of the original album except us.

Schendel: Kamran still asks us that, you know, ‘Why did you feel the need to do this?’ He loves the album in its original form. And it’s like ‘No, you don’t understand. We heard something in our heads and this is not it.’

Babb: From a production standpoint this was an expensive project. It’s a double album, but you can’t just sell it for twice the price. So we just made it even more complicated now and made it a three-album set, hopefully satisfying the fans of the original because they’re in there as they were, and then there’s this third disc. I don’t know how it will be received. I prefer the new mix of this. We had it re-mastered by a guy who’s an audiophile, Bob Katz, who never touched the original. He’s been more excited about this album than he’s been over anything we’ve done in the last five or six years.

Schendel: The Inconsolable Secret went out of print, the original one. It’s the only CD that we put out that did go out of print. It’s selling on eBay for over $350. A lot of people really wanted to be able to buy it, and when we did this re-release we didn’t want to simply throw a completely different version of the album out. I wanted to be sure that we released the original version of the album as well as our re-imagining of it.

Babb: Bands that play complicated music should be complicated.

Brehm: How did you choose what songs you wanted to re-do?

Schendel: The original album is very much divided up into kind of rocking, proggy tracks and more orchestral tracks. Frankly, the more orchestral, softer sounding tracks didn’t need to have anything addressed with them. It was mainly the ones with drums that we wanted to beef up. Those tended to be the longer songs, you know, fifteen minute, twenty-five minute songs—those are the ones that we re-visited for the most part.

Babb: We added new choral parts, new singers, new guitar parts, new keyboard parts, re-tweaked the bass, re-mixed drums—just a kind of total work over.

Schendel: All in all, I think this version is much more polished.

Babb: And some people don’t like polished.

Schendel: We made it very clear—there’s no right answer. Whichever one you prefer, it’s totally okay. We just want to give you the option.

There are some things that really get pushed back in this version. There’s some kind of key nice little moments that really stick out loud and proud on the original version that kind of disappear into the overall sound picture of this one. Some people are going to get upset that their favorite little cool moment is sort of hard to hear now.

Babb: We could spend a hundred years working on this thing. This album started in 2004 and we’re still mastering it.

Schendel: This is the end. No more Inconsolable Secret.

Babb: It was the inconsolable album.

Brehm: What’s your favorite song from The Inconsolable Secret?

Schendel: I choose not to look at it that way. It’s still an integrated work to me. I like to listen to the whole thing.

Brehm: How does being a Christian, and how does your faith affect your art?

Babb: Well, I hold Christian artists to a ridiculously high standard. To me—and please don’t think that because we write progressive rock that we don’t find very simple pop music perfectly enjoyable because I love a lot of it—but I think rock probably reached its peak musically as far as what it could do when progressive rock gelled in the ’70s.

So I kind of like to think of it as, you know, that Christian music should, at least in our case, employ rock at its best. Beyond that, lyrically from time to time we go down what I think are Christian trails. Our last album, Perilous, it’s all about facing mortality—definitely a Christian angle if you look for it. The album has plenty of references to ‘father’ and trying to get home—a lot of it is about trying to get home, which is my metaphor for heaven.

It’s really down to, to put in Christian phraseology—we feel led. 

Schendel: It doesn’t affect my art in the sense that I make conscious decisions about it. I have a worldview, and my art is going to fit that worldview. I don’t want to do anything artistically that’s going to send the wrong message or inadvertently put out a message that I disagree with or think is inappropriate. But I don’t really sit down and go ‘How am I going to bring this songwriting in line with my Christianity?’ Generally, it’s not really a conscious process. I don’t worry about it. 

Babb: Sometimes God just shows up. That was kind of the point behind the inconsolable secret that I think Lewis tried to say in that quote if you read the whole thing, is—and this is my take on it—God will insert himself anywhere he chooses. He may do it through a Christian band; He may do it through a completely non-Christian source. I think he is quite capable of showing up in the middle of art, especially if you invite Him there. But I tend to think that if you’re going to do that, you need to clean the house up—it needs to be your best. 

Schendel: I think that with a lot of modern praise music that get’s played in church—you can argue about the music itself all day long—that’s a completely subjective thing; you can argue about whether four simple chords are good enough or whether some more thought should have gone into it. Lyrically it’s a whole different situation. You can look at the lyrics purely objectively and realize that a lot of them come up pretty lacking and probably written by somebody that was just kind of spewing some good thoughts out of their head, but maybe from a purely theological standpoint they don’t really hold up.

There was a joke on Southpark—the Cartman episode where he joined the band and, you know, we just cross out ‘baby’ and write in ‘Jesus.’ Jesus is my girlfriend, apparently.

Another pet peeve is when you start analyzing it and realize how self-centered and egotistical it is. It’s all ‘I do this. I worship You. It’s all about me, and I’m worshipping. Yay me!’

Babb: I’ve visited churches, and I’ll hear the most profound sermon, but it’s sandwiched in between literally second-grade level music. So I know that the audience—as sometimes they’re called now—the congregation has the capacity to comprehend high-level thinking. But musically everyone just sort of undercuts that. That’s why I’m not invited to play in worship bands anymore, because I can’t keep my mouth shut.

Schendel: For the record, I play in the band over at Silverdale Baptist and this negativity is not directed at them. I wouldn’t be in that band if I didn’t feel good about being with them. They have a great worship leader and he picks good music and the level of musicianship in that band is really high. We’ve gone back and forth on should musicians even be on stage? What’s the line between it being a performance? What if the whole band was just in a pit? The general response was like ‘Well, you have to have something to look at.’

Babb: Unfortunately the audience is trained so that if they see a band then the attention is going to the band and there’s going to be applause; you get into the same situation that I think the devil found himself in somewhere eons ago when his job was to reflect the glory back to the Creator, but he decided that he actually kind of liked it and decided that he would be the center of attention. That didn’t work out too well for anybody.

Schendel: That’s another thing at Silverdale—the band doesn’t jump around, there’s no real lighting to speak of, so it’s not a show in that sense. They do put us up on the big twenty-five foot screens—even that makes me wonder. It’s like there’s a shot of a musician playing, you’re checking that out; you’re watching the hands playing. Do we need that? What is worshipful about my hand doing this on a close-up? I don’t see the need for it. That’s one issue I have—why should we be featured on the screens?

Brehm: In terms of new albums are you writing anything?

Babb: Yeah, we are.

Schendel: Right smack in the middle of it.

Babb: It’s probably going to be put together in a very cool way for us, which is the way most bands actually do this. We sit here in a studio all day and we write, and what we haven’t had is a local drummer. Now we do. So we’re going to work our parts out in rehearsal like a live band and we’re just going to record it like we play it live. I think we’re going to get a much leaner, meaner result out of it. Aaron Roulston—that’s our local drummer.

Schendel: Who’s also in a praise band.

Brehm: Any plans on when that’ll be released?

Schendel: I think we’ll have it by the end of the year. I don’t want to jinx us. We’ve kind of been on a schedule of every October putting out an album. We’ll see if we can hold to that. That might be a little ambitious for this since we do want to actually rehearse it and learn how to play it before we record it.

Babb: This year we put a lot on hold to play four shows. For hours and hours and hours we’re practicing and nobody’s writing. Played one at Rhythm and Brews and three shows on a boat.

Schendel: A very nice boat.

Babb: And then we were done. Probably won’t play again till maybe this fall.

Brehm: Do you enjoy playing live?

Schendel: I do, but it just takes our focus away from the writing and recording which is what we really tend to like the most. But I really do like playing live.

Babb: Having the band, especially now with Aaron—who like prayed to be in our band—

Schendel: Yeah, he had apparently harbored desires to play in Glass Hammer for years, and when we invited him his Facebook page exploded. When it came time to look for a local drummer, he was someone I played with in a little praise band, and I just remember thinking ‘That guy would probably be really good.’ Once again, there’s probably a God thing going on right there.

Babb: Back to your question. As I’ve gotten older, now I’m starting to wish that we could play live more. The clock is ticking.

Schendel: Part of the problem is that a lot of the music we’ve recorded without an eye towards performing it live. It becomes incredibly difficult and stressful to work it up and figure out a way to perform it live. That’s another reason that on this coming album we want to put an emphasis on arrangements that we can reproduce live out of the gate so we don’t have to stress so much over playing it.

Babb: Playing live is like juggling while doing calculus. It’s not easy.

Schendel: When you go out on the road and play fifty shows it gets to where you can play in your sleep. But we’re always at the very beginning of that process—perpetually. We’re at the beginning where we’re starting over, we’re re-learning it and doing those first couple of shows. If we kept going and playing just another couple of weeks—five or ten more shows—we’d just be that tight; it’d be amazing. But we’re always doing that, and then that stops. Then a year later it’s like, here we go again.

Babb: We’d like to step that up and actually play more often. That won’t happen.

Brehm: Do you ever think you’ll stop Glass Hammer, or are you just going to keep going till it’s not fun anymore?

Babb: That’s kind of the rule. There’s always some inspiration that comes along. I think there’s a certain amount of pride that’s behind it. It’d be hard to stop because we seem to have a growing fanbase after twenty years; it doesn’t seem like our best work, our best album is behind us, even though we’re certainly touting this album that came out in 2005. We always have new ideas. As long as there’re actual new ideas coming I think we’ll keep doing it.

Schendel: Glass Hammer has been about five, six different bands. It can be anything, so we’re not restricted to having to recreate one specific sound or specific idea all the time, so that keeps it from getting boring. We can be what we want to be.

Babb: A bass player and keyboard player are goods things to build a band around. If we’re at the core of it, the other faces can change, but there’s something similar about it all. You can listen to our first or second album from twenty years ago, and you can listen to what we’re doing now you can still tell it’s basically the same guys.

Brehm: Anything else you want to say about The Inconsolable Secret?

Babb: I think we’ve covered everything, besides the fact that we’re still enormously proud of it. It will probably remain the most epic thing that we’ll ever do. I think it was Bill Bright, who was the head of Campus Crusade—I think it was him—he had some plaque on his wall that was basically ‘Striving to do something more than you can actually do.’ That’s what The Inconsolable Secret was about originally. I said, ‘Let’s do something we know we can’t do, that we cannot possibly pull off. We don’t have an orchestra; we don’t have a choir; let’s do something with an orchestra and a choir. We’ll pray, and God will have to show up.’ In other words, strive for something you cannot do and let Him fill in the gaps.


Words by: Sarah Brehm

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video by: Sarah Brehm

Release the Panic Tour at Workplay

posted May 8, 2013, 6:47 PM by Sarah Brehm   [ updated May 8, 2013, 6:51 PM ]

On Monday, May 6, I found myself at Workplay in downtown Birmingham, Alabama, for the Release the Panic tour featuring Southbound Fearing, We As Human, and RED. 

When I got there (late), Southbound Fearing was already rocking out on stage. I didn’t get to hear much of their set, but what I did hear I enjoyed. It was quality rock music that reminded me a bit of rock from the ’90s. I look forward to hearing more from Southbound Fearing. 

We As Human is already making an impact in the Christian music scene, and the debut album on Atlantic /Word Records doesn’t come out until June 25. We As Human’s quick rise to popularity is due mainly because they were “discovered” by John Cooper, lead vocalist and bassist of Skillet. Extensive touring with Skillet on the Awake and Alive tour and on Winter Jam, and now with RED have enabled We As Human to build a continuously growing fanbase. And their music is good. Aggressive, edgy melodies with mosh-approved choruses will please any fan of Skillet and RED; they played several songs including “Zombies,” “Dead Man,” and their current single “Strike Back.” We As Human are sure to become a great powerhouse in the Christian rock music genre. 

RED’s set for this tour immersed the audience into a graffiti-filled street alley, complete with trash cans, trash bags, and street lamps. Adorning the back wall were flyers for the Accedia Corporation offering strategies for contented living. Not familiar with Accedia Corp? It’s the fictional corporation that turns everyone into “faceless” machines with “nothing wrong, nothing real inside.” In RED’s movie-like music video for “Release the Panic” (which is actually a continuation of their equally epic “Feed the Machine” music video), RED starts a rebellion that fights back against the evil Accedia Corp. 

RED’s set kicked off with the aggressively heavy track “If We Only,” and then transitioned into “Damage”—one of my favorites off Release the Panic. “Take this away,” screams vocalist Michael Barnes, “it was a just a mistake! Save me!” (Seriously, if you haven’t listened to “Damage,” go do it now.) RED always performs with exploding energy and excitement. Barnes constantly jumped around the stage while guitarist Anthony Armstrong and bassist Randy Armstrong never stayed still. And drummer Joe Rickard played his heart out. 

Their set consisted of sixteen songs, mostly from Release the Panic, with highlights from their previous three albums, including “Faceless,” “Let Go,” “Perfect Life,” “Death of Me,” “Feed the Machine,” and an acoustic version of “Not Alone.” RED ended the night with the single that started it all—“Breathe Into Me” from End of Silence. As always, it was a fantastic show. 

After the show I got three-fourths of RED to sign my album review of Release the Panic that I wrote the March issue of HM Magazine. As I drove back to Chattanooga on a very foggy Interstate 59 at one in the morning, I realized that this concert was the ninth time I’ve see RED. I can’t wait for number ten!

Words by: Sarah Brehm
Photos and Video by: Sarah Brehm

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RED "Perfect Life" live at Workplay

Project 86 and Children 18:3 at The Warehouse

posted Apr 22, 2013, 7:07 PM by Sarah Brehm   [ updated Apr 22, 2013, 7:22 PM ]

A handful of people made their way to The Warehouse at Camp Joy last Saturday night. These were the cool people. Everyone else must be unaware that Children 18:3 and Project 86 put on spectacular, entertaining concerts. Next time, be one of the cool people and come out to see these bands.

Local metals bands Hazmat and CoveredScars kicked off the night of headbanging. Both bands write quality classic metal songs mixed with a little bit of hardcore and a bit of solid rock. This was my first time seeing Hazmat, and I liked what I heard. CoveredScars performed several songs off their debut album What Words Will Do including the title track, and “Black Train.” They also performed the fast-paced, aggressive new single “Flinch” off their upcoming record. CoveredScars needs your help to finish; head over to their PledgeMusic page to find out more. 

Punk rockers Children 18:3 started their set on fire. And that isn’t a metaphor; drummer Seth Hostetter actually lit his cymbals on fire. (Want to see this in person? Children 18:3 is coming back in June.) The first time I saw Children 18:3 was at the old Warehouse location in East Ridge; then I saw them at Warehouse location downtown; and now at the largest venue location in the Warehouse’s history. “Usually when we play The Warehouse,” said bassist/vocalist Lee Marie Hostetter, “it’s a lot smaller of room. You kids are growing. The Warehouse is a little bit bigger than last time.” But the extra room just gave the fans more space to mosh and “finger dance” to their heart’s content. Lee Marie managed to continue playing with her characteristic high-energy after hurting her knee early in the set. They played a variety of songs that spanned across their three albums, including “Homemade Valentine,” “Cover Your Eyes,” “All in Your Head,” and “We’ll Never Say Goodbye,” among others. 

Project 86 has managed to stay relevant for nearly two decades because of vocalist (and only remained founding member) Andrew Schwab’s desire to create unique music that can’t be pegged onto a single genre. Intense, heavy rock melodies, dramatic movements that showcase quality songwriting, and vocals that range from screaming to practically spoken word, Project 86 is a band that’s not easily forgotten. “There’s nothing more metal than throwing up on stage,” said Schwab after, well, throwing up on stage. Project 86 played “Destroyer,” “Sincerely, Ichabod,” “Fall Goliath Fall,” and “Take the Hill,” among others. If you haven’t picked up their newest album Wait For The Siren (which was completely funded by fans through Kickstarter), stop what you’re doing right now and go buy it. It’s simply fantastic. I can’t stop listening to it. 

You won’t want to miss these bands the next time they make their way to the southeast. 

Words by: Sarah Brehm
Photos and Videos by: Sarah Brehm 
For more photos click here

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Weekly Round-Up: April 5, 2013

posted Apr 5, 2013, 12:30 PM by Sarah Brehm

National and local news tidbits. 

New This Week:

Made by Hawk Nelson

Prevailer by For Today

Coming Soon:
Lights Out by Silverline: April 9

Heroes For Sale by Andy Mineo: April 16

Rise by Skillet: June 25

Rebuild by The Letter Black: pushed back to September 10

In the Studio:
Icon For Hire


J103 launches a Kickstarter campaign for JRadio.  “There are many different types and styles of music out there: Rock, HipHop, Chorale, Smooth Jazz, Rap, Metal, etc. and we want to make sure that you can find a station that plays your favorite type of music with clean or faith-filled lyrics. … To start this new collection of online radio stations we need computers, mics, monitors, software and licensing fees though, and while J103 is able to raise money and have our commercials for our FM signals, it’s just not in the budget for a project like JRadio. This is why we chose Kickstarter to raise funds for JRadio. You’re able to help initiate these online radio stations with the firs station (JRadio: Hits) and in return, get some really cool stuff for your backing.”

To read more and donate to JRadio click here: JRadio Kickstarter

Covered Scars currently has a fundraiser going “We would like you to join us and help finish the mastering of our 2nd studio album “Flinch” and manufacturing the CDs. “

For read more and donate to Covered Scars click here: Covered Scars Fundraiser

Upcoming Shows:

April 6 (tomorrow): The Chariot, Tir Asleen, The Good Ole Boys, The Bear Comes Home, at The Warehouse Chattanooga. Buy Tickets Here

April 11: Rigoletto CD release party at Rhythm and Brews. 18 and over. 

April 20: Project 86 and more at The Warehouse Chattanooga.  Buy Tickets Here

The War of Change Tour Fired It Up

posted Mar 18, 2013, 7:22 PM by Sarah Brehm   [ updated Mar 18, 2013, 7:27 PM ]

By a quarter past five p.m. on March 16, the line already snaked from the doors of City Church out to McCutchen Road. There was still half an hour before doors opened and a steady stream of fans continued to file into the line. With 700 pre-sales, The War of Change Tour featuring Thousand Foot Krutch, Love and Death, The Letter Black, and The Wedding, was sure to be an epic night. 

Two local bands, Face Like Failure and CoveredScars, had the privilege of opening for this tour. Form last fall, Face like Failure already performs like a band that has been around for a while. Their blend of heavy rock and metal reminded me of Alter Bridge. And bassist, D.J. Stuman sported a bright purple and blue beard. Their set included “Overcoming,” “Pain Wreck,” “Apples and Snakes,” “Deliver,” and “Not Your Savior,” which can be heard on their Facebook and Reverbnation. CoveredScars played several rock songs from their debut album What Words Will Do including “Black Train,” “Dying Alone,” and “Skin Crawl.” CoveredScars is currently recording a new album, Flinch, and played their first single “The Lamb” as well as “Deacon.” Drummer Jackie Cox says, “We were honored to be a part of this show!” 

First of the touring bands was The Wedding from Fayetteville, Arkansas. Their set started with a dark stage and “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” by Jonny Cash blasting through the speakers; The Wedding seamlessly transitioned to their popular single “Heartbreak in Melody” from their first Tooth & Nail album, No Direction (2012). Vocalist Matt Shelton launched himself into the crowd. Their set of punk rock included “The Lesser Worth,” “No Direction,” “The Raconteur,” and “In the End.” 

The Letter Black, also on Tooth & Nail’s roster, was up next. Fronted by Sarah Anthony, The Letter Black always puts on an incredible show. They performed several songs from their debut album, Hanging on By a Thread (2010) including "All I Want," "My Disease," "Fire with Fire" and the title track, but it was their new singles “The Only One” and “Sick Charade” that boosted their 2013 release to my list of most anticipated albums. The Letter Black is a  quality rock band that only seems to get better and better. 

Love and Death, Brian “Head” Welch’s band performed next with their blend of heavy, melodic metal that is quite unique in the realm of Christian music. Welch is the former guitarist of the nu-metal, secular band Korn. Love and Death’s debut album Between Here & Lost definitely has similar sound to Korn. Their set included “Paralyzed,” “Meltdown,” “I W8 4 U,” “The Abandoning,” a cover of “Whip It,” and a medley of Korn songs. Welch will be performing full sets with Korn later this year, which has garnered some negative feedback. “I don’t need your judgment,” he says. “I just need your prayers.” His friendship with Korn has been reconciled, and you never know how God will work through that. Their set ended with “Chemicals.” 

The Headliner Thousand Foot Krutch has been a powerhouse in the Christian rock scene for quite a while. Ten years ago, “Rawkfist” from the album Phenomenon, was the anthem for fans of Christian rock, and TFK continues to produce quality rock songs that make you want to mosh like crazy. (When I realized that “Rawkfist” was ten years old, I suddenly felt old!) The majority of TFK’s dynamic performance came from their current album, The End is Where We Begin, including “Let the Sparks Fly,” “I Get Wicked,” “Be Somebody,” “Courtesy Call,” and the title track, among others. They played a smattering of old songs like “Bounce” and obviously “Rawkfist” from 2003’s Phenomenon, as well as “Move” from 2005’s The Art of Breaking. Their encore featured the really old-school song, “Puppet” from 2001’s Set It Off. The crowd of over 800 eagerly sang along with frontman Trevor McNevan to every song and remained energized to the final note. 

The War of Change Tour was an incredible night of rock and roll. A huge thanks to The Warehouse and to City Church for putting this all together.

Words by: Sarah Brehm
Photos by: Jeanette Yoder Photography (check out the rest of her photos!)
Videos by: Sarah Brehm

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Save Us Now Tour on Valentine's Day

posted Feb 15, 2013, 8:30 PM by Sarah Brehm   [ updated Feb 16, 2013, 10:00 AM ]

While local restaurants were busy with fancy, romantic dinners and lovey-dovey couples celebrating Valentine’s Day, a few hundred rock fans opted to spend the evening at The Warehouse with Fireflight and Disciple. 

The members of Fireflight wore black-and-white outfits with the symbol from their fourth (and current) studio album, Now, emblazoned on shirt sleeves and jackets. They played a variety of pop-rock songs that highlighted most of their albums, including “Stand Up,” “Ignite,” “You Gave Me a Promise,” “For Those Who Wait,” “Desperate” and “Keeping Me Alive.” In the song “Stay Close,” lead singer Dawn Michele sings, “Stay close, stay close / Light up the night / Save me from the part of me / That’s begging to die.” It’s a powerful song written from the perspective of someone who is struggling with depression; this person is calling out to God to stay close and help him/her. At one point Michele held her Bible and read Psalm 27:1: “The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? (NIV).Fireflight delivered an excellent show, and they had moms and daughters boogying down together in the crowd. 

Headliners Disciple, fronted by native Tennessean Kevin Young, rocked the house down with their exceptional blend of hard rock and fun. Disciple’s been around since the early ’90s, but has been through extensive member changes; the only constant has been Young. Perhaps it was because the current line-up is fairly new that Disciple only played songs from their more recent albums. They played a few songs from the 2006 album Scars Remain, but the rest of the set was from the two most recent albums, Horseshoes & Handgrenades (2010) and O God Save Us All (2012); This included the songs “Unstoppable,” “Watch it Burn,” “Regime Change” “Once and For All,” and one of my favorites, “Dear X (You Don’t Own Me).” 

About half-way through their set, Young took some time to talk to the crowd about Christianity and having a relationship with God and Christ. What struck me the most was when he compared his relationship with his daughter to God’s relationship with us. “I have a four-year old girl, and I’m getting ready to have another girl,” said Young. “And my daughter, when she was born, you know, before too long she started crawling; before too long after that she started trying to walk. And she fell down a lot. And mom and dad, we were right there every time she fell down to say ‘That’s okay!’ 

“She was crying, upset, ticked-off, madder than anything you’ve ever seen. ‘It’s okay. You can do this. Stand back up and do it again. Let’s go. You can do this.’ 

“There’d be days we’d be trying to get her to talk, and we’d get down on her level and say ‘Dadadada. Mamamama’ And before too long she’d do that. She started sounding like me. But it didn’t happen overnight. It happened because she’s my child. 

“See what I’m saying? She has a relationship with me. Christianity is not a set of rules. Christianity is a relationship with a man. And when you give your life to Jesus Christ you become His child. And you’ll fall down. A lot. He’ll be right there and say ‘It’s okay. Gonna pick you up and you’ll do this again. You’ve got this. You can do this.’ 

“Before long you’re going to conqueror whatever that thing is. You know why? Cause he’s with you. You can conqueror all things through Him. That’s what it’s about. And before too long, he’s going to get down on your level and he’s going to start talking simple stuff and you’re going to start trying to talk like him. And before too long you’re going to start to sound like him. You’re going to start to pick up his accent. You’re going to start to talk like God. Before too long you’re going to start to walk like God. Start to want the things that God would want. Start to do the things that God would do. Start to live the way that God would live. Start to love people the way that God would love people. Start to speak into people’s lives the way that God would speak into people. Instead of judging them, reaching out your hands and loving them the way that God would love people. Why? Not because you belong to a religion. Not because you agree with a set of ideals. But because you have a relationship with God.”

The night ended with Disciple’s encore “Game On.” As long as Young continues to have a passion for sharing God through headbanging-rock music, Disciple will be around for many more years to come.

Fireflight "Desperate" live at The Warehose

Disciple "Unstoppable" live at The Warehouse

Disciple "Dear X (You Don't Own Me)" live at The Warehouse

RED releases Release the Panic

posted Feb 6, 2013, 8:51 PM by Sarah Brehm   [ updated Feb 6, 2013, 8:54 PM ]

Some days are just full of awesome. When I woke up on Monday I had no idea that I would find myself in Nashville that night hanging out with one of my favorite bands. Then I saw this tweet: 

So I sent a reply, and a few hours later I tweeted this: 

Five fans were treated to an intimate acoustic concert with RED at, as the video below says, an “undisclosed location in Nashville.” We literally sat less than three feet from the small stage that had been decked out with candles and a large poster of the album cover of Release the Panic, RED’s fourth studio album. Blue lighting mimicked the blue hues of the cover. 

RED performed three songs, two off the new record—“Perfect Life” and “Hold Me Now”—and “Breathe Into Me” from End of Silence, their debut album. 

After the Livestream event ended, the band members—Michael Barnes, Joe Rickard, Anthony Armstrong, and Randy Armstrong—hung out with the five of us, chatting and posing for photos. 

As for my opinion of the Release the Panic, you’ll have to wait till the March issue of HM Magazine. But I’ve been listening to the album ever since I got it, and I strongly recommend you pick it up. 

I was also given an Accedia Corporation coffee mug. I know this fine corporation is trying to offer me the Perfect Life, but it’s time to Release the Panic!

Livestream event can be viewed below:

Words by: Sarah Brehm

Related Articles:

RED - Release The Panic from RED on Vimeo.


The Opening of The Warehouse at Camp Joy

posted Feb 5, 2013, 1:21 PM by Sarah Brehm   [ updated Feb 5, 2013, 1:23 PM ]

Ten years ago I walked into a little club in East Ridge and thought “I’m home.” Walking into the new Warehouse venue space on January 19 gave that same feeling. It’s great! Concessions, band merchandise area, and awesome stage, and an indoor skate park will make this space the premier venue in Chattanooga for Christian rock and metal. As I walked around I couldn’t help but think about all the bands that are going to come through here—and all the fans (teens to the young-at-heart) who are going to be entertained and (most importantly) encouraged. 

Local bands Sinai Vessel, Delmar, and Rigoletto opened the night. Delmar played a cover of OutKast’s “Hey Ya” and a circle pit started. Rigoletto’s music has a layer of complexity and musicianship that a joy to listen to. 

As a group of skaters (ranging from early teens to twenty-something) continued to enjoy the ramps, Solid State’s Becoming the Archetype performed. The night ended with a reunion of local band Within, fronted by Casey Whitaker, owner of The Warehouse. The crowd busted out into a chant of “Thank you, Casey!” 

I’m looking forward to many shows in this new space.

Words by: Sarah Brehm
Photos and Video by: Sarah Brehm

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Highlights from the The Opening of the Warehouse

Top 5 Albums of 2012

posted Jan 1, 2013, 5:32 PM by Sarah Brehm   [ updated Jan 1, 2013, 5:49 PM ]

Murdered Love by POD 
It’s only been four years since POD’s previous album, When Angels & Serpents Dance, was released; but really, fans have been waiting 11 years for an album with as much power as Satellite (2001), POD’s explosive record that helped catapult them to national stardom. Murdered Love is this album. It’s quintessentially old-school POD, and it’s also their most spiritually explicit album—just look at the lyrics to the title track, “Eyez,” and “On Fire.” But there are some misses; “West Coast Rock Steady” and “Bad Boy” don’t seem like they fit into this album. And of course, there’s the controversial track “I Am” that uses the f-word, though it’s bleeped out. (Personally, I don’t mind the song, but I can understand people’s disappointment in POD’s choice of words). 

New Horizons by Flyleaf
Flyleaf’s third studio album, and last one for front-woman Lacey Sturm, New Horizons can’t seem to decide what genre it wants to be in. There are epically heavy songs like “Green Heart,” “Freedom,” and “Call You Out.” Then there are catchy pop/rock tracks like “New Horizons,” “Cage on the Ground,” and “Stand.” These songs work separately—they’re musically intricate and Lacey’s vocals are spot on, whether she’s melodically singing or aggressively screaming—but thrown together on the same album creates a bit of discord and lacks continuity. It is two different styles without any transitions in between to tie them together. Flyleaf’s at their best when they push into the realm of heavy rock and let Lacey scream her heart out; we’ll see what new vocalist Kristen May can do.

The End is Where We Begin by Thousand Foot Krutch
Okay, I’ll be honest; I think it was nostalgia that made me buy Thousand Foot Krutch’s eight studio album, The End is Where We Begin. I saw them earlier this year when they toured with RED, and when they played old-school tracks “Move” and “Rawkfist” I remembered my high-school years (“Rawkfist” was pretty much the anthem for any teenaged fan of Christian rock back then). There are some fun songs, like “Light Up the Sky,” “Let the Sparks Fly,” “Courtesy Call,” and the title track. But for the most part TFK’s style of rock is a bit generic. They have a handful of songs that are incredibly fun to mosh to at a concert, but for the most part, their music (at least for me) falls just short of being great. 

Gravity by Lecrae

I think it’s safe to say that Gravity is the best Christian rap/hip-hop album to date; it sold 72,000 copies in its first week, surprising the mainstream world! Raw, emotional, and complex, Gravity delivers an album that requires multiple listens just to soak it all in. “Fakin’” “Power Trip,” “I Know,” “Tell the world,” and “Lord Have Mercy” are the best tracks on the album. 

Milestone by Gideon
Metalcore, with its characteristic breakdowns and screaming lyrics that are nearly impossible to understand, isn’t for everyone. But Milestone, Gideon’s sophomore album, slowly grew on me as I listened. Experimental guitar-work, and a mixture of time signatures, sets Milestone apart from the mire of mediocre metalcore albums. Also, the title track is simply instrumental—and it’s acoustic—something completely unexpected; it servers almost as an intermission. Like, okay, you’ve been hardcore moshing for seven songs, relax for three minutes, take a breather, get a drink of water. Ready? Okay, here’s three more heavy songs; mosh to your heart’s content. Take a listen to “Gutter” “Maternity” “Faceless,” and “Prodigal Son.” 

Other notable albums of 2012:
On the Run by Children 18:3 
Miracle by Third Day 
Vital by Anberlin 
O God Save Us All by Disciple 
True Defiance by Demon Hunter 
Young Man Follow by Future of Forestry
The Good Life by Trip Lee
World We View by Nine Lashes

Albums I'm looking forward to in 2013:
Release the Panic by RED
Untitled by Skillet
Untitled by Icon for Hire
Untitled by The Letter Black 

Words by: Sarah Brehm

Related Posts:

POD "Murdered Love"

Flyleaf "Call You Out"

Thousand Foot Krutch "Let the Sparks Fly"

Lecrae "Lord Have Mercy"

Gideon "Gutter"

Changes are coming in 2013

posted Dec 20, 2012, 8:16 AM by Sarah Brehm   [ updated Dec 20, 2012, 8:19 AM ]

When I started Forte Chattanooga, I had in mind that it would become more of an online magazine, rather than my blog. I was planning to eventually lean back in my comfy office chair and wear the Editor hat while several others contributed articles and concert reviews. Some of you have contributed, and for that I am appreciative. But I’m learning that this original model isn’t going to work (at least for now).

Instead, Forte Chattanooga is going to become my blog.

For you, the reader, that probably means you won’t notice much of a change in content, except (hopefully) a dramatic increase in posts—like a multiple-posts-per-day kind of increase.

For me, it means I’m not going to worry about the things I did—like should I write about this band? Can I write about that band? Do I even dare write on this topic?

I know, incredibly vague, but I was afraid there were things I could and couldn’t do. On my website. It’s a silly way to think.

So, yes, there will be an increase in posts. These will still include artist interviews, concert reviews, album reviews. The same sort of stuff you’ve come to expect from Forte Chattanooga. What’s going to be new are things like this: I might post a link to a youtube music video and write a quick paragraph about the particular song; I might talk about a certain Bible verse; or whatever is on my mind concerning Christian music.

Also in the works is a new design.

I’ve had this design up with little variation since the beginning, nearly two years ago. It’s time for an update. I’m thinking about making specific tabs for artist interviews, concert reviews, album reviews. Everything else will fall under “exclusives” or “general” or something. This way, you can quickly find the article that you’re looking for. At least, that’s the plan. I’m not sure how that’ll affect the articles currently posted.

Be looking for these updates sometime early January 2013.

Change is good, right? 

Words by: Sarah Brehm

"If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living." Gail Sheehy

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