"Come Alive" opens the album as a solid rocker to set the mood for the music to come. The record continues on more of an upbeat pace moving from the opener, to the title track, and through "Let it Go." While each of the initial four songs are enjoyable in their own right, the highlights of the group are "The Lion," due to the strong vocal performance by Heath, and "Reflect the Light," which draws shades of Three Doors Down. The album slows dramatically for the acoustic "Before I Drown," which is a cry out to the Savior. Heath sings, "And I feel You. And I need You ; 'Cause I can't get back up on my own. And I know that You don't need me, but I am begging for You to make me whole." "In a Mirror" is up next and is quintessential 90s rock, a-la Stone Temple Pilot's "Tripping On a Hole in a Paper Heart." While the song is by no means a clone of STP's hit, the rhythm of the verse coupled with those classic 90's stacked vocals certainly give it that feel. The chorus goes on to use other 90s tricks, including the guitar effects incorporated. For a 90s fan, this song is top of the class for The Lion. "My Sunny Days" follows as a happy and upbeat acoustic number before going back to the more rock inspired "Here is Paradise." The Three Doors Down vibe from earlier in the album returns for "Live Free." The song is a nice listen, but its composition screams for a guest vocal spot in the second verse. Heath handles it just fine on his own, but the dynamic of a different voice coming in at that point, and some additional harmonies later in the track, could have really put the song over the top. The piano-driven "The Hand of Jesus" is a worshipful song for those hurting with no one in their lives to turn to; the lyrics in the second verse even delicately speak to those contemplating suicide. The words in the chorus, however, offer the hope of healing and restoration in the hand of Jesus. "In Your Arms" begins to wrap things up in a strange manner with a tune that doesn't really fit with the rest of the record. The track has the most "modern flare," complete with auto-tune and drum machine, but just sticks out like a sore thumb in the mix. The closer, "Your Majesty," brings a little home cooking to the table with a song fitting of the Kentucky natives. The track actually sounds like a song that could've been done by the now-defunct Organic Records band, This Train.
Rising Life have bravely pushed aside any thoughts, or notions, of what Christian music is "supposed" to sound like and recorded what was in their hearts; they prove that you can write a spiritually relevant and moving album without redoing watered down versions of the same worship songs. While The Lion is full of 90s sensibilities and throwbacks, it's also modern sounding enough to appeal to a younger generation. Fans who love some crunchy guitars, but aren't into hard rock, should eat this album up. The musicianship is solid, the vocals are perfectly fitting, and the production is top notch. It's quite evident that Heath and Kristy put a lot of time, energy, and money into this record -- and their efforts have paid off brilliantly. Those, like me, who are diehard 90s rockers will absolutely love this album and it's likely you'll hear glimpses of many of your favorite bands throughout. In the end, The Lion should be able to please newer fans while, at the same time, transporting longtime CCMers back to a point in time where the industry was much more diversified and interesting. (Man, those were the days...) Kudos to Rising Life for making the album they wanted and hopefully they continue to do the same on into the future.- Review date: 6/23/17, written by Michael Weaver of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Coffee Street Records
Heath Glisson: Wow that is high praise! I was a little kid in the 80's, and the 80's have a great influence on me - U2, Tears for Fears, Bruce Springsteen, Def Leppard, and so many more. You can name any genre from the 80's and I loved it. However, you are totally right. My musical soul was truly born in the 90's. I loved Nirvana, but my heart was more Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, and Live. They retained the soul of the Seattle sound, but they just were so musically deep and their songwriting was so deep. So I started in garage bands in the 90's and we were blasting those songs from basements and garages in our towns, poorly I might add. However, I have always been a true music lover, so as the 2000's came, and the 2010's, I totally stayed in tune and loved what was current. Coldplay, Imagine Dragons, and everything current. Of course throw in bands like Third Day and Skillet; I just stayed up on what was going on and loved it. So when I set out to form Rising Life, I was never afraid of where I had come from, those influences, especially bands like Live, however, I had enough modern influences to keep it fresh. I wanted to always be relevant and modern, while still being me and real. I think I accomplished that on this record.
Heath: That has quickly became a lot of our 'Lifer's' (what we call our hardcore fans) favorite song. I didn't set out to make it sound like anything, but that driving guitar rhythm that rolls through the whole song is definitely in line with those artists, especially Fuel, love them. Basically, one thing I struggle with daily, is how I love others, and even myself. I found myself being happy when my enemies or even 'frenemies' failed. One day, I was brushing my teeth and a lot had been going on and weighing on my heart at that time. I just said to myself, 'Why do I feel joy when others fail? I am loving all wrong, I am a sinner and this ship has capsized. I have to get my heart right and stop lying to myself that I am not the problem and it is everyone else.' It just started from that place of, I can't lie to myself any longer, the Bible says how I love is all that matters, not what others do. If I am finding joy in other's failures, then I am not living up to Christ's command for my life. So that is the scene I am setting and fleshing out. Just totally being honest with myself about being a sinner and that it all starts with me first. If I can't get my heart right and love others, then I have failed. LOVE FIRST ALWAYS!
Heath: Yea, that song is raw and was written from a raw place. From the moment I started Rising Life, the ministry has been under attack. Chris August has a new song he is working on that he previewed where he said, 'I am not as holy as the image that's been built of me.' Basically, we are all sinners. Even us in ministry make mistakes and fall. It was written during a rough time in the ministry. A lot of negative things were happening, we weren't sure about the future of the band, and I was at a very low point. The devil was in full attack mode. He didn't want me to finish The Lion. So I just started pouring my heart out to God, "Please help me and make me whole again. During that moment, I had an even bigger epiphany which was a turning point for us leading into completing The Lion. You see, God, He doesn't need Heath Glisson or Rising Life to complete His plan. He will be just fine. He loves me and wants me to be in His arms, however, whether or not I participate, God's divine plan for us and the universe is going to be completed no matter what. So it was from that rock bottom place of, "I have nowhere left to go. I know You don't need me. However, I am begging You to pick me up again and make me whole." So yea, it is raw and was very hard to put on the album, but part of Rising Life's success has been built on the fact that I basically pour my brokenness out into every song I write. That song is the deepest and rawest of emotions. It is by far my favorite song I have ever written and I am beyond proud of it and you are feeling real emotion. I will just tell you, I had a hard time recording it and I was crying and worshipping during most of the recording of the vocals on it. That is a dangerous thing to admit, however as Christians, let's stop hiding the truth of who we are and our brokenness from each other.
Heath: Yes! That is a very different song. Another song that almost didn't make it onto the album. A former member had given me this synth chord pattern and said, "hey it's yours. Take off with it." The world is crazier than it has ever been, I am scared of the world, the only safe place right now is just in God's arms. Like I said, I almost didn't put it on the album, however once we sat back and examined it, had some outside forces listen, they said, "you know, YES it is very different, but it is still Rising Life and it is too powerful to not include." This throws back to a lot of those old 90's influences coming through: the industrial music movement that happened, plus even modern synth pop bands, etc. So we went with it. Then the reaction we got when we tried it out live solidified the deal and we included it. I think if you listen to the album from front to back, a lot of the songs are starkly different and have different personalities. Another problem I have, I am influenced maybe by TOO many different styles of music. However, I think no one is one thing, and you are actually seeing all the sides of Heath Glisson through this record. I finally just asked God, "Do I put this on the record?" He told me "yes," so I did it.
Heath: Rising Life is working right now to put together a fall tour in conjunction with Sober For Life Radio and Victory Through Grace ministries. Two ministries very near and dear to our hearts. Sober For Life Radio is an internet radio station and ministry that helps get addicts into recovery and is Christ centered. Victory Through Grace rescues people of all ages from the sex trafficking world. They literally go around the world. They have a hidden recovery house where they live for years and are rehabilitated. So we are working on a tour with those folks.
Heath: That is a great question. I always said, from the beginning, I want to be different. I love Christian music and where it is at, but the praise and worship thing just wasn't me. Now, I do believe anything written for Him is praise and worship. However, I wanted to create a different experience, a deeper one. I wanted to display my brokenness. I simply have only ever written MY journey and experience. What I discovered as I went along, I would have addicts come up to me and say, "Hey this song got me through a horrible season I was in." I started realizing we are all the same. I should have already known that; the Bible tells us that. My journey is your journey, our stories are ultimately the same. Some details are different, but really, it's the same. So I want to reach the broken, the lost, the addicts, people trapped, the abused, the folks thrown away, and everything in between. I want to show them that even the best of us are broken and sinners. I want to let them know that I actually can show them the answer they are looking for. It's one thing in my life I know beyond a shadow of a doubt with certainty! I know the Greatest Physician of all, the Ultimate Healer for final healing. I want them to know, contrary to what a lot of churches and Christians have lead them to believe, He will meet YOU where YOU are at. No matter how low, or how far away from Him you are, He WILL come to you and show you His love and pick you up and fix you for all time. I don't think there is a higher calling on this planet for any human than that.
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