Sound — 10
After two releases, one with original vocalist/bass player Caleb Oliver, and another with former Fighting Instinct vocalist TJ Harris, Decyfer Down returns with their third full length record, "Scarecrow." While Harris recorded lead vocals for the second album "Crash," the album was mostly already written by Oliver and the others, with Harris re-recording the majority of the album after Oliver announced his departure. "Scarecrow" marks the first full length record from Decyfer Down with TJ Harris writing on all of the tunes. Harris' voice largely suits this record better, with his singing style being compared to a cross between Chris Cornell (Soundgarden/Audioslave) and Myles Kennedy (Alter Bridge/Slash).
Before "Scarecrow" was written, the band entered the studio to record another post-grunge effort in the similar manner as their first two records. Realizing that the new material sounded stale, the band decided to scrap the modern rock idea and return to their original influences. The band listed Led Zeppelin, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, and Black Sabbath as influences on this record - all of which are evident. The group also took a more classical recording approach, using different amps and guitars on different parts for each track, thus, giving the album a more organic sound.
In result, Decyfer Down released a type of album that is largely missing in the mainstream rock genre today. Fans of '70s riffs and '90s grunge music will throughly enjoy this record. The guitar tones are excellent, the bass lines offset the guitar parts, the drums are tasteful, and the vocals are soaring.
Track by track breakdown:
1. "Memory" - This song is a rocker that opens the record strong. From the beginning, the listener can hear the change of direction that Decyfer Down has taken on this record, however, the band's previous fans will not be alienated. One of the highlights is the bridge where Harris takes a vocal line up into the stratosphere, reminding listeners of Myles Kennedy in the bridge of Alter Bridge's "Ties That Bind."
2. "Westboro" - This song has a very Soundgarden-esque feel, with the lyrics targeting the hateful Westboro Baptist Church group.
3. "Worst Enemy" - This song bleeds Stone Temple Pilots. The riff is similar to "Sex Type Thing" and Harris often sings in a lower key than what Decyfer Down fans are used to. This track is straight up grunge rock.
4. "Say Hello" - My personal favorite of the album. The intro riff is followed by guitar parts that will remind listeners of Jerry Cantrell due to the bends in the main riff. This song has a little bit of everything. The pre-chorus of the song could fit well on a Nirvana record. Lyrically, this song has one of the deeper messages on the album.
5. "Bleeding Lines" - There is a Sabbath vibe to this song. Very '70s feel.
6. "Fight to Win" - Classic Decyfer Down fans will probably enjoy this track heavily. This is the most "classic" Decyfer Down sounding track on the album, which is likely the reason this song was released as the album's lead single. On the contrary, this song is one of the weaker ones on the album.
7. "Scarecrow" - The guitar riffs in this song rock. Fans of older rock 'n' roll and vintage amplifiers will enjoy this smashing tune. Harris' vocals are filled with angst and distortion in the verses, all leading to a singable chorus. This is one of the heavier songs on the record.
8. "The River" - Southern rock at its finest. Harris begins the song in a low key, graduating taking his voice up as the verse expands. Black Crowes and Lynyrd Skynyrd fans should feel at home hear. This song shows off the incredible vocal range of TJ Harris, who is one of the most underrated singers in rock due to lack of promotion by the Christian market.
9. "Some Things Never Change" - Catchy verses, very grungy chorus.
10. "So in Love" - The most "worshipful" track on the album - and I use that term very loosely. This is the album's only slow song, and it is done very well. In the Christian industry, most slow tracks tend to sound the same, but Decyfer Down has made one that is different and unique. This sounds nothing like anything on Contemporary Christian Radio, and that is a good thing.
The iTunes version has 2 bonus tracks - "Back Breaker" and "Wake Me." These two tracks are gems and should have been on the regular album.
Lyrics — 10
Since Decyfer Down is a Christian rock band, the lyrics center around this fact. Many of the songs refer to God's love and care in our lives. This record, however, is not the typical Christian album in regards to lyrics. With this album, the band takes risk. One of these ricks is notably confronting the hateful Westboro Baptist Church, with the band claiming that the Church has not demonstrated the love of God. The song "Scarecrow" follows a similar subject matter and points the finger at Christians who "scare" others away by their hateful and indifferent attitudes. The album does not simply point fingers, rather, it begs for a change.
One other standout lyrically is the song "Say Hello." The song is about a friend of Harris' wife, who accidentally killed her child while she was high. The overall message of the song states that even the murderer needs the grace of Jesus Christ, and that the Christians around her should demonstrate this type of embrace to her. While many contemporaries would shun the woman from society (thus the irony to "Saying Hello"), the essence of the Gospel is bringing the grace to those who need it.
Overall Impression — 10
Overall, this album hearkens back to a time in rock music where most guitar players and fans would agree is needed today. With that being said, the album does not sound dated. It simply sounds like a real rock 'n' roll record, recorded today.
Decyfer Down made the right choice in recording an album of this caliber. Secular rock fans will likely agree that this is one of the best albums of the past year, if they are willing to give it a chance. Sadly, this album will likely not be accepted well within the Christian market due to its sound. It has received little to no promotion, and most fans do not even know the album is out.
I needed this album musically, lyrically, and sonically. This album pushed the band to one of my all time favorites, and it has not left my CD player. Please give this album a listen, and do not judge this release by the band's previous releases. Many of you will likely be pleasantly surprised.