To paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr (when he was talking about something infinitely more important than a music review), sometimes you need to go back and remind yourself of once precious values in order to go forward again.
For their second major label album (seventh in all), Disciple appear to have heeded this exhortation. Where their previous, eponymous effort was sleek, shiny pop-metal, Scars Remain is an altogether heavier, more brutish affair that will have long-time, erm, disciples banging their heads in approval and open-minded fans of the likes of Bullet For My Valentine discovering a new favourite band.
Why would potential new acolytes need to be “open-minded”? Well, in an ideal world they wouldn’t but in this strange one in which we live, Disciple suffer from the stigma (or is that stigmata) of being Christian and, shock horror, even mention the J-word in a non-swear word context.
Anti-Christians can chill, however. Disciple are not remotely preachy, which makes them less didactic than, ooh, 90% of most metal bands out there. And lyrics like “when I see You, I see scars that are matching” have a personal and dark quality that melliflously matches the melodic musical mayhem surrounding them.
Speaking of which, this is one fine slab of metal-with-choruses. Regime Change, Love Hate (On And On) and My Hell kick things off in memorable fashion before the title track stomps through in a blaze of cool riffs, killer choruses, artillery-like pummelling bridges and a rather spiffing, slowed-down, doom metal finale.
Game On is brash and fun rap-metal (admit it, you like it really) that has unsurprisingly made its way on to US television soundtracking wrestling, American football and CSI:Miami (!). Meanwhile, Someone, Dive, Fight For Love and Purpose To Melody also rock, with the combination of aggressive music and deliberately anthemic, sung tunes recalling other underrated bands of old such as the Galactic Cowboys.
In fact, Kevin Young’s vocals are a highlight. The possessor of a genuinely powerful rock larynx, it is a relief to hear him rediscovering those “precious values” of mixing in rasping, caustic screams with his strident, singing voice. And don’t get any ideas about that implying Disciple have gone “screamo” or something – we’re talking here about how everyone from Metallica to Fear Factory can seamlessly shift vocal styles intra-song.
The only times Disciple backslide, so to speak, are the couple of occasions when they do the semi-acoustic thing that hard rock bands the world over feel compelled to attempt from time to time but only occasionally pull off.
To be fair, After The World is a not-too-hokey piece of US rock radio fodder that passes pleasantly enough even with its slight (and I mean slight) country edge. They’re from Tennessee, so we’ll forgive them (how very Christian), but it’s harder to be gracious about closing number No End At All which frankly lives up to its name – the melody just isn’t robust enough to see out an album that has had so much quality pass before.
And ultimately that’s what matters. Minor indiscretion aside, Scars Remain is a consistently strong, persistently endearing piece of metal that is simultaneously modern in its outlook and retrospective in its source of musical kicks. Spread the word.