Tennessee quartet Disciple must be one of the planet’s best-kept rock secrets. Originally a trio, they first emerged with the What Was I Thinking album in 1995 and then the My Daddy Can Whip Your Daddy EP in 1997. The latter’s feel of Rage Against The Machine-meets-Guns ‘N Roses but with a sense of humour, especially marked them out for great things.
Well, they delivered their end of the bargain, with three more top-notch albums in This Might Sting A Little, By God and Back Again. However, their four albums and an EP were released through four different record labels, while their unashamedly church-based lyrical stance probably did them no favours in cracking the mainstream.
Now Disciple are back again (again), this time with major record label backing and with a sound that is less consistently metallic than that of old and lyrics that are considerably less in your face. Should we be worried?
The opening number The Wait Is Over firmly answers that question well before it has flown by in under three minutes. Like later tracks Stripped Away, Rise Up, Shine Down, Backstabber and All We Have, it mixes a newly-honed melodic edge in the verses with some stonking heavy guitar riffs, shout-along choruses and the type of rhythms that are tailor-made to get the live moshpit jumping.
And even when Disciple veer into potentially dangerous Linkin Park territory on Into Black and Falling Over, try straight-up, hard-eged melodic rock on Worth It All and Beautiful, or throw caution to the wind and do the semi-acoustic thing in Only You, it’s simply the tunes – soaring and memorable long after the event – that win the day. I know it’s horribly old-fashioned to dig songs because of their tunes and choruses but hey…
On a lyrical level, those looking for their spiritual fill will still find plenty to relate to (“I will live and die for You only”, “If I can just see You, feel You, it’s worth it all” etc). However, there’s a wider scope of themes on offer here than “just” worship, with Stripped Away dealing with the futility of fans idolising rock stars (“It’s hard for me to stand upon this pedestal when the light reveals it is a tainted angel”) and Backstabber spitting venom at a failed relationship (“Everything I knew is dead / I won’t let you in again”).
If there is a criticism to be made it’s only that Kevin Young’s raw vocal power, as proven on past releases, is nullified slightly by the pristine production and the fact that he’s singing more cleanly. However, this is a mere quibble about an otherwise excellent album. Disciple? It’s time to follow…