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Sanctus Real
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Fight The Tide - Click to view! Any sophomore release is crucial in the fact that listeners of the debut want to know if the particular artist has staying power. Some have pulled it off without a hitch, while others have produced less graceful offerings. In the midst of trying to find their identity, Sanctus Real faces this same increasing pressure of gaining a foothold in the modern rock arena. Thankfully, with their second disc, Fight the Tide, they secure that foothold, albeit using a repeat performance to do so.

From the first note of "Everything About You," it's evident how much these guys have increased in talent. The melodies are tighter and more prominent than material from Say It Loud, and the band balances decent songwriting with more than a few catchy hooks. A remarkable bridge on "Everything About You" throws vocals and instruments into chaotic turmoil, leaving the listener amazed at the band's harder edge. Following up the opener are "The Fight Song" and "Alone," both cuts that are the instrumental filet mignon of the disc. Matt Hammitt and Chris Rohman pulverize their six-strings, and you can tell they're having a ball doing so. Lyrical gems are found in the Goo Goo Dolls-like "Things Like You (Everyone's Everything)," in which Sanctus puts down their own desire for worldly possessions and all of the greed, envy, and malice that comes with it. "Closer" echoes nearly the same message, although citing a hunger for a deeper, more fulfilling relationship with God, and the soft-spoken "Change Me" is a well-written, worshipful ballad that pleads, "I want you to change me / from who I've been lately / cause I know I'm nothing without you." Hammitt's voice resonates beautifully, leaving the listener with a feeling of euphoric praise. Surprisingly, Fight the Tide is some of producer Tedd T.'s finest work as well. Every non-ballad track rocks incessantly, and not one song is overproduced, contrary to some of his prior efforts.
Like their debut, however, problems arise about halfway through the record, beginning with "The Show." Although it begins with one of Mark Graalman's impressive drum loops, the funky ska deviation rains out the rest of the track, leaving it awkward and crippled. The rapid-fire "Message" returns to signature Sanctus style, but it's quickly killed again by the mismatched pacing of music and vocals in "Deeds." The track's lyrical quality also suffers when compared to the rest of the project; it's a simplistic look at how faith and deeds are intertwined. While appealing to the tween crowd, it'll most likely strike a sour chord with older listeners. "You Can't Hide" whimsically takes a line from the popular Dr. Seuss book, Oh, The Places You'll Go, but like its predecessor, it's a bit too sing-song in style and points out the obvious message that God is omniscient and omnipresent. A stellar guitar solo during the bridge is the only thing that saves the track from yawns. Fortunately, "Where Will They Go" is a blissful combination of the sounds of Newsboys and PFR, masterful songwriting, and solid vocal performance. Hearing Hammitt pronounce, "I am lost without your love / Lord show me the way," is a strikingly bright spot in the midst of a ho-hum second half of the project. Fight the Tide concludes with the eminently unmemorable "Say Goodbye," which serves as nothing more than another token ballad with which to extend the album's length. Bold prediction: it'll close a handful of Sanctus Real concerts, most likely through an encore.

Thanks to a strong eight or nine songs, Fight the Tide will no doubt win over the legions of Sanctus Real fans clamoring for new material, and it may even sway a few of those on the fence. The band's newfound talent proves that they're ready to take their music to the next level, and you can expect to hear praise for a couple of their radio singles. Fight the Tide also proves, however, that there's nothing original or innovative at work here, and at its core we merely have "just another" rock album.
- Rick Foux
June 2004
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