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Sanctus Real
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SAY IT LOUD (2002)
Say It Loud - Click to view! If such a thing existed as a battle of the bands who featured freaky children on their album covers, Sanctus Real would win hands down. Staring at the little tyke all wrapped up in tinfoil brings to mind Tibetan monk aliens from the future. Sanctus Real, however, remains firmly grounded in the present, attempting to find their identity by wading through the pop/rock trend that dominates virtually all youth culture today. They find their sound somewhere among the Goo Goo Dolls, Luna Halo, and a random 80s hair band.

Say It Loud, their debut on Sparrow Records, is laced with all the "oooohhs" and "ahhhhhhs" that make concert-goers want to spontaneously wet themselves. "Sink or Swim" and the title track especially are where Sanctus receives their accolades. Think Wallflower by the Goo Goo Dolls without anything vulgar in it and you've basically got "Sink or Swim," the best cut on the album. While the driving guitars are mostly what push this record along, Matt Hammitt's vocal talent adds an extra shove, rendering a likeness to John Rzeznik. "Say It Loud," the third track, is garnished with originality, trading in its weight for some active lyrics: "Stop wishing it were backwards / it is now or never / stop wasting all the time we could have spent together."

Rock keeps rolling throughout "Captain's Chair," a powerful anthem that places God in the driver's seat, and "All I Want," a hardcore ode where the band brings praise back to God for their obvious talent, though only the most daring will want to touch "Won't Walk Away." It's the loudest track of the bunch, and the repetitive chorus of "I will follow you / wherever you lead / I won't walk away" claims a distinctive retro feel - hence the part about the 80s hair band. Fortunately, the cut is anything but banal, and the catchy hooks will rock your world with every listen.

Sanctus Real revisits Luna Halo with "The Way I Feel," a moody tune that moves from modern rock into an eclectic, sensible pop chorus. The advantage of being less laid back than Nathan Barlowe's M.I.A. band gives Sanctus a sharp edge over Shimmer, Luna's debut. "After Today" takes charge as a lyrical nuclear powerhouse: "I've got a ways to go from here / my vision doesn't seem so clear / but I praise / God has got a plan / understand it isn't my place." Soothing melodies reassure listeners of God's perfect plan, and the acoustic setting is as beautiful as it is relaxing, almost like falling asleep in a hammock outside on a sunny, spring day.

For the most part, Say It Loud will successfully please those who like their rock music as crunchy as their toast. A couple of songs fare less than average ("Hey Wait," "Audience of One"), and the ballad writing needs some refining, but the positives ultimately muscle out these minor gripes. Moreover, Pete Stewart, formerly of Grammatrain and Tait, takes the captain's chair on production and manages to avoid several possible wipeouts. Sparrow describes Sanctus Real as "aggressive and accessible, clearly communicating their faith in Christ." I couldn't agree more.
- Rick Foux
March 2003
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