Christian music sucks.
I was reminded of this opinion that I hold while listening to the newest offering from Advent, Pain & Suffering.
The band’s first album in forever, Pain & Suffering, is an intense trip through all things raw about, well, pain. And suffering. However, the pain and suffering the listener experiences while listening to this album is not the kind of pain and suffering I experience when I’m being exposed to the latest religiously-themed pop culture jams of the current day.
Advent, the pulverizing metalcore band from North Carolina, released two albums on the Tooth & Nail Records imprint Solid State Records, both operating firmly within the realm of the Christian music industry. The band clearly still adheres to whatever value they define as Christian. The band has grown into something too large, too outside the box to any longer be contained by the confines of a stale, money-hungry system that acts under the guise of religion.
This new album, a four-song EP that clocks in at around 18 minutes, was put out with Bridge Nine Records. Bridge Nine has an impressive back catalog of artists from Proclamation (one of my personal favorites) to American Nightmare and Carry On to current artists like True Love. To say that both band and label have come a long way over the past 10 years isn’t hyperbole.
For Advent’s part, it appears that an extended break has served them well. Naked and Cold, the last album Advent released, is almost eight years old. Released in 2009, it was blistering. And it was a huge step forward from their first release. I was actually late to the Advent party because of two things: a) I didn’t care much for Beloved, the band that preceded Advent, and b) the first Advent full-length had exactly one song on it that I liked. I still couldn’t tell you a single song off of that release, didn’t like it.
But the blistering Advent, the one that was stripped down and raw, gritty – that one I loved. I don’t know if it all came down to the production, but Advent is progressively more gritty and raw with each release.
A lot of that stems from the pain and suffering, an apt theme for this album, experienced by vocalist Joe Musten. I heard Musten on the Urban Achiever podcast hosted by Bill Power and then watched their set from the most recent FYA Fest. Musten lost his father, who passed away suddenly. That pain and the related suffering is evident on this furious release. Between songs during the set for FYA Fest, Musten said, “2016 was a shitty year, and uh, I’m not quite over it.”
Pain and Suffering.
It’s a mantra repeated throughout the four-song onslaught. It is the opening lyric, repeated throughout “Wind From the Valley,” and then again, in “Shadow of Death.” This track is the very real song about Musten dealing with the passing of his father, rupturing over the track, “I felt my stomach sink. The PAIN, The SUFFERING.” And again, in the closing song, “BrickXBrick,” a song that seems to be as much about the divisiveness of a generational shift in political views and race relations, “We caused this pain and suffering.”
The backing for these words is a thick and heavy soundtrack. Gone are the short bursts of song on Naked and Cold. The shortest song on this album clocks in at an even four minutes. At points, you feel the rhythms of bands like Buried Alive, a band that definitely had an impact on these North Carolina boys. But you get much more than that. There are some very big, very heavy concrete-sized breaks. There are grooves and tones that hit the same way Turmoil punches through your chest and makes you want to throw chairs into walls.
I have to say that I’m partial to the break in “BrickXBrick.” It sounds like the intro to “Raining Blood” from Slayer according to the ears of this non-musician writer.
With well more than seven years between releases and some real personal stuff to work out, Advent is back and grittier than ever. The new EP, Pain & Suffering, is heavy musically, lyrically and the closing lyric to the album, while not about the band themselves, probably describes the feeling you get listening to it best of all – “We built this brick by bloody brick.”
by Daniel Coughlin