I was surprised to hear For Today’s sound shift with their latest album, Wake, and in the wake (no pun intended) of their previous effort, Fight the Silence. Wake‘s slightly fuzzier guitar tone and more blended sound between the lead and rhythm guitars stands out. Most notably, you could attribute this to the recent departure of the band’s second guitarist, Sam Penner, earlier this Spring. (He was eventually replaced by Colossus guitarist Jim Hughes.) As to be expected, it does change the band’s overall sound, especially compared to earlier albums like Breaker and Immortal.
But there’s also more of an emphasis on clean vocals here on For Today’s sixth full-length release. These backing vocals complement vocalist Mattie Montgomery’s screams and give the album a greater vocal dynamic; this ends up being one of the strongest parts of the album as a whole. The style extends across all tracks on Wake, but it really drives certain tracks to be the best songs on the album, like “Forced into Fire,” “Deserter” and “Bitter Roots.” But one of the best songs on the album has to be “Flooded Earth,” which starts out with a hauntingly beautiful piano section before ramping things up with pulse-pounding drums, thrashing guitars and the best chorus on the whole album: “Like a drowning man to a sinking ship / I cling to the things that I know will kill me / Is this all I am? Is this really it? / It’s time to sink or swim.” I’ve always admired how up-front For Today has been about the Christian message of hope and salvation not just in their music but in their live performance and delivery. For them, it would be easy to slide into a pattern of cliché Christian-ese lyrics, but Montgomery does a great job writing about real-world struggles that both Christians and non-Christians can relate to.
Wake hits close to home, and, throughout the album, there’s a prevailing message of hope through looking to the cross. While the album may have shifted the band’s sound a little, it’s still a great album for long-time fans and newcomers alike.