Reviews and entertainment articles by Dave Simpson
I want to start this review by thanking John McClane. It’s through him that I first became acquainted with the music of Flyleaf when the video for “I’m So Sick” made an appearance in Live Free or Die Hard. With that, the band immediately had my attention. In the years since a lot has changed for Flyleaf, but one thing that has not changed is that they still very much have my attention.
Their fourth studio album, Between the Stars, is their first record since the departure of Lacey Sturm and the addition of Kristen May. Inevitably, the biggest question on most fans’ minds has been how this will effect the band’s established sound.
The answer is not a whole lot. Between the Stars is unmistakably a Flyleaf album, showcasing in fine form everything that makes the band great. While we’ll all of course miss Lacey, the truth is that what Kristen May brings to the table is nothing but good things.
With album number four, Flyleaf have produced a work that feels stylistically like a very natural progression from New Horizons. Between the Stars features wonderful, soft verses that build up into heavy, solid choruses making for an amazing listen.
Opening track, “Set Me On Fire”, is a classic Flyleaf tune. It’s a passionately sung rock anthem with some great riffs that acts as a fitting intro for the album.
“Magnetic” begins with a steady, nicely paced riff leading into a verse that has an almost mysterious air about it. This feeds into a chorus that is loud and enthusiastic. The whole thing has a haunting quality and truly is “magnetic” with the way that it pulls you in.
Next track, “Traitor”, is my favourite song on the album. It’s a heavier rock anthem with a fast paced opening that builds to another delightfully loud, passionately sung chorus that’s incredibly engaging. The lyrics seem accusatory but not exactly angry. They’re more like a declaration of breaking free. There’s also a great outro with heavy guitars.
As it begins, “Platonic” is softer musically but there’s actually quite a lot going on in this track. It features a fantastic blend of heavy riffs, electronic beats, soft verses and tormented vocals that all work together perfectly.
“Head Underwater” is a song about not letting anyone tell you who you are and making the choice to rise above what others think. There’s a downbeat, troubled sound at the beginning that gives way to a more optimistic tone. It feels like a sad story with a happy ending.
“Sober Serenade” features heavy choruses with great vocal work and instrumentation, while its successor, “Thread”, is a definite highlight. The intro and verses have a sound that is chilling yet accessible. This surrounds more traditional rock choruses and a fantastic vocal and musical breakdown in the middle that’s repeated at the end.
There’s more of a reserved musical beat to “Marionette”. It makes more declarations about breaking free and escaping the control of others. The heartfelt lyrics are beautifully sung.
A strange keyboard effect begins “Well of Lies” with a creepy sound reminiscent of a distorted church organ, while the verses have a heavy electronic trait. The band have definitely gone for something more unusual here and it manages to be quite engaging as a result.
“City Kids” represents another highlight of Between the Stars. It’s a magnificently performed nostalgic song, recalling times and experiences past. Lyrically, it seems to long for the naivete of youth but at the same time be thankful for being beyond it. The musical build up and vocal tone convey the sense of nostalgia and emotion in a way that is very moving.
“Blue Roses” is a pleasant, radio friendly track that’s easy on the ears. It acts as a great vehicle for showcasing Kristen May’s vocal range, allowing her the opportunity to hit some impressively high notes.
The album comes to an optimistic end with “Home”. This is a song about knowing yourself so you can seize upon your potential to move towards a bright future. Musically, it returns to a heavier sound with the choruses and overall serves as a positive and reassuring finale.
This is undoubtedly a Flyleaf record in the best way, featuring heavy guitars and drum beats complemented by loud, passionate vocals. There appears to be a general theme of being who you want to be and not being afraid to do so. Lyrically, it is wonderfully inspirational. Between the Stars is a solid rock album that shows that Flyleaf are very much alive and well and on top of their game.
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