What It Sounds Like: The first record from the Christian market staple Sanctus Real showcased energetic, alternative rock (with huge pop choruses, of course) that made them a sure-fire standout in the industry with a bright future.
The best thing about starting this website is that it lets me go back and really focus in on records that I used to love, but ones that simply don’t get spun as much as they used to. Case in point: The first Sanctus Real album, Say It Loud.
Leader Matt Hammitt was promising in every shape and form. His vocal delivery was exactly what I wanted to hear on a record – it was clean, but it wasn’t perfect – nor should it be! He sounded real – not phoned in and mixed up with a million different layers to hide his real voice. His lyrics are not mind blowing, but for the CCM market, for Sparrow Records – what are you expecting? It needed to be a record that parents would buy for their kids without even a second thought – “This is good, clean, Christian fun – here’s my thirteen bucks, Lifeway!”
This isn’t a slight to Sanctus Real. There’s something to be said for filling a gap. It’s how you make money. It’s how you appeal to an audience. It’s making sure that you have a market for your product. How many bands in the Christian market in 2002 played this type of alternative rock, but with a heavy dose of pop? You had your Audio Adrenaline of course, Newsboys….but neither of them were anything like this. It was a breath of fresh air. From the opening, driving riff on Sink Or Swim, my sixteen year old brain was in for a rush. But of course, there was always the balladry of Hey Wait for the necessary CCM radio staple. The best surprise about this record by far though, was the lack of these so-called staples. Ballads are in short supply, and the energy is kept up for most of the record. The only other time they tone it down is with the simplistic, stripped down I Love You, which succeeds because of the simple fact that it doesn’t try to do anything outside the box. It states it case, holds nothing back, and concludes in a little over two minutes.
But man, as far as fun tracks in the ACR (Alternative Christian Rock, and yes, I just made that up) genre, we have tons of fun rockers here. Audience Of One, Won’t Walk Away, Inspiration…the list goes on. It’s hard to really look at these tracks from the outside and asked yourself, “If I hadn’t heard these tracks when I was at the impressionable age of sixteen, would I really like them as much as I still do? What If I heard them for the first time at twenty seven?” It’s an unanswered question, but I’d like to think the quality would shine through. All I do know for sure is that the album’s final track, After Today, is quality no matter your age or musical disposition. Its lyrics paint a picture of purely relying on the Lord for the future when life may seem to be spinning out of control and we can’t see where it may be going. No worries, or at least, as little as we can stand. No anxieties, or again, at least as little as we can stand. Claim your faith and stand strong. If the Lord is for you, who can be against you? It’s all punctuated by a gradual crescendo that explodes twice into alt-rock heaven in its final three minutes.
After all, these are good, family-oriented dudes. There’s something to be said for having a good head on your shoulders that transcends how good your record may or may-not be.
Thankfully, for Sanctus Real, they got the best of both worlds.
It’s worth quickly noting Sanctus has changed their style over the years. Their earlier work, like this record, showcased a very alternative sound, while their later recordings have leaned much harder on pop sounds that haven’t fallen as gracefully on my ear. Whatever your opinion may be of their body of work as a whole, there’s no denying – they had a great start. Their best record, however, is their second, the undeniable Fight The Tide. That review is yet to be written as of this date…
If you had to listen to two tracks: Sink Or Swim / After Today
Don’t get me wrong here – there are still unanswered questions in my life that this song certainly hits home with. But first and foremost, I will always remember listening to the final track on this record with my great friend Michael Sweigard before we made the trip down to Nashville for our freshman year of college at Trevecca. The lyrics always resonate with all the mystery that was still ahead of us at that time in our lives.
I’ve got a funny feeling that I’m…
Gonna go away.
Gonna face my future
Gonna try to make the grade
I’ve got a ways to go from here and
Vision doesn’t seem so clear but
Praise God / He’s got a plan and
Understanding isn’t my place.