Gwen Stacy

The Life I Know

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Christian metalcore is an odd animal. The growling vocals and loud, thudding guitars sound too aggressive to deliver any sort of religious message, and the lyrics -- the one place where a band's ideals can be explicitly stated -- are often unintelligible. In this light, Gwen Stacy's The Life I Know is a confusing debut, as the listener is never quite sure what to make of these churchgoing headbangers. There's little spiritual uplift to the songs, and vocalist Cole Wallace certainly doesn't sound like the kind a person you'd bring home to meet your God-fearing parents. He sounds pained and downright angry as he screams his way through the band's set list, howling about fear and faith but never really delving into his Christianity. At the same time, he strays away from metalcore's usual lyrical fodder, refusing to sing about the bleak topics that dominate so many of the genre's records. So The Life I Know is an album in limbo, one that seeks to occupy both the Christian and metalcore camps without really subscribing to either one. Lyrics and faith aside, they're a passable metal band, having obviously done their homework and modeled their chops after hardcore's heaviest hitters. Songs like "Sleeping in the Train Yard" also add electronic percussion to the mix, which briefly brings the band into the commercial territory of Papa Roach and Linkin Park. Still, it's hard to overlook the incompatibility of a religious band and a metal label (Ferret Music) whose logo is a handgun, and The Life I Know's fleeting moments of radiance provide little relief.

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