Release date: October 1st, 2021
Reviewed by: John Wesley
Anyone who has been in a band knows that sometimes you just gotta take any gig you can get. This sometimes means you’re traveling a few hours out and coming home the same night for one random, off-the-books show. In August 2018, my band at the time pulled into Abilene, TX and began setting up for a good 15-20 people (trust me, this sounds low but was often typical for an out-of-town gig). We were on the bill with this band hailing from San Antonio. Once they set their gear up and struck the downbeat of their opening song, they proceeded to completely and shamelessly tear the place to the ground. I’ll never forget the professionalism coupled with sheer sonic force these guys executed with ease as they took total control of the stage with their colossal sound. On top of all of this, I knew there was something different about these guys. They were the real deal. Their hearts were in the right place. It wasn’t just another gig for them. It was an opportunity to say what they wanted to say. The vocalist poured his heart out for anyone who was willing to listen, talking about a real, tangible hope he and the guys have found in Christ. We hung out with the guys for a little, picked up some merch and headed on home around midnight completely blown away by what we just saw. I remember thinking to myself “these guys are gonna blow up someday.” This San Antonio hard rock quintet was Relent and here we are now, more than 3 years later, celebrating their sophomore release titled Heavy through Rockfest Records.
My band would play with them a few more times before we called it quits, but I made sure to keep a close eye on these guys and catch them wherever I could. Already loving their debut album Heart Attack, I was in great anticipation for what was going to come next from these guys. Heavy is what we all were hoping for and even more. This album flaunts intense drops, insanely catchy choruses, demanding guitar hooks, stadium-size sounding drums, thunderous bass and transparent lyrics straight from the heart. The lyrical themes throughout this album deal with very real emotional and mental strife that we all deal with to a degree but like to ignore and lock away. I will say the biggest difference between their debut and Heavy, aside from the obvious song-writing maturity and development, is a blatantly more accessible lyrical approach that grants universal relatability beyond the Christian scene. With songs like Low, the title-track Heavy and the closer Enemy, the listener is confronted with an encouraging push to bring real issues in the light and start the healing process.
Relent has been releasing pieces of this album since May of 2020. There have been 4 singles widely spread out leading up to the album drop on October 1st, 2021. These 4 include tracks 1, 3, 4 and 5; essentially the first half of the album. If you have been following Relent for a while now, you probably are very familiar with these 4. Track 1, Think You Got It, took the scene by storm when it dropped near the end of January 2021. This song confronts those who abuse the platform they have been given and use their influence for greed and exploitation. In the Christian circle, we refer to these individuals as “false prophets/teachers.” With an opening drop-tuned, low-fi riff at a medium tempo, this song hints at a dangerously strong, aggressive hook. No time is wasted here as vocalist Miggy Sanchez comes in a few bars later with “Think you got it but you don’t. BUT YOU DON’T! WHAT!” and then boom! First drop of the album and you are hopelessly hooked. Not only are you helplessly gripped by the throat from this menacing riff, but you are immediately tickled by the nostalgia of the sounds from the early 2000s we all missed from the likes of P.O.D, Linkin Park and Thousand Foot Krutch. Trust me, it gets better. Buckle up. We have an amazing opening track with one of the best choruses Relent currently has. “Like the grave that you laid in / There’s no more light to show / Now your foundation is caved in / I’m so sick of the mess you’ve created.” I also want to point out one of my favorite lines that shamelessly calls out these bible-abusers and their tactics. “You wanted fame so you uttered the Name / When it came time to act you’re the first one running.” Thematically this song sets the stage for where a lot of our questioning and hurt, when it comes to faith, originates from. 26 of the 27 New Testament books we have address false prophets/teachers so it’s definitely expected to be addressed.
Track 2 is the only new one on the first half we haven’t heard yet and boy does this one go hard. Danger is gonna end up in my top 3. With a slightly slower basher of an intro and melodically commanding verses, this album doesn’t show any sign of letting up. We have possibly the best chorus on this album in my opinion. This track talks about how it feels to deal with our inner demons. I love the honesty in the opening line, “Do you know the hell it takes to learn from my mistakes?” There are two different kinds of pain; one afflicted upon and one self-inflicted. Either way, pain is real and Relent has given an awesome anthem for those who often go through the fire alone. Musically, this track is a lot darker than the opening number sporting G# minor, which is a lot lower and darker sounding than what we are used to from Relent. In fact, one thing to note for this album is the atmosphere. Heart Attack was a solid album full of big, tough-guy anthems whereas Heavy focuses a lot more on expressing the dark parts of the mind. Only two songs in and we have clearly felt the mission-driven passion the 5 guys in Relent wear on their sleeves.
Track 3 is titled Low. This was the first single released in May 2020. This is the song we all got pumped over because it showed the maturity that the new material was gonna promise. Another tune about mental health, Low is a pummeling track that takes an honest look inside of a mind that is tortured with anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and so forth. The flavor of this track is similar to track 1 with a recognizable tempo and layout. We have an excellent chorus with a very thought-provoking line “It doesn’t show but I wanted you to know sometimes I feel low.” How often do we put a mask on and pretend it’s all ok? Relent is here to break these harmful norms and invite the listener to relate to very real issues that everyone to a certain degree deals with.
Ghost is the next track and I will say I had to let this one grow on me. It’s a stand-out track in that it doesn’t have the typical “arena rock” chorus. There is a chorus but it feels like a pre-chorus to me at least. It’s also very spatial sounding but this could play with the thematic element of the song which illustrates a one-on-one battle with something haunting you. The track ends with a hypnotizing, heavy bass-driven breakdown with the most aggressive vocals Miggy has laid down to date. The emotion is so strong and convincing when this part hits that anyone can feel the anxiety of what the song is conveying. Really cool track. I should point out the background, atmospheric guitars are a stand-out element in this song. Guitarists Chris Castillo and Josh Paccione have done a great job with keeping their parts simple yet unquestionably effective for the setting they strive to execute.
Speaking of guitars, track 5 has my favorite opening riff on the album. Last Days is a masterpiece. This was the second single released just about a year ago. What a perfect song to release in the midst of all the insanity that was 2020. Many believers were beginning to wonder if we were approaching the end of all things as we know it. This song doesn’t instill fear however, it begs the listener to take a good look at the world around us and realize things are the way they are for a reason. Perhaps the subjects presented in the rest of the album give us hints of what the world looks like when we give up the fight with our inner demons. The world is broken because evil took over and things are accelerating to a point of complete self-destruction. One of the best choruses on this album are on this track and the opening guitar riff really takes the cake for me. Honestly, if they only released the first 5 songs as an ep, Relent would have done more than enough for humankind. But nope, they graced us with an equally great back-half.
Track 6 is the title-track. I tell you what, picking a top 3 for this album is near impossible. I will say Heavy is the thematic climax of the album. All the emotions and desperation voiced from tracks 1-5 get heightened on this track. I see this track as a response to Low and I think the bridge gives it away with the lyric “Your head hurts and your heart hurts so let’s talk about it / And the pain’s real and it won’t heal so let’s talk about it.” I so appreciate an unapologetically Christian band discussing mental health. We need more of that in this day and age. Musically I will say this song is, yes pun intended, very heavy emotionally. You can really feel the anguish conveyed in these lyrics. I love the higher dosage of auto-tune in the verses to give it a hip-hop feel. The bass is so groovy here too. Bravo to the rhythm section; Gaston Flores (drums) and Bruce Gonzales (bass).
We get a quick emotional break (sorta) in track 7. Snakes rips you a new one right at the top with a Love and Death meets Linkin Park style riff. I can see this track as a great show opener. The chorus is satisfactory with a catchy melody and we’ve got a “fan-service” metal-core style breakdown treat in the bridge. Other than that, this track is the clear “time to catch your breath and wipe your tears” moment because the next track is gonna make you cry again (hehe).
Memories is the “ballad.” According to an instagram post by the band, this song is dedicated to a close friend they lost to a freak accident recently. Talk about heart-wrenching lyrics. “I think I’ll stare at the sun til my blindness overcomes my numb.” Again, gotta give props to the atmospheric style guitars decorating the background sonic space. This element adds so much to the identity of the song. Anyone who has experienced loss will relate to this track. Relent does a fantastic job with making sure the music and lyrics are united in purpose. You can undeniably feel the unprecedented hurt and misery in this track.
We are at the last two tracks with Critical and Enemy. I am lumping these two together because they are sister-songs with similar mood and texture. As much as I love these two songs, I have to admit I don’t feel like they complement the overarching elements we were accustomed to from all the tracks leading up to these. I do have a theory though. These last two songs certainly feel lighter and more “uplifting.” Maybe the album ends the way it does in an attempt to lift the listener out of the miry subject matters and encourage a victorious ending. It’s vitally important that there are tangible next steps to take to get out of the despair one is facing. Identifying and letting the pain ride out is important but you were never meant to stay there. There is freedom and deliverance in Christ, my friends.
As far as these two songs go, Critical is just crazy cool as it sports catchy verses and pre-choruses with a massive anthemic chorus that will get anyone singing along. I wish I had this song in high school (ha!). This song earns my award for “second favorite guitar riff.” Enemy is here to close the album out with one last banger. This is the perfect song to look straight in the eye of your adversary and show it what you’re made of. Miggy’s vocals soar sky high in this song’s chorus with the concluding war cry “I’m not the only one you’re running from / Sinking to the bottom now / Get your hell away from me.” Relent ends this album in a magnificently resounding anthem proclaiming victory over your demons. Find the strength to rise up and fight!
And what more can I say? This album ought to be a strong contender for Christian rock album of the year. There are no skip tracks and you can’t ask for a better emotional execution dealing with these very dark topics. You can tell how much heart was poured into this album. These guys deserve all the spins you can give them. I’m so glad I got to meet these guys a little over 3 years ago and am ecstatic to witness their ever-going climb to the top. Relent is a brutal force of nature that every hard rock and nu metal fan must consider for their collection. Bravo guys. Bravo. Hope to catch you again soon!
Overall rating: 9.5/10
Top 3: Danger, Last Days, Enemy
For fans of P.O.D, Linkin Park, and Thousand Foot Krutch.