Prophet Within – Speak Through Me
Speak Through Me marks the debut release of San Antonio Christian Rockers Prophet Within. This review should be be prefaced by admitting that I’ve not listened to loads of Christian Rock in my time, not really through choice, yet it rarely presents itself in mainstream avenues. With this album, Prophet Within have managed to incorporate many characteristics of heavy metal, nu metal and hard rock to add to their sound, and Christian oriented lyrics. While drawing inspiration from influences is often encouraged for bands, it is possible that it is not always well-executed.
Many of the songs on Speak Through Me feature transitions between soft and loud sections, probably best heard in Why?. This can be an incredibly valuable, and effective tool, and Prophet Within have used the this feature effectively to create textural variation, and highlight key changes. The use of softer sections in an otherwise, quite full on track, in Why? provides tremendous contrast, and maintains interest in what could otherwise be an uninteresting track. Thanks particularly to the drop to a softer section between the first chorus and second verse, it gives the listener a bit of respite before blowing you away with an incredible blast to enter back into the verse. As much as I like this technique when used, there are reasons that it fails to have the same impact on this album, as it does on others.
The album as a whole suffers from a poor mix, it’s really horrible, the low-mids are far too loud, boomy and muddy, the top end is too sharp, there’s almost no mids, and none of the instruments sit well together at all. These issues are really difficult to look past and alter the entire colour of the album, as well as making it difficult to listen to. The dramatic changes in textures, for example, are marred by a weak and thin distorted guitar tone, which lacks articulation in the lower register, coming after a very boomy, low-mids heavy clean guitar track. The whole album is unbalanced when this happens, and gives it a very amateurish feel. This also makes it seem like the band have failed to pay close attention to detail through their choice of guitar tones, and this feature is apparent in the vocals as well.
While there are undoubtedly several catchy melodies featured throughout the album; perhaps most notably on title track Speak Through Me. The transition from soft to loud between verse and chorus, gives the riff that enters such incredible weight and power. This also provides a great platform for the vocals to become a real force in the track. When Wilson delivers the main focal line “I need you to speak through me!“, is the true climax of the track, demonstrating the great riff underlying the line, as well as showcasing Wilson‘s ability to hold a melody, and deliver the line with tremendous power and gravitas. However, this like many of the vocals on the album is somewhat detracted from by the mix.
A look at Tomorrow (although I could have picked any song from the album) displays the vocals sitting way above every other instrument on the track. The line “Who will go to a new tomorrow” is almost offensive with how in your face it is, compared to the other instruments. Then for some reason the vocals are drowned in reverb and delay, which is incredibly different from the rest of the track. It’s a catastrophe of a mix, and unfortunately, this greatly detracts from the listening experience of the whole album. With the vocals so isolated, it shows off all the characteristics in the voice, and unfortunately for Wilson, displays some aspects that are less than flattering. The first experience of the vocals on album, as they appear in Speak Through Me, is so abrasive I initially thought he was singing out of key! As the album progresses you get used to it, but this is a colossal blemish on the songs.
Overall, if you can grit your teeth, and bear through the mix of the album, there are some solid features, Wilson has a powerful (albeit slightly irritating) vocal tone; the riffs are well-worked, although the tone draws similarities with bands like Papa Roach, making them seem entirely unoriginal; and the band makes good use of textural variation. There are several glaring errors in the mix however that make this an entirely unlistenable to album. It is basically an assault on the senses; the mix masks everything good the band have tried to do musically, and it is incredibly detrimental to the album as a whole.