Canadian rockers Thousand Foot Krutch release their ninth album entitled Oxygen: Inhale on August 26th. Being a fan of TFK for several years now, and knowing this album was going to be co – produced by vocalist Trevor McNevan and longtime collaborator Aaron Sprinkle (Sprinkle has also worked on albums Phenomenon, Welcome to the Masquerade, and The End is Where We Begin), I was honestly expecting a “The End is Where We Begin: Part 2″. What we have with Oxygen: Inhale however is not that…at all, and that’s ok. Now, if you’ve followed TFK’s career like I have you know that they have somewhat of a tried and true sound and/or formula. With this new album however, elements of that formula are present, but it’s a whole new recipe overall.
The opening track “Like A Machine” kicks off with McNevan’s signature vocals and palm muted guitars, but with what appears to be a southern rock vibe (Well played, Canadians. Well played). This fairly accurately sets the tone for the album as a whole. The guitars have almost a dry sound to them that mesh well with southern melodies and gang vocals (which should payoff pretty cool live). This track is where they make it very clear that this is NOT the TFK you’re used to.
Next up is the track “Untraveled Road” which is a little more like the Krutch we all know and love. Personally, I feel like this would’ve made a better opening track (but nobody asked me…is it that hard to just pick up a phone Trevor?). This track has McNevan rapping over a nice simple lead in the verses, kicking into a wall of guitars on the choruses and is the kind of track that you can’t help but want to move to.
The third song on Oxygen: Inhale is the first single “Born This Way”. Now I have to admit, when I first heard this song I cringed a little bit because of how different it is from everything else I’ve heard from TFK (I almost thought Howard Benson had a hand in it for a second), but much like the album as a whole, after a few listens it starts to really grow on you. This song takes the southern rock vibe set up by “Like A Machine” and takes it to a whole new level. Starting off with some old school slide leads and going into a half time groove, TFK not only display their versatility, but the verses showcase a part of Trevor’s range I’ve never heard before. One can’t help but wonder if the southern influence might have something to do with touring guitar player Andrew Welch (formerly of Disciple, you remember the 2008 release “Southern Hospitality”?) of Oklahoma…coincidence? Perhaps…but love it or hate it, it’s still better than Lady Gaga’s song of the same title.
“Set Me On Fire” is the first of a fair amount of ballads on this album. I personally really enjoy these tracks because it’s a side of TFK that you don’t often see live. As the song progresses into the bridge where the lyrics ask to “burn me with your love so bright, burn me like an open fire. Burn me with your love so bright, so I can feel you…” I can definitely see this song being a Christian radio single in the near future. “Give It To Me” is probably one of my least favorite tracks. Impressive as Trevor’s range is in this song, lyrically it’s lukewarm and repetitive. By no means is it a bad song, but it’s like Nickelback channeling the 1980′s. (Make of that what you will).
Next up is the half ballad, half groovy “I See Red”. What I really enjoy about this song are the verses. The melody is original and interesting and the first chorus is pretty cool too but the song takes an interesting turn after the second chorus. It’s almost like a transition into a new song altogether, and while I appreciate the originality of it, lyrically it doesn’t match the tone of the first half.
The beautifully arranged and written “Light Up” is my favorite track on Oxygen: Inhale. Although it has quite a bit of falsetto, and is a little short lived (it clocks in at a mere 2:57), it’s so pure and doesn’t feel forced like some of the other songs here (I’m looking at you, “Give It To Me”).
The piano driven “In My Room” is a narrative from the perspective of a person who is finding God for the first time. Lyrically, it’s a solid story based song asking God to come “meet me in my room, a place where I feel safe”. It also seems to be a slight commentary on the judgment a newcomer can encounter when entering a new church. This is a song that really works your imagination because you really can picture this entire narrative.
Following “In My Room” is the somewhat title track “Oxygen”. This song is reminiscent of “Be Somebody” from their previous record. Another ballad type song, “Oxygen” incorporates a fair amount of acoustic guitar and string work and is sure to be found on KLOVE and Air1 soon. If not, they’re overlooking a great song.
Closing out the album is “Glow”. This song starts out simply enough with some finger picked guitar accompanied by some slide banjo style leads, bringing the southern vibe full circle. A mid-tempo track at most, it wouldn’t be my first choice as a closer on a record already so laden with ballads, but it does the trick.
It’s always great seeing bands with success under their belts not being afraid to try something new. Oxygen: Inhale is an album I would recommend to especially longtime TFK fans. The reason I say that is because longtime fans will be able to appreciate what Trevor & Co. is trying to do more than newcomers. A word of advice: give this album a fair shake and a couple listen throughs. Some of my now favorite albums were ones I was not crazy about at first. I don’t think Oxygen: Inhale is going to be a classic by any means, but it’s a worthy addition to TFK’s already impressive discography. I give Oxygen: Inhale a 3 out of 5. Pick it up everywhere August 26th! by Zene Smith