Children of Fire
02. Shed Your Soul
03. The Marriage Of Steel And Skin
04. Hush Yael
05. The Conscience Speaks
06. Dealers of Fame
07. Means to Believe
08. In The Wake Of Pigs
09. Claws Of A God
10. The Family Ruin
11. Chewing The Stitch
12. Children of Fire
Oh, Sleeper are not your average Christian metal band. Instead of carte-blanche preaching, Oh, Sleeper weave tales about God. Their prior album Son of the Morning told a tale about God and Satan’s final battle. Children of Fire is again a concept album, creating a story about a priest and his atheistic daughter. The tale is woven with skill, and with this record Oh, Sleeper will be catapulted into not only the highest echelon of Christian bands, but metal bands as a whole.
Besides the tale of the priest and the daughter the album also manages to weave explorations of how people would react in a world where it is the end times and people think God is dead. It really is a truly fascinating tale that I was fully engrossed in, and when I am engrossed in the lyrics of an album (which is something that I never do) I know that they have done something monumental.
Through the music itself Oh, Sleeper have managed to embed a lot of emotion and feelings into this record. Primarily, however, this album sounds quite literally like the end of the world, with only moments of inspiration, victory, and hope. Oh, Sleeper have managed to perfectly complement the lyrical content with the required level of musical atmosphere; it’s a total experience that needs to be heard.
One of the biggest contributors to this perfect match is vocalist Micah Kinard. I honestly could write this review based on how mesmerizing his vocal performance is. I can’t explain how much feeling his declarations possess, but you can feel his emotion when he yells out such lines as, “I saw God die!”, “Cut! Cut until the head comes off!”, “From the book, the same book, that’s reeling you home after so many years of silence!”, and pretty much the entirety of the songs “The Family Ruin” and “In the Wake of Pigs“. It may be the best vocal performance of the year, and I’m not exaggerating that statement one bit.
However, just because I proclaim about how fantastic Micah’s vocals are doesn’t mean the backing band are slackers; quite the contrary – the band are just as important to this record as Micah is to creating the atmosphere. They band sounds just like that: a band; a uniform, well-oiled machine. Guitarist Shane Blay (formerly of Between the Buried and Me) shows his considerable prowess as a guitarist and a clean vocalist. His cleans are a bit rough at parts, but to me it adds to the bleak atmosphere. He also isn’t afraid to sing solo, as he has an immensely epic part in “Claws of a God” where he powerfully declares in a very Dustin Kensrue (of Thrice fame) timbre, “Keep close things you learned from the fall, and cast your wounds to heal without flaw.” Guitarist James Irwin and bassist Nate Grady provide powerful backing, and the drums of Zac Mayfield are, quite frankly, without flaw. He is able to play the rather intense polyrythms and frantic feeling the guitar players create with ease. I honestly think no other drummer could provide the atmosphere he can for this particular record. In short, the band provide a super memorable performance that has been matched or surpassed by few others this year.
I also want to spend one paragraph talking about a singular song: “Hush Yael“. This song is in serious contention for song of the year. The song is a slight deviation from the concept album, choosing instead to tell the world of an incident that occurred on April 22, 1979. For those who are too lazy and opt not to read what I’ve linked, it tells about how a peaceful family were attacked by terrorists. To save their lives, the mother took her and her two year old daughter named Yael to a hiding space. To prevent any noise, the mother placed her hand over Yael so silence would be made certain. The mother did make it out alive, but accidentally suffocated Yael while the terrorists killed the husband and the older daughter. A truly, truly heart-wrenching occurrence. The band tells this story with mastery, creating an atmosphere of total hopelessness and despair. Of special note is the ending, where, in the story’s timeline, the terrorists have been captured and are “finally feeling pain.” Micah viciously tells those in control of his fate to “End him slow.” You can feel his anger. You can feel his pain. It’s a different experience entirely, and one that must be experienced.
This record is undoubtedly the ‘sleeper’ hit of 2011. While Oh, Sleeper are a fairly established act, this album will undoubtedly set them apart from their metal brethren and make them known as the best in their genre. I would not be surprised one bit if this album made it in my top 3 of this year, and you know what, neither should you. Go out and buy this album. Go out and see their show. Go feel the emotion and atmosphere they bring; it’ss like none other.
Oh, Sleeper’s Children of Fire gets