October 29, 2019 Fire From The Gods – American Sun (Album Review)
What do you get when you take a social media and politically scarred society, inner turmoil, and a band with the fortitude to address it head on? The answer is the sophomore album of Austin, Texas rockers Fire From The Gods, American Sun, which is due out on Friday, November 1st. Consisting of AJ Channer (vocals), Richard Wicander (drums), Bonner Baker (bassist), Drew Walker (guitarist), and Jameson Teat (guitarist), the band has kept a relentless pace on the road since the release of their debut album, Narrative, three years ago.
Never one to hold back, Fire From The Gods made their reputation on telling the story of our society and the marginalized experience thanks to the personal, worldly experiences of Channer. Now, they are back to give us the next leg of their journey with new zeal and ambition and American Sun is here to tell the world that the story continues.
Their first album via Eleven Seven Label Group, “Truth to the Weak (Not Built to Collapse)” is the first leg of this new journey and it is a story of endurance and persistence. Featuring driving drums and an anthemic chorus, this song is both a push and pull. “Right Now” continues this riveting kickstart with its own call-to-action, pounding drums and powerful vocals from Channer. He is demanding change in a conflicted and emotionally distant society. Channer is crying out for change and creating an outline for positive influence on a society that has forgotten how to relate to their fellow person.
In reality, there can be no social change without the desire for improvement. If we as a society continue to accept things “the way they’ve always been” then we will be doomed to live the same destructive patterns and maybe some new ones. This is the anthem not only for change but for improvement of the world and ourselves.
Moving on, the title-track “American Sun” is a hard-hitting track with enough bounce to keep you bopping along but cranks things back up in the chorus. The infusion of hip hop rhythms and cool melodies into this ear-catching tune with crunchy riffs makes it an eclectic listen with a brilliant message. Within the lyrics of the song is a universal concept of viewing your neighbors as “the other” when in reality everyone is part of the same fabric of the United States and on a grander scale, the world. In the chorus this is clearly laid out when Channer sings, “I am the future/ Everything you need to be/ I am the chosen/ I am not the enemy.”
For “They Don’t Like It,” this listener is treated to guest vocals from Sonny Sandoval of P.O.D. This is a lively and bouncy Reggaeton-tinged rise to power. This song is all about using your voice to embody your power and being heard in a society where silence is golden and often the goal. When social media and the news more often than not condemn those that use their voice and platform to spread what they consider to be the “counterculture” that balks the mainstream, the most powerful thing you can do is make yourself heard. Besides the message, the best part of this song is the way that Sandoval and Channer bounce off of one another and bring balance to it. The guitar sound from Walker and Teat is also a real treat here with the dynamics in play between the grit and crunch on Sandoval’s verses and compelling movement in the chorus and bridge.
In “Victory” there’s a deceptive catchiness in the opening hook that opens wide into the main verse. There’s a smoothness in the instrumentalism that perfectly sets up Channer’s cool vocals into the chorus. The overall musicianship here is dichotomous and lovely is many different ways that must be experienced to be understood. There’s a moment for just about everyone here and whether you want to headband, sway, or rip it up in the pit, you’ll have your chance here.
Then there is “Make You Feel” which delivers on its promise. From the first line you are drawn into the swirling sphere of this spiraling track. It takes you on a multi-level journey that seeks to express feelings and make the listener internalize the message. The band is at some of their best here with the way they use the effortlessness of their choral transitions with Channer’s emotional inflexion to tap into the emotionally receptive parts of your brain to actually experience this track as opposed to simply listening to it.
As we near the end of the album, “Survivor’s Prayer (Interlude)” is a short reprieve from the main action of the album to take a moment to be thankful for surviving trials and tribulations that may take others asunder. “All My Heroes Are Dead” comes back to hitting the nail right on the head in addressing the distance we put between ourselves as a society. The need for more social and political heroes to rise up and make a difference should stir some activism in all of us. While historically these kinds of heroes have wound up martyred for their cause, as Channer sings “All my heroes are dead/ With a bullet in the head/ Been laid to rest,” that doesn’t mean the work stops. Here we’re reminded of how important it is for everyone to take responsibility for “being the change you want to see in the world.”
Closing things down on American Sun are “Another Level” and “Break the Cycle.” On “Another Level” the guys are declaring that merely existing is not an option and that playing “in the game of life” means you have to win. Winning can look like a lot of different things to everyone, but settling for less than basic human rights and respect is unacceptable. Conquering and flourishing despite those who doubted or tried to oppress you is the biggest “win” and ultimately, the goal. “Break the Cycle” says it all. Break the cycle of systemic poverty and oppression. Break the cycle of learned prejudices and racism. Break the cycle of inherited debt and indebtedness. Break the cycle of a broken justice and educational system. Fire From the Gods have hit back at the world with a demand to be more and be better and it’s a cry that’s hard to ignore. Between the symphonic orchestration in some of the hooks and bridges to the raw and unapologetic lyricism,
Fire From The Gods has packaged together not just an album but encapsulated the essence of what is needed in the world right now. So, for civic responsibility, compelling storytelling, and unyielding accountability, Cryptic Rock gives American Sun 5 out of 5 stars.