When I heard the news that Lacey Sturm had left Flyleaf, I was devastated. Not only was she one of my favorite vocalists in all of music, but because of her and the rest of the band, Flyleaf had become one of my all-time favorite musical artists. However, she does have one more effort to leave a lasting impact in the music scene. It’s titled New Horizons, and it’s the band’s tightest record to date. And as for Sturm, it’s arguably her standout album.
While Flyleaf was quite the success, surging the band into the modern rock/alt-metal scene, Memento Mori was a tossup and an odd progression from their roots. The band’s second effort was met with mixed appraisal, with the more melodic approach and accessible lyrics not being embraced with open arms by fans of their more raw, powerful rock-driven debut. It’s safe to say that New Horizons meshes the two albums into an entity that’s easily digestible, but doesn’t lack any of the lyrical or instrumental depth that their first two albums were armed with.
First single “New Horizons” is a firm example of Flyleaf’s commercialized sound coming into its own. The track is radio-ready, featuring a memorable chorus that bounces between verses with swift thoughtfulness. Though it’s a more laid-back, Memento Mori-esque song, it’s merely a facade of the album’s true colors; New Horizons is easily their most aggressive and domineering to date. “Fire Fire’”s monstrous chorus chugs along with help from Sameer Bhattacharya and Jared Hartmann’s pouncing guitar riffs. Sturm takes the spotlight with a breathtaking vocal performance, bursting through the rugged instrumentation with tactical dominance but being able to calm down enough to merely hum the second half of the song to sleep. It’s a monumental song, and one of the best in Flyleaf’s library.
While the opener is quite the journey, songs like “Call You Out” and “Freedom” are laced with adrenaline, blasting their way along with an aggression not seen since the group’s 2005 release – that is, even if Sturm’s screaming tendency is still far and gone. “Call You Out” features intricate guitar work and enough melody to satisfy even the mellowest of rockers. If the instrumentation isn’t enough, the fact that Sturm speaks in tongues through the song’s refrain gives it a more creative – and faith-based – spark. Throughout the rest of the record, more spiritual elements acquit imaginative tracks like “Cage on the Ground” and the rowdy, speedy “Green Heart,” two songs which also happen to be some of New Horizons’ deepest cuts. The former includes the most powerful mix of unrelenting lyricism and instrumental tightness on the album. Here, Sturm’s voice practically floats through the choruses, bringing a more uplifting, spirited vibe. Songs like this one really emphasize that this is the vocalist’s final album. The latter is the heaviest song the band has ever done, and can simply be described as a fist-pumping rock anthem.
“Broken Wings” is hands-down the album’s biggest highlight, and one of the most depthful single efforts the band has ever crafted. It’s a re-recording off the band’s first EP (they were known as Passerby at the time), so it’s more reminiscent of their early material; it’s assuring that Sturm will go out just where she began in 2000. While “Broken Wings” is a strengthening song full of hope, it’s a tear-jerking finale that may also remind listeners of her departure (“Please don’t go just yet / Can you stay a moment please / We can dance together / We can dance forever”).
I was hoping that New Horizons wouldn’t disappoint, especially considering that it’s Sturm’s final record with the band. And I can honestly say that I was not let down. Though it’s tough to throw it up with the vast timelessness of Flyleaf and Memento Mori, two of my favorite albums of all-time, New Horizons continues to impress and amaze me with every listen. It’s full of some of the most versatile, edgy, and spiritual material that the band has ever done. With exception to “Stand,” which doesn’t hold much replay value in comparison to the rest, there’s not a single sour track in the mix, and the record flows together beautifully. Lacey will be missed, but thanks to New Horizons, her legacy will live on.