Being a native resident of Dallas, Texas, I feel proud to review Oh, Sleeper‘s newest record entitled Children of Fire. These christian-metal wall-crushers have further perfected their art of beautiful and melodic brutality, rather than just rehashing it with a re-release of their last record Son of The Morning. I’m excited that we have bands like this in the metalcore genre, that don’t rely on trendy gimmicks to get their point across. It is a concept album like the previous record, picking up right where SOTM left off. This one depicts the story between a religious father and atheist daughter in a world where people no longer attach consequence to their actions, as it is believed that God and the Devil are dead. I don’t want to reveal much more here, but I promise the story isn’t what you expect.
The first thing you will notice is vocalist Micah Kinard’s muscle-shredding yell that is even stronger than it was before; it makes you want to rip apart anything in your way as you listen to him question everything immoral in the span of our lives. The anger, repression, and destruction seem to pour out of his vocal chords in a way I have rarely heard from other bands in the metal genre. You can feel every ounce of pain and suffering through the speakers, and you come out of the experience cleansed.
Lyrically, this album is incredibly rebellious, making you shake your fist at the higher-ups in pretentious society. They’re as inspiring, questioning, and descriptive as they have always been. They want you to dig deep into yourself, and question everything that feels wrong. Many of the lyrics are darker in the sense of revenge and murder. Examples are “I’ll marry the blade to his throat” or “Make him beg for his life/he made me watch as my family died/He’ll never know what it’s like/So cut him slow ’til his soul takes flight”. It’s so incredibly teeth-clenchingly raw, the grit and fight in his voice as he screams those words will take your perspective on life and turn it upside down.
The guitars are spot on, clear, and concise. Shane Blay and James Erwin intensify the experience ten-fold. It’s fast, and the production quality speaks volumes. Every tapped note and bent string is heard with amazing clarity, in fact every element is nearly flawless. New bassist Nate Grady and drummer Zac Mayfield had big shoes to fill coming in to the band at this stage of their career, but their work on this record is nothing short of amazing. The drums are ferocious and deafening, and were so accurately written that nothing feels out of place. Also, you will take notice in Grady’s bass lines, as they hold a sort of melodic groove I haven’t really seen, but for the more progressive tracks like “The Family Ruin,” “Shed Your Soul” and “Chewing the Stitch,” you will notice those subtle lines that make your head swivel like a scene from Night at The Roxbury. The programming adds to the feel of that desolate hopelessness that they enact on your conscious so well, and you will truly feel somewhere else once this album has a hold on your mind.
Starting with “Endseekers,” the previously released track from earlier this month; not one second is wasted preparing you for the onslaught that will invade your ears. Structurally, this record has greatly improved from their earlier efforts. After that is “Shed Your Soul” and “The Marriage of Steel and Skin.” Both tracks are incredibly fast and hardcore, showcasing some of the more brutal parts of the record in a polygamy of thrash and breakdowns.
Following those is “Hush Yael,” a direct response to a heart-wrenching story of an attack that took place in Nahariya, Israel in 1979. A family’s home was invaded by Palestinian terrorists and nearly all were murdered. The mom survived the incident but two-year-old daughter Yael, four-year-old daughter Einat, and the father were all killed. It was such a sad but moving story, and their take on it is too difficult to describe in words. What I can say is that in recording this song, I can imagine many things were broken in fits of sad rage, and many tears were shed. It’s that powerful.
From there, you get a brief minute to recuperate from the aggression with “The Conscience Speaks”. It’s slow, acoustic, and melodic. The pace quickens instantly when “Dealers of Fame” begins, as the drum rolls and guitar sweeps trade off in a fast and accurate fashion. After that comes another acoustic track “Means to Believe.” Now I know what you’re thinking (“Another acoustic song?”) but don’t take this one for granted. It grows on you, and it is a standout song for Oh, Sleeper in general. Blay leads this one the whole way through in a Stone Sour-esque vibe, but it is nothing like Stone Sour. You’ll remember this beautiful ballad forever.
What I love about this record is the depth; there are so many little nuances you wouldn’t normally notice. It takes many listens to appreciate all the details. In the end, you look for something that changes your perspective, or at least builds on it. Every song will move you. The blend of imagery and commanding words tell a story like no one else can. Oh Sleeper has revived a fire in me I thought I had lost for music, because a lot of music now feels so fake and generic. This is real. This is absolute genuine music. What they have crafted is a beautiful melodic masterpiece, and it is easily one of my albums of the year. Don’t waste another second of your time and get this record; your perspective will change.