With Rage Against the Machine gone and Limp Bizkit in limbo, it appears as though the rap/metal experiment (hated by virtually every critic other than this one) is on its way out. Whether Justifide, whose Dove nominated Life Outside the Toybox was peppered with hip hop, is aware of this or not, they seem to be another band who is moving away from (some would say "maturing") that end of the spectrum. The result, The Beauty of the Unknown, is somewhere between Linkin Park, P.O.D. and Thousand Foot Krutch—somewhat like Silverchair might have sounded if not for the awkward post-Freak Show stage.
TBOTU's second and fifth cuts are particularly reminiscent of late '90s Silverchair, though the former has elements of Simple Plan's pop/rock, and the latter seems influenced by Nirvana's "Breed" and by another grunge band, the Toadies. Lyrically, the songs deal with themes woven throughout the album love, relationships and finding one's identity. Typical adolescent fare.
"Pointing Fingers," has a definite nu metal tilt that is echoed throughout, but especially in cuts like "Escape" and "Someone to Blame." Lead singer/drummer Jason Moncivaiz will draw comparisons to Sonny Sandoval and Thousand Foot Krutch frontman Trevor McNevan (though he lacks the rapid fire, densely layered rap delivery of McNevan). Like most nu metal bands, Justifide also borrows from Korn (though Moncivaiz opts to scream things like "my Father knows me," instead of spitting hatefully about his earthly father, as would Korn's Jonathan Davis).
Other songs, such as "I Wouldn't Know" and "This Song's For You" are more adventurous. The former has elements of funk and Motown (think Remy Shand backed by Metallica) and sounds oddly like something out of the nightclub scenes in Alley McBeal. The latter is an acoustic love song that, while an interesting touch from a hard rock band, labours from the fact that it will probably only be memorable to the person to whom it's addressed. Other tunes make use of a piano, organ and cello.
Like most current bands in the hard rock genre, this one also seems influenced somewhat by Creed, though Moncivaiz thankfully doesn't try to sound like Scott Stapp. The guitar work on "Escape" sounds much like that on Creed's "Freedom Fighter," and "Someone to Blame" could well have been written by Creed guitarist Mark Tremonti. The band doesn't dwell there long, however, opting to morph into a punk band on "Anymore," and parts of "To Live."
The album's best song comes near its end. "Goodbye Without You" seems groomed for the radio, but is genuinely moving despite this and its too perfect to be coincidental three-and-a-half-minute length.
The Beauty of the Unknown is, like several recent nu metal albums (particularly Linkin Park's Hybrid Theory), very slickly produced, and seems to have been combed meticulously for even the slightest imperfections. This gives the album an unpleasant Britney Spears-like feel. In spite of this (and my suspicion that the band might not be able to pull it off live), TBOTU is a definite step forward for Justifide, and Christian hard music in general. Despite what you might believe at this point, I actually enjoyed this album.