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The Beauty of the Unknown - Justifide (2002)

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.

Touch - delirious? (2002)

A heat-sensitive cover. Remixes and re-recordings. Cuts and additions. A bonus enhanced CD. Hate 'em or love 'em, you've got to hand it to the fab five from Littlehampton: they sure know how to put together an irresistible package.

But beauty is, as they say, only skin-deep. Once you've finished playing with the trendy cardboard cover and staring at the European fashions that grace the album art, you're going to excitedly place Touch in your CD player, and then comes the crucial moment. Does it bring elation or disappointment?

Alien Youth: The Unplugged Invasion - Skillet (2002) DVD

Rock. We need it, want it, love it. Our souls require the constant fusion of metal and electricity as fuel. Like an engine we consume it, down to the very last drop of pure adrenaline, until we are spent and then proceed to the next most convenient energy source. But what happens when you take the "rock" out of rock music? If crunchy guitars and torrential drum solos ceased to exist, could we still get by? It's in the face of these questions that Skillet cast aside their amps, pick up some acoustic stuff, and say, "Let's keep rocking."

Truthless Heroes - Project 86 (2002)

Dark. Brooding. Hopeless. The all too tragic story that is perpetually penned by so many people: the story of their life. The quill is the body. The ink is the despair, deception, and disease that freely flows among the members of our society today. Buffeted on all sides by what dominating culture deems necessary (drugs, sex appeal, power, money, and fame), individuals barely stand a chance to make it out of this life in one piece. This sad tale is boldly presented by the guys from Project 86 in the form of Truthless Heroes.

Stanley Climbfall - Lifehouse (2002)

Are you giving up already? Nobody ever accomplished anything with that kind of attitude. Life deals everyone their fair share of trials and tribulations, joys and accomplishments, victories and defeats. What matters is how you handle each of the bad hands. After all, life has a meaning, contrary to what others tell you. This isn't some game we play for the amusement of a corrupt deity. Our existence is not pathetic. This is a growing process. This is real.

11 Live - Jars of Clay (2002) DVD

The DVD is the latest craze in home entertainment. It boasts higher video quality than VHS, support for multiple audio tracks, and, finally, no rewinding before you give it back to Blockbuster. But not many bands have used DVD yet, especially in Christian circles. However, Jars of Clay is one band that stays on the trend, getting their DVD out before it becomes hard to find VHS' of your favorite movies at your local store. The band themselves uses cutting edge technology in home DVD authoring to deliver 11ive, which includes a full-featured concert and so much more.

Turn The Tides - 38th Parallel (2002)

After hearing about Word Records's acquisition of Squint Entertainment and the tragic expulsion of Steve Taylor, it took me by surprise that the newest roster signee was hard-rock band 38th Parallel. After all, isn't Word more renowned for contemporary artists like Amy Grant, Point of Grace, and Fernando Ortega? Now that I've heard 38th's Turn the Tides debut, I think maybe it wasn't such a bad move after all. Word is sure to catch a glance from the younger crowd because of this deal.

Kutless - Kutless (2002)

Staind, Nickelback, and Puddle of Mudd. Like these rock bands? Chances are they probably won't record a Christian album anytime soon. Fear not: if you're a fan of those secular guys but looking for something more spiritual, Kutless makes a fine choice for a Christian alternative. Not only is their stuff squeaky clean; Kutless just oozes with talent. These are five guys who know how to rock hard and praise God while doing so.

Hero - Daily Planet (2002)

Daily Planet wants to be your hero, baby. Oh yeah. But the problem is that four guys who don't know the definition of "rock music" can hardly save the Christian music industry from collapsing. If anything, their music could be defined as "funk contemporary." That's right, contemporary. Daily Planet comes so close to sounding like your parents in a band that it's not even funny. Ok, well maybe it is, as we can't resist snickering at the guys for shouting random stuff like "Rock!" and "Uh-huh" throughout the course of their album.

Blender - Collective Soul (2000)

At first glance, the cover of Blender makes Collective Soul look like a boy band - pictures of five guys with stern faces glaring intently back at the disc's owner, accompanied by various hues of blue and flashy graphics. N*Sync fans retreat, however, when they take the CD for a spin and discover this isn't bubblegum flavored pop. Sure, some songs contain a certain pop flair, but the majority of Blender is exactly what the name implies: a mixture of heavy rock, pop, soul, articulate ballads, and whatever else the band could throw into the dish.

Deeper - delirious? (2001)

Try as I may, I cannot say it better than the text on the back of the Deeper cover: “…but the numbers, the chick, the polish are all unimportant: what has been truly impressive about the Delirious? journey so far is their, well, it’s their journey…”

August and Everything After - Counting Crows (1993)

It's always hard as a "music critic" (a term with which, like it or not, most of us around here will be labelled) to review an album that one has become enamoured with. It's easy (and probably most fun) to review a bad album, and equally simple to appraise a banal piece of "art," but really good ones—the kind that transport you to another place and leave you wanting more—can be the scourge of any critic's existence.

My Own Prison - Creed (1997)

When Creed finally "burst" onto the scene, with hit singles and interviews on major entertainment shows, I'd already discovered them. Long before they were being hailed as the saviours of rock music itself, I had spun My Own Prison about ten times. When fools were rushing in to label them "Christian" without having heard their album...well, you get the idea. I was deeply impressed with Scott Stapp's highbrow, introspective lyrics and his unique, aggressive vocals.

Lift - Audio Adrenaline (2001)

After ten years of being declared a "youth group band", Audio Adrenaline's latest offering, Lift, finds the group attempting to forge a more mature identity for themselves. The change is evident; from the drab, grey photograph on the liner notes to the last song on the album, there's no trace of any kidding around. While this might snag a larger fan base, longtime fans of AA will be startled at what Lift has to offer.

All Star United - All Star United (1997)

Before the self-proclaimed "greatest band in the world" hit the scene in 1996, Ian Eskelin was making solo records of second-rate dance music. (Scary.) When that didn't work, he decided to get together with some of his friends and jam. As a result, All Star United was born. Since then the band has come a long, long way, but it was really their self-titled debut that launched ASU into international superstardom.

Revolution - All Star United (2002)

Throngs of eager fanatics turned cartwheels and sang in the streets. Fans who never gave a second guess began taking their memorabilia off sale from eBay. Personally, I played Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" more than 27 consecutive times. No, we did not finally obtain world peace, but it's the next best thing. Stemming from a partially hidden interview on, Ian Eskelin had announced to the world that All Star United would be releasing a third full-length album. This declaration stirred much praise, celebration, and controversy, but Eskelin followed through on his promise.