It nearly killed me to write this review. Caught in a dichotomy between overwhelming hope and fathomless sadness, I thought Chapters would be the end of me. Even before hearing the first chords of the title track, I knew this would be the last Forever Changed album IÃƒ¢Ã¢”š¬Ã¢”ž¢d ever review, and that knowledge had a profound effect on how I was listening to the songs. I didn’t think being objective was a possibility, until I realized it never could be, not with this band. As someone under the gun of years of Forever Changed affection, I was expecting Chapters to be the precedent farewell album–bittersweet ballads and a commemorative collection of all the good years. Instead, what I received was a heart attack of hope. In places where I was anticipating closure, I found more door openings, and that irony is the sort of paradox that has always personified my relationship with Forever Changed.
If fans are expecting another polished, foot-tapper like The Need To Feel Alive, they are sorely mistaken. Chapters is as progressive and experimental as its title suggests. Consider how Forever Changed’s music has always built on its stability, and now progressive has a new meaning. Gone are the formulaic, homophonic approaches, and in its place a heightened level of musicianship that captures the raw atmosphere of a live performance and the understanding that instruments can stand alone even while playing together.
For the first time in a Forever Changed release an instrumental intro greets the listener in muted keyboard fashion. Soon, Nathan’s drumming kicks in like an army recruitment beat. Being a Christian band, Forever Changed waste no time in making this evident as “Never Look Down” is a ministry outreach if there ever was. Even with a gorgeous guitar solo and piano bridge catapulting the track into gear, listener may still wonder what happened to the slick production that once permeated the Forever Changed sound. I will remark on the non-James-Paul-Wisner-ness of this record. Produced by Moments In GraceÃƒ¢Ã¢”š¬Ã¢”ž¢s Jeremy Griffith, youÃƒ¢Ã¢”š¬Ã¢”ž¢ll key into his Ãƒ¢Ã¢”š¬Ã…”ambience is everythingÃƒ¢Ã¢”š¬? style by the third track. Where The Need To Feel Alive thrived on its cavity-inducing sugar coat, Chapters is like a much needed drink, comforting in an entirely different way.
Take for example “All I Need” with its sonic-pop introduction and laidback bass tags. I’ve never heard that kind of spacey feel to a Forever Changed song before. However, once it settles in, I find it fitting nicely, especially as a post-chorus transition. This leads me to what could easily be Forever Changed’s most singable song EVER. What can I say about “Runaway” that isn’t captured in the moment of me singing “You just runaway” at 9 o’clock on a Saturday morning while serving breakfast in my school’s cafeteria? At the risk of sounding completely absurd after that remark, I swear to you, “Runaway” is the kind of tune you walk away whistling. Your inner beatbox will play out the sizzling guitar riffs and choral harmonies on their own accord once you get started. And IÃƒ¢Ã¢”š¬Ã¢”ž¢m speaking from experience here.
Contrary to its title, “The Disconnect,” is assembled solidly. With Nathan’s drumming striding in a tight, controlled rhythm, tempo changes are as seamless as Ben’s intricate guitar work. “It’s Too Late,” on the other hand, is Dan’s jam. Behind the keys, he administers his own flavor of poison, while vocally hitting notes that could melt the iceberg that sank the Titanic. That iceberg is massive, but it’s not at colossal as “No Way Out.” I have major beef with this song. I don’t understand how I’m supposed to say goodbye to a band when they write choruses as painfully heartening as “No way out, are you running out of dreams. No way out, are you learning how to need,” and then have what sounds like an entire church choir sing its strains as a closing melody. It sent chills down my spine.
“Cradle Eyes” is like a child’s lullaby–mellow, moving, and humble. Its unadorned piano melody and acoustic whispering really remind you of what it feels like to be human, to be part of a connection in a network of infinity. Dan’s voice is the perfect combination of primal emotion and jaded honesty, so as not to make this the proverbial ballad. Despite its quietness, its silences speak volumes. However, you won’t go away from this record feeling small because “Letting Go Of You” promises to unleash a monolith of hope. Slowing building into a tidal wave of ambient swirls, vocal color, and lyrical triumph, the listener is besieged with reasons to keep faith in the toughest of times.
Chapters is not an album that will immediately wrest your ears to attention like The Need To Feel Alive. But what it lacks in pop, it makes up in power. They say accessible is overrated, and I tend to waver in the opposition. However, if it is possible to tame the accessible without compromising the appeal, I’m all for the direction change. With multiple listens, the beauty in Chapters comes into fruition, and in the case of Forever Changed, beauty is never one thing. The lyrics, the inspiration, the passion, the melodies, and most importantly the soul are what radiate life into Chapters.
Go get this album. Go to a farewell show. Order it online. Whatever you do, don’t miss out on your chance to be Forever Changed.
02 Never Look Down
03 Starting To Sink
04 All I Need
06 Time Will Change
07 The Disconnect
08 It’s Too Late
10 No Way Out
11 Cradle Eyes
12 Letting Go Of You
“Runaway,” “The Disconnect,” “No Way Out,” “Letting Go Of You”