Reviewed by Susan Lloyd
For the Love of the Game by
"Pillar has put together a good product that is solid and will be enjoyed by loyal fans and new fans alike."
The Oklahoma based band Pillar scores with their latest, For the Love of the Game, a solid rock album that doesn’t shy from delivering hard hitting messages right along with huge guitar hooks. The fifth full length studio album for the foursome is an attempt to go “back to a kind of era that was all about the big songs” according to front man Rob Beckley. And these songs are big. Huge hooks with big distortion, driving bass lines and heavy drums form a solid-as-steel framework for Beckley’s big rock voice. These songs were made for major crowds in big arenas, but that doesn’t lessen the fact that they were written with what seems to be a specific message as well.
Stand out songs like the title track ”For the Love of the Game, “Reckless Youth,” and “State of Emergency” exhort the listener to stay true to a faith that won’t disappoint. I particularly liked "Reckless Youth” as it encourages listeners not to allow their potential to be clouded by fear, apathy or discouragement. There’s a nice guitar solo in the break, but the real star of this song is the groove that exists between Kalel’s thumping bass and Lester Estelle’s ever present drum beats. “For the Love of the Game” features a shout out line that will be quickly picked up by concert goers and shouted right back into the atmosphere with tons of rock aggression.
The weaker tracks on the album “Smiling Down” and “Runaway” come back to back on the track listing, a problem that seems to make the CD dip somewhat mid-way through a listen. “Smiling Down” could easily have been recorded by Daughtry and with his mainstream success right now, it would more than likely be a hit. But for Pillar, it just seems diluted. I like the sentiment expressed in this song, but in too many ways the track sounds like filler to me. It just isn’t strong enough lyrically or musically to have the impact that maybe Pillar was hoping for. “Runaway” begins with a surprising pop punk feel but just never seems to “arrive” in spite of the heavy subject matter that is handled in the lyric. It also seems as if Pillar recycled the chord progression from the earlier tune “Turn it Up” in order to maybe push this song into something it’s just not going to be.
Thankfully, the strongest track on the album muscles its way in after “Runaway” fades. Beckley throws some throat into the vocals in the first few measures of “Throwdown” and the energy just never lets up throughout the track. THIS is what Pillar is capable of producing with strong chord progressions, instrumentation that perfectly compliments the strength of the lyric, and a dramatic instrumental bridge that will melt the faces of all who attend a Pillar show. “Throwdown” is the kind of song that Pillar should use to end their sets so that fans will leave with their hearts pounding and their ears ringing, effectively taking the songs home from the show in a very physical way.
The last few songs of the album round it out very nicely. “Get Back” is a solid track that throws out a minor chord in an unexpected place which lends great texture to the song. “I Fade Away” actually begins with a strong vibe that feels like something The Police would have written, but then gives way to power vocals and huge distorted guitar chords on the chorus. These two tracks have the most texture and divert more from a familiar rock sound than any others on the listing, and that’s a good thing. The diversity is a welcomed addition to Pillar’s sound.
The last song in the collection “Forever Starts Now” communicates my favorite message of the album as it urges listeners to remember that we can’t wait for forever to begin, it has already done so. After a heart pounding intro, the vocals start passively enough for me to want to complain that the song is misplaced in the track line up. However, my complaining quickly vanishes because the build to the climax is so complete and the message is so strong that it’s clear “Forever Starts Now” is the perfect song to finish off the 10 track collection.
Pillar has put together a good product that is solid and will be enjoyed by loyal fans and new fans alike. However, at times there are obligatory guitar solos that seem a little tired. Thankfully, the creative bass lines are a driving force throughout the album and lend full support on almost all the songs Pillar has created for this CD. Through chord progressions that are a little overused at times, it’s possible to hear the heartbeat of the band. These guys believe in the message of hope that knowing Jesus brings, and they believe this generation of young people is dying to hear that message. It’s obvious that if Pillar wanted to lean on hard rock roots throughout this album, they did so very effectively. However, I don’t want this band to forever rely on the comfort of the tried and true. They have the heart and immense musical talent to take their art to the next level, and while I’ll enjoy many spins of this CD, a venture outside the Pillar comfort zone may be in order to hold my interest the next time Pillar steps into the studio.
Susan Lloyd is a professional photographer in Charleston, South Carolina who specializes in shooting concerts. She holds a degree in Music Education and has worked as a worship leader and as a youth minister. She is passionate about all types of music and enjoys encouraging and supporting bands who seek to glorify God. She also loves movies, animals, traveling, and making new friends. She and her husband have three kids and have been married for nearly 17 years. More info about Susan's photography can be found at www.susanlloydphotography.com or www.susieq3c.wordpress.com