Reviewed by Bert Gangl
The Transition by Philmont
"...the Philmont collective’s latest outing is arguably more musically consistent than the lion’s share of current-day works from its closest peers.."
Many a hopeful teenaged boy, if he’s being totally honest, would have to admit that he had spent at least a few hours standing in front of his full-length bedroom mirror, trusty tennis racquet in hand, and imagined himself standing before a arena full of adoring fans gazing up in unfettered admiration and hanging on his every word as if their lives depended on it. Suffice it to say that, if this quintessential rock and roll dream were even marginally close to the default experience for most groups, the men of Philmont would have long since tossed in the towel, settled down to so-called respectable (i.e. non-musical) jobs and never again entertained the notion of taking up their respective instruments. The good news, though, for all involved, is that the plucky North Carolina punk-pop quintet has weathered the departure of drummer Todd Davis, the loss of their major-label contract with Forefront Records and the subsequent challenges of independently releasing their latest effort with nary a hint of calling it a day.
Lead singer Scott Taube and his cohorts have always had a certain soft spot for faster, more bracing, material, and the new EP, which was largely funded by fan donations, finds the fivesome’s hard-rocking inclinations as firmly intact as ever. The frenetic rhythms and soaring chorus of the superb leadoff cut, “I Am,” are virtually guaranteed to raise the average listener’s pulse rate by ten to fifteen beats per minute. The equally energizing “The Alchemist” might well be the perfect prescription for long-distance runners looking to shave those elusive last few minutes off of their half-marathon finish time. And the shimmering, nimble-fingered harmonic work of “Closer” is as awe-inspiringly beautiful as it is mesmerizing.
Quick-tempoed pieces like those above notwithstanding, the magnificently towering power balladry of “You Will Remain” serves as an unmistakable declaration that the band’s talent is anything but one-dimensional. The beautiful melody, sparkling guitar work and consummately-delivered vocals of the gently-loping “The Last Song I Sing” render the stellar acoustically-driven closer a similarly unequivocal winner. And the semi-droning mid-tempo-based “Ringing in My Head” makes perhaps the band’s strongest case to date for the inherent wisdom of tempering their hard-rocking inclinations with an unabashed pop sensibility.
Their enviable instrumental talent notwithstanding, songs like “I Am” (I am a fuse/ Burn and glow/ If you can’t defuse/ I will explode) and “The Alchemist” (Science can’t explain/ In full detail these things to me) show that the lyrical struggles that dotted the band’s previous projects are still a hindering factor this time around. And, while there are only a handful of unique, truly pioneering, acts along the present-day rock landscape, more than a few listeners will find the Philmont cooperative’s work akin enough to that of artists like Relient K, Hawk Nelson and artists of their ilk to render it somewhat superfluous.
But, while the Philmont lads’ literary skills often lag Hawk Nelson’s
endearingly self-deprecating humor or the more clever wordplay of Relient
K, they still manage to offset their word-related shortcomings with a corresponding
number of lyrical gems. The simple, staccato-like phrasing of “Ringing
in My Head” (The echo of your voice/ Breaking through the noise/ I
am listening/ I am listening) heightens the cut’s captivatingly insistent
energy. And the ultimately encouraging language of “You Will Remain” (The
storms we’re left to weather/ Will not last forever/ When all is said
and done you will remain) reads almost like classic poetry. Just as importantly,
the Philmont collective’s latest outing is arguably more musically
consistent than the lion’s share of current-day works from its closest
peers. And it is ultimately this sense of consistency that vaults the Transition
album to the top spot in the talented band’s impressive, and thankfully
Bert Gangl was formally introduced to the wonderful world of Christian music by his baby brother as the two were winding their way through Western Tennessee in the family automobile. Ever intent on proving that not all Christian artists were knock-offs of their mainstream counterparts, the younger Gangl duly inserted his newly-purchased copy of White Heart's Freedom into the waiting car tape player and the rest, as they say, is history. In the twenty years that have transpired since that time, Bert has amassed a sizeable CCM album collection of his own and has gone on to write reviews for a range of music-related sites including ChristRock , The Phantom Tollbooth, inReview and The All-Music Guide. He currently resides in Huntsville, Alabama, with his wife and daughter.