Having gone what must be years without discovering any ‘Christian rock bands,’ we’ve only gone found two in a week. But from listening to Dunn, North Carolina, band Strength Betrayed you wouldn’t know they are ‘faith-based at all,’ as they’ve honed a deliciously heavy, rhythm-focused, melodic metal sound that you can’t help but bounce along to. Or, as they refer to it, “heavy SLAM.”
The band’s early days began with brothers Thomas (vocals and guitar) and Taylor Smith (drums) and Jacob Hair (lead guitar) playing in their youth group worship team for years. However, as Thomas tells us, come the end of worship, the music genre changed substantially.”We always wanted to play heavy music,” he says, “and after worship practice, we would usually down tune the guitars and throw down.”
The worship band soon became a little too much to handle and the band separated for a couple of years. They eventually got together to jam and ended up writing Playing With Hearts, which appeared on their debut EP and was resurrected on this year’s album War-Torn. The track reignited their love for rock and they drafted in bassist Seth Altman to complete the lineup.
As Thomas tells us: “We brought him in and he learned the songs we had written up to that point. He was the last important piece because he went on to write the riffs to War-Torn and Sour, two of our most popular songs.”
Speaking of which, brings us to the band’s debut album which, in short, is huge. It kicks into life with War-Torn, which opens up with a huge riff and pounding cymbals that drop into an opening verse led by Thomas’ vocals and a little bassline, with a darting riff coming in to support intensifying vocals “We should know that lies are important, You’ll sacrifice a whole generation.”
A huge catchy chorus takes over and ends with a smash of big guitar chords that drop into a repeat of the quiet then heavy verse. Give it a listen below:
That’s followed by My Fight, which opens up with a chugging riff that continues under Thomas’ big vocals “You think you know what I’ve been through, Try walking a mile in my shoes, You’d be too scared to what to do, Trust me you ain’t got a clue.” It builds up to a big singalong chorus that ends on “This is my fight” and jumps back into the chugging guitar riff.
The aforementioned Playing With Hearts opens up with a chugging riff that continues in a big heavy opening. Engaging vocals take over and build up to a lively chorus led by Thomas gruff vocals, before a really cool little darting dual riff comes in and drops into a big guitar solo. Give it a listen below:
But a personal favourite is Sour, which opens up with a big dirty stabbing bassline and light drums then a chugging guitar joins the party before the drums intensify, more guitars enter and a cry of “Go” drops into a big heavy riff. A call of “Just sit down and shut up” sets up a lively verse then a big chorus of “I feel nothing, I feel so ashamed, I feel like I’m falling back again, Under the pressure of going sour.” And keep an ear out for a big guitar solo that feeds into a final smash of the chorus. Check it out in the video below:
When it comes to what inspires their music, don’t let the term faith-based fool you into thinking it’s based on anything to do with religion. As Thomas explains: “Honestly, we write about what other bands write about without expletives! We kind of avoid the ‘drugs, sex and rock and roll’ themes the best we can and go straight for the juggler on hard topics. Depression, anxiety, addiction, suicide, fear of death and politics, both religious and governmental.
“We observe the same world the rest of the world observes, we just write our songs through the lens of our beliefs. We are Christians and believe in the divinity of Jesus, but we will never kick it down anyone’s throat.”
The band’s sound is built around influences like Korn, Breaking Benjamin and Static-X through to Slayer, Pantera and Poison. As Thomas expands: “As far as what made us want to get into music, it’s different for all of us. My story starts playing Raw v Smackdown on the PS2 and when I heard the song Firefly by Breaking Benjamin, it absolutely blew me away. I never heard anything so huge and beautiful yet slamming.
“Jacob was raised around his dad’s hair metal records and became obsessed with the guitar itself. Taylor is my brother, so when I showed him the new music I had found, he was instantly hooked. As far as Seth, I don’t know his personal story but I know his influences are a mix of Tool and Slayer.”
There’s plenty more to come from Strength Betrayed, with the band looking to backup their album with a chance to show off their high-energy live show and start a tour. Also expect single releases, and lots of them. As Thomas explains: “We like singles, even though singles culture hasn’t hit the heavy metal/hard rock world. I love to have a song idea and just record it and put it out there and not have to save it for 3 years to be put on an album.”
And he adds: “Please support your local bands. Like you, they have dreams and goals and you have no idea how happy it makes them too have passionate fans show up to their shows. Even if only five people show up, if those five people go HAM it makes the night!”