If there was one band who has constantly produced good music throughout their career, it would easily be Sanctus Real. The first band I ever called my favourite back in 2010 when Pieces of a Real Heart was released. There has been so much music flooding my ears since then, some of my favourite bands have been put to the side. Sanctus Real isn’t one of those bands. And now with the Dream, I’m pleased to announce that they will continue to be one of my favourites.
Sanctus Real began as a hard rock band with their first record, Say it Loud, in 2002. Their second, and one of my all time favourite albums, Fight the Tide, came in 2004. Another hard rocker with Matt belting out some of the best vocals in rock I’ve heard. In 2006 The Face of Love was released, and it was here that they began to slow down. While The Face of Love was still heavy, it was a darker record overall. In 2008 We Need Each Other hit the shelves and it brought the hard rock from Fight the Tide back, at least for half of it. It remains to this day my second favourite record from them. Their next release, 2010’s Pieces of a Real Heart, brought a more pop/rock sound to the table. It remains to this day their best selling, but for me, it’s my least favourite, and even though that was my first record by them, it was good enough to make me pursue their other albums. In 2013, after their tour bus was burnt down in a blaze, came their softest record yet with Run. Despite slowing things down quite a lot since Fight the Tide, it was a brilliant record. Now just shy of two years later comes the band’s seventh record, the Dream.
After multiple listens (I never review an album after one listen) I have come to the conclusion that it is indeed better than Run and Pieces, and just as good as We Need Each Other.
The album begins and ends with some of the best songs Sanctus Real has ever written in my opinion. It starts off with the title track and it sets the tone for the songs to follow. The whole concept of this record is that the dreams we have in our lives (wealth, travelling, pursuits) isn’t what our hearts truly need to fill us. The dream, Matt says in the song, “is You.” Christ is what we’ve been looking for all along, we’ve just never seen it because all the things of this world have blinded us to our desperate need of God.
Before this album released it was promised that it would venture back to their roots (their rock side), which of course made me really excited. Though there isn’t anything heavy here, there was a few instances of some rough electric guitar thrown in, albeit it was sometimes hidden behind the bells and whistles of production. Despite this, the promise was, in a way, fulfilled. It’s more up tempo than Run was, and comes just shy to their 2010 record.
Musically it’s mostly pop/rock with some folk thrown in for good measure, and though it’s a tried genre, Sanctus Real manages to keep it from sounding generic or done before. They keep it fresh and relevant. A good example of this is the lead single, Lay it Down. A fun, foot stomping anthem that shouts out, “Those problems you’re worried about, they can’t keep you from living now. Shake it off and lay it down, at the cross where your freedom’s found!”
Other highlights include Head in the Fight, Easier on My Heart, Ride it Out, Bend not Break, One Word at a Time, and my personal favourite, and one of the best songs these guys have written, On Fire.
On Fire tells how we once were completely passionate for the Lord, but the trials and demands of life have diverted our eyes. Matt sings in the chorus, “You were fire, and church was more than a place, people were more than faces, and Jesus was more than a name.” It’s a truly powerful way to end the record, following with the first instrumental track the guys have ever recorded.
Lyrically is sticks pretty much to the standard of CCM, but one thing that sets them apart from the others is their honesty. As heard in their song, The Redeemer, from Pieces of a Real Heart, they’re not afraid to “Wear a tattered heart on my sleeve.”
Digging into this record one will find a lot of musical and lyrical treasure. And though fans of their harder stuff will likely still be dreaming of the day they’ll return, fans of their softer sound will fall in love with this album. For me, these guys impress no matter what they play. And if there’s one thing that hasn’t changed in intensity, it’s their passion and love for God, and that’s what it all comes down to in the end. The true dream. Jesus.