Our Song by Song Review of The Struggle

“So wherever you are, whatever struggle you’re walking through, know that you’re not alone, and there’s grace, every step along the way.”
-Mike Donehey

The last note played out of my computer speakers, echoing the final chord played on the album. I had just finished listening to the new record for the first time, and even the birds outside my window had ended their noisy chatter. Complete silence followed. But even with the racket outside my head nearly gone, I was still buzzing with thoughts inside. In the midst of the swarm, I managed to pick out a common thread I saw weaving its way through the album: the extensive amount of emotion poured into these songs.

The Struggle stands out from the band’s other albums because of the raw message it gives as a whole. That even though we’re going through trials in our lives, He is there with us, standing with open arms. Beginning with a cry to God and closing with praise, the record represents a journey through the struggles in our own lives and the various points of hope that He has to offer. These songs are personal and truthful; the effort and raw emotion put into this release shows in every verse within every song. The band has managed to mix pain and beauty and, somewhere in between the two, lies The Struggle.

I hope you’ll enjoy this album as much as I have. If every song is a journey, then the entire album is an adventure waiting to be exposed. And with that, I now present our song by song review of The Struggle.

Shadows

Favorite Line: We’re born into the longing, with hearts bent toward possessing, all that our eyes are seeing. 

The song begins. “Shadows” fades in. This is it: track 1 of the new record. After providing a quiet opening into the album, Mike joins in the first verse of the song, and the rest of the instruments kick in. The pre-chorus provides a hint of the new keyboard sound provided by Brendon, and then the chorus launches you into the rest of the album with a blasting opening carrying out until the next verse. This song may very well be the closest to “hard rock” that Tenth Avenue North has come.

Singing, “Everything only seems to slip through my hands”, Mike Donehey’s cry out to let go of worldly things is reminiscent of “All The Pretty Things”, a track from the previous album. After the final chorus, Mike screams out “Keep running, keep running, keep running…”, and the song comes to a close. If you’re a fan of the band’s louder tracks such as “Break Me Down” and “Speaking of Silence”, you’re bound to listen to this tune again and again.

The Struggle

Favorite Line: Lord I falter, and I fall down, then I hold on to the chains You broke, when You came and saved my soul.

Reviewing this song was interesting, because I had already heard it months before I received a release of The Struggle. The band had begun playing it at concerts in Spring 2012 and, naturally, videos surfaced all across the internet. Opening with Brendon on the accordion, the song and first verse start off surprisingly silent. Then the chorus breaks in with the already well-known verse – Hallelujah, we are free to struggle, we’re not struggling to be free.

Mike sings about how we hold on to the things of the earth – the shadows – instead of trusting in God. The fan chorus enters in at the bridge, and “The Struggle” finishes off strong with Mike belting out the chorus. Overall, the title track will definitely be a concert favorite and encourage many to get up and dance with its catchy beat!

Worn

Favorite Line: My soul feels crushed, by the weight of this world, and I know that You can give me rest, so I cry out with all that I have left.

When I started my review, I mentioned how the amount of emotion poured into these songs greatly influenced the outcome. “Worn” is a unique track where you can almost FEEL Mike singing – if that even makes sense. For months, the band didn’t play the song live because they would get too choked up during the performance. Once you hear the song, you’ll understand why. Mike, Jason, and Jeff wrote “Worn” in a time of little sleep, screaming children, and difficult tour life. Singing, “Let me see redemption win, let me know the struggle ends”, the song is almost a prayer asking for rest. Opening with Brendon softly on piano, the quiet music continues until the buildup in the bridge, leading to the final chorus.

Closely resembling the style of “Times”, “Worn” is a beautiful, honest piece and definitely one of the standout tracks on the album.

Losing

Favorite Line: We think our pain is own apologies and get them to stop, well truth be told it doesn’t matter if they’re sorry or not.

Ahh, “Losing.” After its initial demo release in 2010, the song was re-recorded and released as the first single of the album last April. That being said, most of us are familiar with the song. Starting off with the simple beat and Mike’s interesting singing technique, the song continues to progress and get louder until Mike begins full out rapping in the bridge. The fan chorus enters once again, and a whole crowd of people sing out, “Oh, Father, give me grace to forgive them….”  Towards the end, it even starts to sound a bit like a church choir, giving it the warm, home feeling that allows it to fit right in with anyone. “Losing” is a catchy tune about forgiveness that has already become one of the band’s hits, and I have no doubt that it will stay there.

Don’t Stop the Madness

Favorite Line: But oh, my God, I know there’s more than this, if You promise pain, it can’t be meaningless, so make me poor if that’s the price for freedom.

Jeff has said time and time again that this song is one of their absolute favorites on the record, and with just one listen, anyone could see why. The fantastic lyrics fit in with the mood of the music, being led by Brendon’s (yet again) stellar piano tune. In my opinion, this is one of the best songs Mike has ever written. His dedication and emotion show in his voice as he sings out, “Don’t stop the madness, don’t stop the chaos, don’t stop the pain surrounding me.” Surrendering all and allowing God to take your life into His hands is something many of us struggle with today, and “Don’t Stop the Madness” touches down right in the center of that problem.

Where Life Will Never Die

Favorite Line: This rusted world can’t satisfy, there’s nothing here that will survive, the night will end, the sun will rise, on a city where life will never die.

While technically this song is still in the first 6 tracks of the album, I see it as the border between two halves. “Don’t Stop the Madness” exits with soft instrumentals and a slow ending, and “Where Life Will Never Die” enters in boldly with a strong beat behind it, with Mike singing, “Light my soul ablaze, a field on fire, take me to that place of one desire.” This track is, in many ways, the brother of “Shadows.” The second half. When you let go of your shadows, where do you turn? To the only place that can satisfy: the city where life will never die. Similar to “Shadows” in music and lyrics, the boldness of the track and catchy chorus will stick with you throughout the rest of the record. One of the rockers on the album, and a likable track to even the most casual fan.

Strangers Here

Favorite Line: This is not the homeland, we can see the lights from here, He’s making us a city where there are no fears, and it’s drawing near.

This song presents a very unique sound which is commonly found in the album – mixing the quieter tracks and beats of The Light Meets the Dark with the louder songs of Over and Underneath. Just imagine “By Your Side” mixed with “You Are More.” The opening is quiet, a nice cello tune is mixed in, and it builds up until the bridge, where it drops back down to keys. The powerful lyrics mix perfectly with the music. Mike screams out, “This is not the ending, no, this is not the ending,” and the track continues to build up in the bridge, until a beautiful piano piece led by Brendon.

Singing with the theme of not belonging to the world, the song closes with Mike belting out, “Until then, we’re strangers here,” and it breaks into keys like in the bridge. “Strangers Here” is a beautiful tune with a soft touch and hopeful lyrics that blends right in with The Struggle. It definitely feels like a part of the album.

Grace

Favorite Line: But if hate is the fuel, no one will win, when we love ‘til we’re empty, that’s when life begins.

Well, I was not expecting this.

When performed live, “Grace” was a danceable, acoustic tune that made you clap. On the record, “Grace” is a song like I’ve never heard the band perform – it has an almost jazzy feel. The entire thing feels raw, combining the emotion from their live music with the finished sound of a studio album. From the band laughing at the end to the constant oh’s throughout the song, “Grace” provides a unique feel inside a happy-clappy tune. You may or may not like the song, but I guarantee that you will be tapping your feet every time you listen. Towards the end, the lyrics do seem to get a little repetitive, but the song is so happy that it pushes out all possible negative thoughts. A fun tune sure to be a concert favorite, “Grace” brings a unique sound to the record that may shock long time listeners. It’s not a total depart from Tenth’s usual sound, but it still sets itself aside as unique. For sure the happiest song on the album!

All The Same

Favorite Line: We take our secrets to the grave, spend our lives hiding the shame, afraid to show our need, but as we run our hands along these scars, may they tell us who we are, we are the redeemed.

Lyrically, this song is my favorite off of the album. Musically, it lands as one of my favorites. Like “Worn”, “All The Same” exerts powerful emotion, causing the lyrics to become part of the music; blending in completely. Picking a favorite line for this song was so difficult, as I love every line – and I even ended up using an entire verse. The perfect beginning builds up to the bridge, which rivals the power and emotion of the bridge in “You Are More.” The final chorus breaks out into song as Mike sings out, “We’re all the same, all desperate for a change, we’re all the same, we need Your love.” Though Mike repeats “We need Your love” 8 times at the end, it still doesn’t feel like it’s long enough. This song could keep going forever. It closes as the music drops out and Mike softly repeats, “I need Your love.” Though it comes in as the second longest track on the album, “All The Same” could continue playing forever and I wouldn’t get tired of it. One of my all-time favorites.

Hostage of Peace

Favorite Line: It’s hard to fight, it’s hard to lead resistance, it’s our hearts we’re up against.

“Hostage of Peace” opens up with acoustic guitar, a quick pace, and great backing vocals that continue throughout the song. It’s a faster tune that, like “Grace”, carries the live sound into the studio record. The energy and great drumming pull together to increase the pace as Mike overlays the sound singing, “This world it keeps us promising freedom, we thought we could belong, but we don’t belong here.” This track, “All the Same”, and “Strangers Here” seem to be in the same trilogy, and the energy and lyrics all fit together like a puzzle. “Hostage of Peace”, musically, keeps with the pace and emotion of “Strong Enough to Save.” I can’t wait until the band starts to play this one live – the energy is perfect for a show like theirs. Overall, it’s a fantastic song that sounds like it came right off of a live CD, while still sticking with the studio sound.

You Do All Things Well

Favorite Line: You break me to bind me, You hurt me, Lord, to heal me, You cut me to touch me, You died to revive me.

This is song 1 of 2 that heads into full on worship mode. Singing, “You do all things well” again and again, most of the song is backed up by Jeff’s fantastic intro theme, which is faster paced on the album than it is in concert. The song builds until the bridge, where only the fan chorus breaks into powerful singing, and continues throughout the final chorus where Mike can be heard yelling, “You do all things well.” It fades down, quiet humming exits, and the entire album prepares itself for the final track of the record.

Lamb of God

Favorite Line: Surrounded on a throne of endless praise, fire and lightning flash from the glory of Your face, and I sing to You.

Writing this review, I honestly could not wait to get to this track. All around, it seems as if the entire album was leading to this. All of the struggles, all of the hope, all of the emotion – it all comes down to this. Just words, piano, and cello. And praise. Very powerful praise. Tenth Avenue North has never made a song more perfect than this. The perfect closer, filled with emotion, a powerful bridge, worshipful words, a simple chorus, and a haunting fan choir that will give you chills. Towards the end, the chorus gets louder, the cello builds, but Mike’s voice stays steady, exerting powerful feelings as he whispers “You’re the lamb of God….” And just when it seems to slow down, the song re-enters with Mike yelling out with all he has, “You are Holy, Lord.” Everything builds and finishes with the piano ringing out and Mike whispering, “You are Holy, Lord.”

And the last note played out of my computer speakers, echoing the final chord played on the album. It was over. The Struggle had ended in soft worship and closed. But there had never been a record with so much meaning, emotion, and desperation. The Struggle is unique. The Struggle carries truth. The Struggle glorifies Him. And in the end, isn’t that all that matters?

  • Annah Z

    AHHH CAN”T WAIT!! I have tried to tell so many people this album will melt your heart!!

  • Katie

    Brilliantly written!! I can’t WAIT to hear this album!!

  • Emily27

    I know what you mean when you said you can almost feel Mike singing in Worn. At Lifest when they played it for the first time, it was like the whole tent went quiet and everyone was trying to grasp the lyrics that Mike was singing…and I’m not sure if anyone could take their eyes off his face while he sang. If the recording alone captivates you, you’d be amazed to see the emotions play out on their faces. I can’t wait to hear it again.
    Oh, and that was the best review I’ve ever read! Now I’m totally stoked to hear all the new songs!

    • Alex

      Haha thanks! And isn’t it amazing? I vote that most likely on the album to become a hit. Calling it now.

  • Meghan D.

    Mike sang Worn yesterday at the Sirius XM Studios. And few others off the new album. You can just see, hear & feel the emotion pouring out of the song. One of my favorite songs, describes my life almost perfectly.

  • Israel Defeo

    Awesome review. Who wrote it?
    By reading it, I wanna hear Worn right now and Lamb of God. It seems like these two tracks are emotionally captivating. I can imagine how powerful Mike delivers the yelling and whispering in Lamb of God.

    • Alex

      I wrote it! Those two tracks are a few of my absolute favorites. It’s too early to tell (I mean, the album isn’t even OUT yet), but “Lamb of God” might be my #1.

      Also, the yelling and whispering isn’t in the traditional sense of screaming and whispering – it’s just going from belting out the words and loud to barely speaking, almost sounding like he’s on the verge of tears

      • Israel Defeo

        yeah that’s what I want to hear the emotional rollercoaster in Lamb of God, from loudness to whispers

  • Karla

    First of all, awesome review :) and second i totally agree with what you said about the emotion behind the songs. i feel like that’s why this record is so highly anticipated and is gonna be a success, because it’s raw and vulnerable since it is a struggle we’re all going through but ultimately it gives hope and shines the light on the lamb of God :) i really can’t wait for the album even though i already have the songs stuck in my head lol

  • Dana

    I heard Lamb of God on Sirius Radio – The Message, last night. I was driving to the airport and as it played I was amazed. The perfect song to bring you directly to the throne of God with a vulnerable, contrite heart. As I was driving all I could think of was, “don’t forget the name of the song, don’t forget who sings it.” so that when I got home I could look up the chords. I don’t think I could ever forget a song/lyrics/message like that. Thank you for sharing your gift with us!
    I am on our worship team at my church and would love to introduce this song to our congregation. Where can I find the chords?

    • Alex

      Isn’t it a great song? Unfortunately, since the album hasn’t even been released yet, I don’t think I’ve seen chords to the song yet – sorry!