Album Review: Abandon Kansas – Ad Astra Per Aspera

I’m a drummer, so I don’t often notice the sound and character of many non-percussive instruments. I can tell you the rhythm they’re going at and some basic melodic concepts that are happening, but mostly I’m too tuned into the drums to pick up on much else. My ears are just wired more for drums than for vocals, synths, guitars, or whatever other instruments are thrown into the mix.

So when I tell you how much I love Abandon Kansas’s guitar tone, you know it’s gotta be special. It’s just dramatic enough that it approaches a screeching, screaming sound without losing control and clarity. It has the right amount of passion and emotion to enhance the sense of melody rather than detract from it. And it’s distinctive. It’s not bizarre or overly creative, but if I heard a lead guitar part from Abandon Kansas, nine times out of ten I’d know it’s them within a few seconds.

Ad Astra Per Aspera is one of the albums I’ve been most excited about since I started doing these album reviews. We’ve been playing the single “Heaven Come My Way” on Jesus Freaks for a few weeks now, and every time I hear it, I like it more. That’s how it tends to go with every song on this album. On my first listen through, I liked it, but I wasn’t a hundred percent in love. But as I’ve listened to it more and more in preparation for this review, I’ve liked it more and more.

The style is a very nice, passionate indie rock sound that isn’t really found many other places in Christian music. The closest mainstream band I could compare these guys to is Interpol, but even that’s a stretch. The biggest similarity is vocalist Jeremy Spring’s voice, though he is less monotone and much more emotional. To be honest, I’m not even that familiar with Interpol, except for their music video with the creepy puppet.

But it really isn’t fair to spend too much time trying to compare these guys to other groups. Abandon Kansas has one of the most unique yet accessible sounds in Christian music. Too many bands can only achieve originality by venturing into bizarre and experimental territory, creating a sound that takes some getting used to before it can be enjoyed; but Abandon Kansas walks the line between originality and weirdness expertly.

This is a high-quality indie rock album complete with great songwriting and smart instrumentation. By the fourth or fifth listen through, this is a five star album, but since it took me a bit to get there, I’ll give Ad Astra Per Aspera 4.5 out of 5 stars. I’ll definitely be listening to this one more in the future.

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