Darkhorse Hero is the debut solo project from Andrew Gazaway and features a sound that hearkens back to the glory days of hard rock/metal. The album displays plenty of dual guitars and jumps back and forth between melody and thick riffs. The music is tight and the lyrics are bold in their message of the gospel. The production is good, especially for an independent project such as this one.
The album opens with “On Fire”. A melody played by a single guitar gives way to the tolling of a bell over a thick chord and you know this song means business. The song includes some impressive lead guitar work and lyrics that are reminiscent of a psalm in the way that they express a longing to be close to God:
You are the light inside of me Without you, God, I’m empty Never let me go, set me on fire
Next up is “Shining”, a song that does actually seem to shine. The lyrics paint a picture of the bride of Christ and the song seems to ascend with bright dual guitar leads and a catchy vocal melody.
“Outlaws” opens with a groove that perfectly supports the title and would have been right at home in Bride’s Kinetic Faith era. The lyrics tell of being born where “the eagle flies and the spirit never dies” and features a nice chord change before going into the chorus. In what is easily one of the high points of the album there is a chunky groove followed by a beautiful interlude before going into a guitar solo, partially played over the groove. Lyrically the song carries the message that the redeemed do not belong to this world, thus making them outlaws:
Runnin’ hard for the other side I’ve lost all love for this life I don’t know how people see me But the end is coming and I won’t go quietly I’m a stranger and I don’t belong This place is not my home
There is not a believer on the planet that doesn’t face some sort of struggle. “Sparrow Song” is uplifting and addresses doubt and travail by reminding us of how much we are loved. Each verse is full of encouragement and the chorus hammers home the truth that we are safe in our Father’s arms. The melody is memorable and this song will get stuck in your head. “The Warrior King” checks all the boxes for songs in the genre with soaring dual guitars and lyrics that paint an epic picture of kings and warriors with the memorable refrain of “I still believe in paradise, I still believe in love”. “Five O’clock Rock” is a fun song that talks about looking forward to the end of a hard day at work. The song is built around a riff that builds into a very catchy chorus and goes out with a bang. Are the lyrics a sly comparison between the close of a hard day at work and the culmination of life as a Christian? Could be.
Workin’ hard on the daily grind Sometimes I feel like I’m doing time And I’m ready to go home You gotta know how I feel when life gets real And you’re ready to go home The album switches gears with a ballad in “First Love”. The lyrics again take on a psalm-like quality and tell the story of being redeemed while expressing love and gratefulness to Jesus. Musically the song is built around acoustic guitars and is beautiful in its simplicity. “Church Rising” is another ballad, although more anthemic than the previous track. This track features both electric and acoustic guitars. The song builds to a crescendo with a passionate guitar solo but unfortunately follows a segment that seems to be a little disjointed. The flow of this song isn’t quite as developed as the rest of the album and seems to fall just short of its potential. The album is rounded out by “Darkhorse Hero” which at first sounds like another ballad but quickly shifts gears into a song that really moves. The guitar and vocal melodies in the chorus are infectious and they will stick with you even after you have finished listening. The song is a fitting closer that puts a neat bow on the entire package of the album.
This album grew on me with repeated listens and I found myself think of the songs at times that I didn’t expect to. The lyrics are refreshing in their boldness and I found myself being encouraged many times as I listened. If there is anything negative to be said beyond what was noted in “Church Rising” it is that at times the vocals seem a little bit thin. Aside from that one hiccup the album flows very well from beginning to end. More information on Darkhorse Hero and how to get the cd can be found on their page on Facebook. [Independent] -J.H. Tomblin