Album Review of Hawk Nelson's

Diamonds

By: David Lyda (From: Volume 2 - Issue 4)
(Photos courtesy of Hawk Nelson)

I’ve got to be honest; I didn’t expect much from this record. Not being a huge fan of mainstream Christian radio, I was ready for a generic snooze fest. Boy, was I surprised! The opening drum beat of Diamonds had me hooked. It has some familiar sounding songs but does not feel tired. This album is a natural continuation from Hawk Nelson’s previous album Made and further distances them from their pop-punk roots. What you get is an undeniably catchy pop album featuring some of Christian radio’s top songwriters. Diamonds relies heavily on the percussion, often reminding me of Phil Collins. This gives a nice dancing and hand clapping sensibility. The guitars could have been higher in the mix, but it doesn’t detract from the overall sound. I would be curious to see how the guys pull off these songs live.

Lyrically, the album offers simple but profound messages of hope and perseverance, something that Believers and non-believers alike can relate to. Hawk Nelson does not shy away from the fact that life can be hard, and God’s grace through it all becomes an overarching theme. Lead singer Jon Steingard shared that “’Diamonds’ talks about how God can use pressure, struggle, trials and stress in our life and make it into something stronger and more beautiful. Just in the same way that diamonds are made. It’s a big comfort to me when I’m in those times to remember that hardships have a purpose and aren’t without meaning. A diamond is strong. It reflects light. It doesn’t have any light of its own, but it reflects the light that it receives.”

“Diamonds”: A drum based track that sounds very epic. It almost sounds like a track that Phil Collins left off of the Tarzan soundtrack. The theme revolves around God’s shaping of our character. The diamonds (Christians) come from dust (man). I love the line “I’ll surrender to the power of being crushed by love.” A great song and great opener for the album.

“Drops In The Ocean”: God’s grace can be hard to understand. Once we come to know Christ, we begin to see how vast and indescribable that grace truly is, like drops in the ocean. This lead single pulls the listener in with a guitar effect that could have easily come off of a record from the 60s. What unfolds is a mid tempo rocker that invites worship. It shares an often overlooked truth that God is for us, not against us.

“Just Getting Started”: I really like the guitar hook in this song, and it focuses a lot on percussive sounds. This shouldn’t be surprising since it was co-written by a drummer, Jordan Mohilowski of The Afters. The track’s sound reminds me of Matthew West’s “Do Something, “and it’s theme could also be seen as a sequel to West’s song. Now that we’ve decided to do something, there is no limit to what we can accomplish. We’re just getting started.

“Live Like You’re Loved”: Is this a Colton Dixon song? Not quite, but it was co-written by Dixon contributor Ben Glover and could easily fit in that singer’s catalogue. It’s another mid-tempo track for Hawk Nelson and calls Christians to remember God’s love when we face trials. “So go ahead and live like you're loved / It's ok to act like you've been set free.”

“Sold Out”: Singer Jon Steingard takes sole writing credit for “Sold Out” and proves his ability to stand on his own. This song is super catchy but probably makes English teachers cringe with its opening line “I ain't like no one you've met before.” Double negatives aside, this upbeat track could easily get a crowd hopping. Frustrated with time unfocused on eternity, Jon crafted “Sold Out” as “my song to say the only thing that matters is running after Jesus.”

“Thank God For Something”: If I had to pick a favorite, this song would easily rise to the top. It is actually a bit different than the other songs on the album and reminds me of the secular band Cage The Elephant. The track is fun, upbeat, and such a great call to look at what God has done in our lives. “If you got a lot or a lotta nothing / Go ahead and thank God for something / You're gonna see the good if you're good at lookin’ / So go ahead and thank God for something.”

“Count On You”: This is another upbeat track that is driven by the drums, and it sounds a lot like a TobyMac song. I was actually surprised that TobyMac didn’t co-write it. The song makes me want to dance, and I find myself bobbing my head even when I can’t. Such a fun and positive vibe is not lost on the lyrics. Simple and straightforward, we can count on God. No matter what!

“Made To Live”: Most albums really start to struggle eight tracks in, but Hawk Nelson keeps the hooks going. This song sounds a lot like Building 429 and is such an anthem. The gang vocals invite the listener to sing along with the wonderful message that life has meaning; we were made to live for God. “Made To Live” continues to share the reality that hardship will most certainly come our way, but God has a purpose. This hit home for me with the line, “sometimes this blood is for bleedin'.”

“Straight Line”: Jon Steingard’s second solo writing credit did not instantly grab me like “Sold Out,” but it is still a solid piece of pop rock. This track has driving acoustic guitar that carries the song through. There are female background vocals, including Jon’s wife Jessica, that nicely compliment the song. “Straight Line” is not quite as epic sounding as other tracks, but the lyrics convey an epic message. Every day we must decide to walk the straight path of the Lord and not compromise.

“Only You”: The closing track’s intro is a further departure from the epic sound of the album, featuring a layered acoustic arrangement. The beat does pick up on this collaboration between guitarist Micah Kuiper and Jon Steingard until a false ending appears. I was surprised when I heard the acoustic guitar pick back up to close with a beautiful verse that pleads the name of Jesus. A fitting end to an uplifting album that does not deny that life is tough but not hopeless with our Lord and Savior. “Please Jesus would you come close / and stay right here / I need you more than I know / I need you more than I know / So Jesus would you come close.”

www.hawknelson.com