Record Label: Independent
Genre: Progressive Metalcore
Release Date: July 2, 2021
Ransom (feat. Jonathan Franco of Mothaltar) 02:20
Hosea 1 02:31
Stoneheart (feat. Jeremy Schaeffer of Earth Groans) 03:24
Psalm 126 03:00
The Divide 03:22
Lights II 02:39
Context is a progressive metalcore band from Morgantown, West Virginia, whose goal is to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ through their passion for music. Formed by brothers James (vocals) and Kodey Watkins (drums/guitar) under the name Gatsby, due to numerous lineup changes, they went on hiatus until they met Kyle Powers (guitar/bass) at their local church in 2017. After changing their name to Context, they released their debut EP, Heart Journal (2018), then a deluxe version(2020), remixed with additional songs. (opens new window) Now, they have released "Kingdoms", their debut full-length album. Kingdoms deals with the concept of tearing down the false kingdoms of ourselves, other people, worldly ideologies, material possessions, then redirecting one's focus to the true Kingdom, the Kingdom of God.  (opens new window)
Whose Kingdom am I building?
My idols grow day by day Consuming me
Whose kingdom am I building?
Mine is not here to stay
Lord, break these idols and watch them fall.
Sustain my soul and be my all - Kingdoms
Sound and Production: This album sounds amazing. Everything is crystal clear, and each instrument has the chance to shine. The drums thunder throughout the album, while the guitars and bass take the lead in pushing each song forward onto the next. The vocals do not sound grainy, and they do not overpower any of the songs on the record. Each “voice”, if you will, is heard, and it sounds very professional all the way through. Context put a lot of time and effort into making this record sound crisp, and it shows. There is a concept in art called “negative space.” In simple terms, it is a blank space around the main piece of art. Context seems to take this idea and apply it in audio form on a couple of spoken word tracks and some of the main body tracks on "Kingdoms". Tracks like "Hosea 1" and "Psalm 126" comprise spoken word and some light piano work, that eventually build into the next track. "Psalm 126" even ends with some strings that create this epic and big soundscape that pummels through into the next track. Both tracks begin with only the spoken word and piano. There is not anything outside of that, at first, and that grabs the listener's attention right away. There is not even any static on those tracks. That was an interesting but smart choice.
Vocals and Style: As mentioned before, the vocals are crisp and clear. Ranging shrieking highs, to devastating gutturals, then bringing it back to those spoken word tracks, Context has a lot to offer on this record. Progressive metalcore is the main style of metal on display here. That is technical lead guitar, atmospheric elements, and complex instrumentation.  (opens new window) However, there are some touches of djent throughout "Kingdoms" as well. Each song differs from the last, making this an extremely enjoyable experience all the way through. They keep it fresh, and none of the songs get repetitive. From songs that have a chunky, bounce feel to them that would get a crowd moving, to more melodic songs, where the lead guitar plays some airy, almost ambient chords over the pounding drums and chugging bass and rhythm guitar, the variety is refreshing.
Final Thoughts: I could go on for a solid hour about how stellar "Kingdoms" is as a record, but I want to talk just a little more about those spoken word tracks. "Hosea 1" is an emotional sword, starting with the words, “I have to tell you bad news before I can tell you good news.” That instantly grabbed my attention, and it’s a good thing that it did because I soon heard one of the best and most in-your-face presentations of the Gospel. "Psalm 126" is next, and it opens with the line “Don’t waste your suffering.” These two tracks, while simple, are probably two of my favorites here. Both, to put it bluntly, are small sermons that are so beautifully and vividly worded. I do not want to give too much away, so without putting it off any longer, let’s get to that rating!
Reason: Context made this one easy for me. The pacing of Kingdoms as an album is perfect. This record is heavy while having moments of calm interspersed throughout that somehow make it even heavier. There is a lot of spectacular musicianship on display here and some exquisite messages coupled with that musicianship. Go buy this record and show them some love.
Songs to Try: Sojourn, Hosea 1, Psalm 126, Lights, Lights II and Maranatha.
- Bio (opens new window). Context Website
- Kingdoms Album Release Promo #2 (opens new window)
- Wikipedia. Progressive Metalcore (opens new window)