Hawk Nelson released their debut studio album LETTERS TO THE PRESIDENT on Tooth & Nail Records in 2004. Over the years the band has become known for songs such as: ‘California’, ‘Zero’, ‘Friend Like That’, and ‘Crazy Love’. DIAMONDS (2015, Fair Trade Services) is their second album since the departure of lead vocalist Jason Dunn. They filled the vacancy from within the band. The current lineup is: Jonathan Steingard (vocals, guitar)¸Daniel Biro (bass), Micah Kuiper (guitar), and David Niacaris (drums). Jon says: “The past few years have been a crazy ride for us HAWK boys. Lots of changes, lots of amazing blessings, and also quite a few challenges. This album was forged in the fire of some of those trials. It’s those times of pressure that God uses to shape us into something more beautiful. DIAMONDS sums up this truth we have found, that God is FOR US, He is not against us and that we have the freedom to JOYFULLY walk in the love, grace, and mercy He has freely given us”. Hawk Nelson uses several co-writers on this album, including: Jason Ingram, Sam Tinnesz, Jordan Mohilowksi, and Seth Mosley.
Up first is the title track, ‘Diamonds’. It is an adult contemporary song heavy on the percussion. It finds the band resting in God: “He’s making diamonds, diamonds/He’s making diamonds out of dust/He is refining and in His timing/He’s making diamonds out of us/I’ll surrender to the power of being crushed by love/’Til the beauty that was hidden/Isn’t covered up/Oh, it’s not what I hoped for/It’s something much better”. ‘Drops in the Ocean’ is an adult pop song that finds God assuring humanity of His care: “If you wanna know how far My love can go/Just how deep, just how wide/If you wanna see how much you mean to Me/Look at My hands, look at My side/If you could count the times I’d say you are forgiven/It’s more than the drops in the ocean”.
‘Just Getting Started’ finds the band coming out swinging: “We’re steppin’ in the ring and won’t let that lady sing/It’s over when we say it’s over/Been brushin’ off our shoulders/It’s not a twist of fate/We choose our own destiny/A trophy or a bruise/Champions never lose”. ‘Live Like You’re Loved’ is an inspirational pop song meant to boost self-esteem: “Go ahead and live like you’re loved/It’s ok to act like you’ve been set free/His love has made you more than enough/So go ahead and be who He made you to be and live like you’re loved/Live like you know you’re valuable/Like you know the One that holds your soul/Cuz mercy has called you by your name/Don’t be afraid to live in that grace”.
‘Sold Out’ is a dandy dance song that encourages us to go against the flow: “In a world full of followers, I’ll be a leader/In a world full of doubters, I’ll be a believer/I’m steppin’ out without a hesitation/Because the battle’s already been won/I’m sold out/I’m no longer living just for myself/Running after Jesus with my whole heart and now I’m ready to shout”. ‘Thank God for Something’ finds Jessica Steingard on background vocals and is all about having a proper perspective: “In the wonder, in the heartache/In the good times and the mistakes/No matter what I am going through/I can always say thank You/When the blessings are in disguise/Let gratitude open my eyes”.
‘Count on You’ is a pop/rock number that offers these words of testimony: “I can count on You when my strength’s not enough/You, when I’m lookin’ for love/You, when I’m standing on the edge and I’ve got nothing left/I’ve got front row seats to Your faithfulness/A spotlight shining on Your promises/And I can’t deny/You’ve shown me time after time that/I can count on You”. ‘Made to Live’ is a wonderful song that incorporates crowd vocals that were recorded at a Hawk Nelson show at Easterfest in Toowoomba. The song shows the band reflecting on their spiritual responsibilities: “So if I can learn to love the way You do/I’ll be leaving Your fingerprints/And when I stand up for what is true/I’ll be leaving Your fingerprints”.
Jessica and Annie Steingard perform backing vocals on ‘Straight Line’. It is the song of one with a sure purpose: “I’ll step into the light/It’s my time to shine/I’m walking in a straight line/Won’t compromise/The end in my sights/I’m walking in a straight line (3X)/So long apathy and goodbye regret/No more wandering/I know where I’m headed”. The closing song ‘Only You’ is the only one over four minutes long. This ballad includes this simple plea: “Please Jesus, would you come close and stay right here?/I need You more than I know/So Jesus, would You come close?”
DIAMONDS should appeal to both teens and young adults. It is mostly a Christian pop album, with touches of dance, rock, and adult contemporary music added in. The messages of the ten songs are truly life-giving and should serve to strengthen your faith in God and in yourself. I’m rating DIAMONDS 87.5% and recommending it to fans of Anthem for Today, Newsboys, and Audio Adrenaline. For more info visit: www.hawknelson.com and www.fairtradeservices.com.