By Josh Taylor, jesusfreakhideout.com
To be fair, Kevin Max is one of the finer musical craftsmen in CCM today. His voice, his poetry, his musical intricacies… to deny him his due would be naÃƒÂ¯ve at best and distasteful at worst. It is because of this that Crashing Gates is a confusing listen. Max is known for taking creative risks, but this one just does not pay off. There are exceptions along the way, but as a whole, this is a strange seven-track journey that probably sounded better in theory than in actuality.
It starts off with probably the weakest track of the bunch. The chorus to "Traveler" is, for a lack of a better word, weird. The song itself is intriguing enough: An ode to the knowledge that we are nothing without our Maker, yet wallowing in apathy, regardless. However, the chorus plays out with a borderlining annoying series of needless "uh" sounds after each line. This matched with the fact that the drums sound bored and uninspired, and the whole thing sounds more like an early demo of a track that is meant to eventually be more fleshed-out.
Unfortunately, these problems aren't resolved by album's end. They simple show up over and over. Indeed, the best way to describe it is to think of it as an EP that just was not completed. The foundations are present, they are just not brought to fruition. Crashing Gates sounds as if it was meant as an attempt to capture some sort of indie sound. And this coming from an indie lover, it is a lot easier to transition from indie to mainstream than the other way around.
All of this being said, there is a diamond or two to be found in the rough. Most of the guitar work throughout the EP is solid, striking just the right, subtle chords that drive the point home. This theme throughout the record and "Baby, I'm Your Man," which is an all-around great track, from beginning to end, keep Crashing Gates afloat. That song works because it sounds the most natural and uncontrived on the EP.
With repeated listens, Kevin Max's latest gains more appeal, but it's still just not his best work. Here's to hoping next year's announced release runs with what works on this project, and gets rid of what does not. Max is good at his craft. He always has been, and he will only get better with time. Crashing Gates is just a bump on the journey.