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The Art of Breaking 
Artist: Thousand Foot Krutch 
Label: Tooth and Nail Records
Length: 11 tracks; 40:52

The most immediately noticeable difference between TFK's previous work, _Phenomenon_, and this new release is not the shift from rapcore/hip-hop to razor-edged melodic rock, nor the lyrical change from straightforward Christian shouts to more artistically personal themes.  It's the sense of maturation, of a step-up in quality, of achieving genuine excitement and intensity where there was once typicality and mediocrity. 

The signs are everywhere on The Art of Breaking - TFK isn't content to be known as the guys who wrote that loved/hated "Rawkfist" song, nor are they content with using the same old tricks many Christian rock artists use to capture this industry's attention.  But it's not necessarily that they've become a new band; they do many of the same stuff they did previously, just far more tastefully.  

There's the existence of the soft ballad amongst the harder material, but here, it's tucked away late in the record and handled far more carefully.  Instead of sounding completely out of place like the overly-sentimental, obvious stab at CCM radio play that was "This Is a Call," The Art of Breaking's sole ballad, "Breathe You In," is personal and effectively heartfelt, and works especially well as the album's closer.  The album's big single, "Hand Grenade," is exactly what "Rawkfist" should've been; loud and fun, rather than loud and bombastic.  The excellence of some of this new material is nearly jaw-dropping---"Hurt" and "Slow Bleed" are the best examples; the former a creative mashing of urgent rock tones with a completely unexpected gentle piano-lead chorus, the latter bearing a slight punkish thrust with a sharp melodic chorus.  

The trio of mindless fist-in-the-air party tracks in the record's late midsection presents the weakest stretch of material on the album, and while it's enough to keep The Art of Breaking from being excellent, it's not enough to drag down the quality of the rest of the material.  Oddly, by stripping away the excess baggage and focusing on writing more stylistically straightforward material, TFK has dug up- and cleaned off for the rest of us to see and hear- their real talent; playing catchy and fun rock

What I once considered as possibly Tooth and Nail's second worst band is now a genuinely worthwhile outfit, making The Art of Breaking one of the most unexpectedly good records of the year.  The fans should be satisfied, and the nay-sayers should have a change of heart. The Art of Breaking is a blast to listen to.

Jonathan Avants 8/19/2005



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