Turn My Gaze Up is Pete Barnardo’s solo album; it is a 12-track Christian Rock LP that features the talented and creative Josh Whisker on drums (and Pete himself playing all other instruments). It was released in 2015 under the Come Home record label, and the cover art & design were the work of Ruth Barrat of Red Imagination Photography.
You can buy the album from Bandcamp, iTunes, and Amazon. Lyrics are available on Bandcamp (just click on the song name).
Now that the formalities are dealt with, let’s dive in! Having had the honor to meet the guy himself on his visit to Lebanon, I, on behalf of Metal Bell, have the privilege to listen to this piece of art and share my critical opinion of it. Without further ado, let us start reviewing!
Track 1 – Explosions in the Sky:
The album opens with a synth and an acoustic guitar riff. The drumbeat fits the music perfectly, and even manages to stand on its own. Pete’s vocal style is complementary to the music. The song is well structured. Ends rather suddenly.
Track 2 – The Battle:
This song is a short one, running for only two minutes. It starts from the get go, wasting no time. The guitar riff and drum beat get your blood running, as does the ‘clapping’ in the ‘quiet’ section. Noticeable is the relative lack of cymbals in the song; the beat focuses on the toms, which serves to further accentuate the crashes.
Track 3 – Eagles:
Definitely one of my favorites on this album. This is a chill song; I can easily imagine this as a soundtrack to some movie where the main character is going through a contemplative time, especially the intro. The use of synths, the acoustic guitar, and the simplistic drumbeat, even the vocal style and lyrics, all help in creating the atmosphere, and that is why I like this song so much, the atmosphere. Even when the direction the song is going in changes, the synths and sleazy electric guitar definitely help you stay in the mindset that you were in not so long ago; even when the music gains momentum. However, it would’ve been better if the climax wasn’t so abrupt, and if the return to the “chill state” wasn’t so abrupt either.
Track 4 – Praise the Lord O My Soul:
This is a very catchy song indeed. The music is progressing, but the lyrics seem to be on repeat, excepting a few changes. The lyrics are the first on the album where it is directly recognizable, as a worship song, but that does not stop him from getting creative both musically and vocally.
Track 5 – Hidden:
In the vein of the previous song, it is instantly recognizable as worship music, which is not a bad thing, not at all. The dominant instrument in this song is his voice. Everything else, from the synths to the drum beat and even the guitars, is still there, they just aren’t at the forefront. This greatly serves the purpose of the song, all the instruments are performing beautifully in their own right however.
Track 6 – Turn My Gaze Up:
The title track starts on a good note; it has the same aesthetic as Eagles, and Hidden, but much more upbeat. This song is full of experimental elements, which he further explores in the next track. The lyrics speak of the character looking up to God in Heaven. The guitar solo here is, frankly, great. Now that may seem as an understatement because of how overused that word is, but please take it in its original meaning, credits go to guitarist Tom Wing.
Track 7 – Streams of Living Water:
Definitely my favorite song on the entire record. The track is an instrumental, which gives space for the music to explore and develop. It’s as if all constraints were taken away, and the result is truly beautiful. The music progresses beautifully. The ambience and mood, I daresay it’s almost trippy. In my opinion, Pete Barnardo should go deeper into that musical realm, he has a lot of potential there (as a composer) and it would be interesting to see how it pans out.
Track 8 – Day He Comes Again:
A much more commercial song, the lyrics describe the day Jesus comes back (as can be easily deduced from the name of the song). The song could well be a single, it stands up on its own.
Track 9 – Beloved:
The song emphasizes the acoustic guitars and vocal. The imagery in the lyrics is interesting to say the least, as he says “Fire, Fire, Waters can’t quench this love”. It is unclear who exactly his beloved is, is it God speaking about a woman? Or is it Pete himself speaking? Sometimes, in art, it is better not to know.
Track 10 – Better Than This:
Continuing in the vein of the last few songs, this one is commercial as well. The way that the electric guitar blends with the song is noteworthy. The song features yet another solo from the electric guitar.
Track 11 – Hanging Here (Simplify):
This song is very repetitive, from musical, lyrical, and vocal perspectives. Unlike the rest of the album, there is nothing special about this song. It ends at the third minute, and then there is a bluesy/jazzy section that is about two minutes long; but the problem is that it does not serve the song.
Track 12 – Beyond the Skyline:
The closing track aesthetically revisits the first half of the album. The easygoing experimental side, that is. It is a very good song, that kind of serves as a wrap-up to the entire album. If you want a brief idea of everything that is included in the album, listen to this song.
Even though the album suffers from mixing and mastering difficulties, the music left a positive impact on me. When I listened to the album, I liked the music and it left a very favorable impression on me. Even though I’m not a fan of these Christian Rock bands, I really enjoyed listening to this album, enjoyed the variety, and the musical creativity on display. Isn’t that what matters, ultimately? Give the album a listen, it’s definitely worth it.
Read more by: Antoine Kanaan.
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