When Seventh Day Slumber titled their latest effort (and first for Tooth and Nail Records) Once Upon a Shattered Life, it was more than an eye-catching phrase or compelling means to listen. Instead it was birthed from the severe struggles and setbacks faced within the group and the desire to be reborn through Christ’s cleansing blood. Sure, there have been plenty of emotional testimonies tossed around within the confines of Christian music over the years, but rarely has there been one so enthralling and encouraging as these guys, particularly that of front man and founder Joseph Rojas, once known to have a $400 a day cocaine habit.
“The easiest way to summarize it is to say I felt so empty inside that I just wanted to die,” the singer says with a somber demeanor. “My father left when I was three, by twelve I thought of ending my life by pulling the trigger and I was using drugs by the time I turned fourteen. I was getting into trouble with the law, became a convicted felon and then my addiction spiraled out of control, turning into me spending more money on drugs than I was making selling them.”
After years of reckless living, continued run ins with the legal system, dozens of failed rehab attempts and absolute hopelessness, Rojas hit rock bottom with an overdose, during which paramedics rushed to save his life. Though there had never been any formal spirituality in the angst filled teen’s life, there was something about seeing the ambulance’s lights flash brightly before his weary eyes that finally clicked after so much endless searching.
“I was laying there realizing I was about to die and knew I needed to do something,” he recalls. “In every rehab center I went to, there was always this mentioning of reaching to a higher power. For some reason that night, I reached out to God and asked him to save me from the situation.”
Getting that extra chance at life following the episode confirmed to Rojas that he was indeed being looked after, and despite having no earthly dad, realized his Heavenly Father was there as a means of deliverance. Granted the road to recovery didn’t happen overnight, but after being released from the hospital, the one time addict found himself free and wanting to dedicate his life to the Lord.
“I’m not gonna lie and say it changed over night, but it started to get less and less and so did other bad habits like swearing and smoking,” he confides. “Once I got my act together, I went to Bible College at Christ for the Nations in Dallas and that’s where God started laying songwriting on my heart. I had messed around with guitar before, but that’s when I really decided to take it seriously and offer something back to God.”
Such a series of events was the catalyst for Seventh Day Slumber to form, which after its initial practice sessions, transformed into a pair of independent releases and subsequent tours. Displaying such vulnerability in the lyrics and possessing a bone crunching rock sound to reach a hurting audience translated to an incredible connection with listeners and eventually lead to the national effort Picking Up the Pieces. That project yielded five top ten R&R Christian Rock hits (“My Struggle,” “Candy,” “I Know,” “Innocence” and “Spiraling”) the first three of which went to number one, along with a BMI Award for “Most Played Music at Christian Rock Radio” and a Dove Award nomination. But more than just basking in the glow of those achievements, Rojas, bassist Joshua Schwartz, guitarist Jeremy Holderfield and drummer Ray Fryoux sought to strip back the barriers between the crowd and stage to relate on a spiritually intimate level.
“It’s always been our goal as a band to really relate to fans and I think we’re able to do that so well because we’ve been exactly where they are before,” he contends. “There is so much hurting, so much pain that we see when we look out and a lot of times living a Christian life can get sugar coated from the stage. That’s just the opposite for us since we’ll be the first to share how we’ve messed up and asked people to pray for us as we’re all still far from flawless.”
Though personally the gang admits to not being perfect, they’ve finally found the record label home that works best for them, which will no doubt be an integral element in distributing this eternal message. Seventh Day Slumber inked with Tooth and Nail Records earlier this year after being courted by its figurehead Brandon Ebel, who had been tracking the band’s progress for several years.
“We’ve stayed on the road solid and have kept committed to Christ, so I think those were attractive qualities to the label,” Rojas offers. “Brandon said he heard a bunch of good things about us and knew we were committed to ministry. In getting to know him, he saw we weren’t blowing smoke and that we really do seek to please God.”
In terms of both lifting up the Lord and reaching out to others, Once Upon a Shattered Life is stocked solid with ten gripping tracks. Issues relating to Rojas’ recovery are plentiful, as are references to being born again (brought first hand by Fryoux) a look at divorce and rebellion (contributed by Holderfield) and a commitment to sexual purity (conveyed by Schwartz). Such scenarios are steeped in reality, but also intertwined with a tangible hopefulness that promises peace when truly surrendering over a life of sin.
“The fact of the matter is there are kids we talk to every day that want to end their lives, just like I did at one point, because their struggle is so great,” Rojas relays. “We’re trying to point them toward the truth and we’re not afraid to lay ourselves on the line in these songs in order to do that.”
Those exposed souls can be found first hand throughout the album in captivating alternative rock romps, akin to the likes of mainstream giants Incubus, Staind and Nickelback. Take for instance the redemptive qualities of the barreling “Brand New Man,” the prompting to strip back life’s painful masks on the mesmerizing “Masquerade” and the need to commit our life to the Lord’s will in the scorching “Break Me.” There’s also the melodic nature of the Prodigal Son themed “Shattered Life,” the gentle introspection about self-esteem on “Caroline” and the prayerful disposition of genuine repentance throughout “I Believe.”
“I think our lyrics are really God breathed on this record and we’ve already gotten so many emails about a song changing someone’s life,” Rojas summarizes. “Basically, we want people to understand that we’re not rock stars or anyone that’s better than they are. We’re just a bunch of guys who are still leaning on God’s grace and we can attest to His incredible power in forgiveness. He doesn’t sit up in heaven wanting you to be afraid because you’re not holy enough to come to Him. We want this record to be a testimony that God wants everyone to let Him in and to pray that whatever’s messing you up gets turned around. I can promise from personal experience that’s exactly what He’ll do!”
Source: BEC Recordings