The very first song I heard by Strongarm was their cut on the first volume of Tooth & Nail’s Helpless Amongst Friends compilation. The song they contributed was “Count the Cost,” an admonition to believers to bear the sacrifice and burdens of being a follower of Christ. That song really impressed me and convicted me about my own Christian life, something that stuck with me.
Strongarm’s Atonement is no different. Strongarm has some very insightful and powerful songs, lyrically and musically. I’m not too familiar with the hardcore scene, so I can’t really make any comparisons to bands. But this album is heavy.
All of the musicianship is top-noptch and tight. The sound quality is crisp and well-produced. I’ve often wondered about the stamina of artists who play this music; the frenetic rate at which they play their instruments can only be God-given. Jason Berggren’s vocals are truly awe-inspiring as he snarls and roars throughout the album. Surprisingly, this ferocity doesn’t come at the loss of the message’s clarity; everything he says comes across clearly and plainly. This shows considerable talent, considering the intensity with which he sings.
The album begins with “Division,” which decries ignorance and the blindness that hatred and anger breeds. “Trials” is an open account of the struggles that Christians face: “Again and again I struggle with myself, my shortcomings/My strength, my soul, so weary of this/I have to face the pain of my fault/Within these tests, these trials, the marks I miss.” In the end, though, the purpose of such trials is revealed, along with the strength that we’ve been given to overcome them.
While most of the songs deal with internal struggle and demons, “Innocence Lost” deals with the pain and shame of abortion. But where some Christians would like to speak in images of judgment and despair, Strongarm uses a message of hope: in “a life of regret, still grace abounds.” People who’ve chosen abortion as a way out don’t need the hatred or judgment of Christians. Strongarm sets an example by realizing that God’s grace still abounds to them.
In the end, Strongarm looks at the Church with Atonement’s most moving song. “Strengthened in Faith” contains one of the most perfect statements of the strength and power we as Christians have. To a breakneck, marching beat, Berggren proudly states:
Accomplishing the perfecting of our faith
An understanding of what is right
Accepting our allotment in this life
These days are numbered, rooted in turmoil
We must fight the good fight
Every day brings a spiritual battle
Not exceeding anyone’s limitations
To refine us so that we may be prepared for the next
Though we become weary
It has been granted unto us
The ability to remain loyal, unshaken in spirit
I could go on quoting lyrics from Atonement. Each song features thoughtful, well-written lyrics that are founded on Christian ideology. If there is any one theme that runs through this album, it’s that this life is full of struggles, but Christ’s strength in us allows us to prevail. This is something that we as Christians need to reminded of as often as possible.