Not of This World is a Christian hard rock/metal project that centers around Clay Ashbrook’s musical compositions and the ubiquitous vocalist, Dale Thompson (Bride). Founded in 2021, they released their debut album, “Never Forget,” in 2022 on Roxx Records with many prominent guest artists. Armed with that experience, Clay has forged ahead with the next chapter in NOTW with their sophomore release, “I Am With You.”
“I Am With You” has been presented as an Alice in Chains-inspired album with a mix of heavy and acoustic songs. The music was written and recorded by Clay in his home studio except for the vocals and lyrics, which were provided by Dale Thompson. The goal was to have a wide ranging album where there is a little bit for everyone on the album.
On the whole, I was disappointed with album finding it difficult to appreciate, however there are a few enjoyable musical moments. The songs on the album are close to a 50/50 split between heavy rock/metal tracks and acoustic folk tracks with Dale given free range on the mic throughout the whole album. The songs feel like psychedelia in that the tracks are almost featureless expanses that vary imperceptibly over the course of the song. Although songs may stretch in excess of five minutes, it doesn’t sound like they go anywhere.
The issues that I had with the album center around the musical writing, performance, and the mixing.
The musical writing lacked any emotional build up or breakdown leading to a flat feeling. With few exceptions, the songs would have all the instruments and voice going for the entire song with only minor variations in riffs or musical ideas. It sounded like all of the instruments (voice included) were talking at once, like a crowded cafeteria instead of a musical conversation. Less is more. Taking out one voice or another every now and again would make it more interesting. The songs would also benefit from defined sections with varying musical character. Taking more chances and making bold changes would greatly help.
The performances on the instruments felt a little disjointed at times like they weren’t in sync making some of the tracks hard to listen to. It sounds like there is a drum program supporting, which isn’t an issue, but probably needs to be massaged a little more to sound natural. That being said, I also found at times Dale’s vocals were inconsistent with the underlying instruments, particularly when he belts out these high notes that portend a dramatic shift or climax, but the music is still just chugging along. Back to the less is more mantra, I liked the brief windows of instrumental playing without vocals. Possibly more editing around lyrics/vocals could also help.
The mixing could have also improved the overall result of the recording. The drums sounded low in the mix causing an overall sludgier result in the heavy tracks due to the lack of rhythmic accents. There seemed to be inconsistency with the relative volume of the guitars and voice where sometimes the lead guitars were playing right in the same sonic space as the vocals making it hard to hear the vocals, while at other times Dale was crooning over the top of the instruments.
Now, it isn’t all rough on this album. Although presented as a metal project, I enjoyed the acoustic tracks the most. “Strangers in a Strange Land” is by far the highlight of the album. There is acoustic guitar and piano setting the mood and Dale’s voice fits perfectly within the mix. I actually could feel hope and optimism that was being conveyed in the song and thought it was pretty good. It showcased that less really is more. I also like the bluegrass/Appalachian feel of “Lily of the Valley.” A little repetitive, but wasn’t too bad.
All that being said, I am glad that NOTW is out there making music to Jesus and about Jesus. The heart is what matters. I would encourage Clay to continue to refine his craft and lean on lessons that Dale has learned over the years of his career to help build music that will resonate with others. I am looking forward to seeing how NOTW develops in the future for the next release.
Written by Sean Bailey
1 – The Holy One
2 – I’m Not Broken
3 – Living Sacrifice
4 – Darkness
5 – Strangers in a Strange Land
6 – I Don’t Want it Any Other Way
7 – A New Day
8 – When Jesus Comes Back
9 – Lilly of the Valley
10 – I am With You
Not Of This World is:
Clay H. Ashbrook – instruments
Dale Thompson – vocals
Release Date: February 16, 2024
Record Label: Roxx Records
Never Forget (2022)
I Am With You (2024)
Lyric Video for ‘The Holy One’