Tony Cummings brings the story-so-far on a brutal band with a passion for Jesus, FOR TODAY
There are hundreds of Christian bands currently assaulting America's clubland with the brutal sounds of metalcore. But almost certainly there's only one band, Iowa's For Today, whose frontman has released a spoken word worship album on which he addresses such issues as pornography, fasting, prophecy and depression. For Today are clearly not our average metalcore band and Mattie Montgomery is not your average hardcore growler. He told HM magazine, "I've felt for a long time that our generation is, in large part, a generation without spiritual leadership. And the spiritual leadership we do have often comes from a place of religion instead of true revelation and intimacy with God. I believe there are a few people in our fathers' generation that have laboured to see us free from the bondage of tradition-based religion and because of that, we are a people who are fed up with simply attending church and pretending like everything is okay. We are a generation who are hungry for the real, living God, so I believe that it will be a prophetic voice from within our generation that is going to call us into God's destiny for us. So, as an underground music scene, that operates outside the four walls of the church, I believe that God is calling this voice out from our group to declare the name of the true, living God and his son, Jesus Christ, to a generation. I made this [spoken word] album to offer this call to our generation - that we can build upon the progress of our fathers and step into the fullness of God in our time."
Mattie hopes that his independently released 'When Sons Become Fathers' CD will bear fruit. "I hope that God will use this to challenge a group of young men and women to step up and become the leader that God has called them to be. People talk to me is if I am somehow a better Christian than them, or they'll say things like, 'Man, it's just so inspirational the way you love Jesus.' Those people are profoundly deceived. Love is an action word. It's not the way I feel about Jesus that makes what we do so powerful, it's the fact that I choose to act out my love for Jesus, instead of just talking about it. When you really love someone, you can't shut up about them - you want everyone to know how you feel and how great this person is and why you love them. Anyone that claims 'I love Jesus' but can't seem to find the courage to stop people in their schools and in the streets to talk about how great he is. . . Well, I have to question the reality of their 'love' for Jesus. But, I pray that this release challenges people in this area and brings them to a place where Jesus really is all they need, and they are willing to risk man's approval to gain God's."
Mattie's band For Today emanate from a tough town not known for its music scene, Sioux City, Iowa. Consisting of Mattie Montgomery (vocals), Ryan Leitru (guitar, vocals), Mike Reynolds (guitar), Brandon Leitru (bass) and David Morrison (drums), the band hadn't started with a clear spiritual direction. Said drummer David Morrison, "The band actually started as a garage band five and a half years ago, and when we became a five-piece not everyone was a Christian. Through prayer and Christ's never failing grace, we've all grown into our ministry together, which is preaching the truth of the Gospel wherever we go, and on whatever tour, every night."
For Today took to the road and by 2008 were acknowledged in the modern metal underground as one of the most technically proficient groups on the scene. In 2007 alone they played over 200 gigs. The band were signed to Christian hard music label Facedown Records. The company from Fallbrook, California, put For Today with producer Jamie King (He Is Legend, Secret Lives Of The Freemasons) at The Basement Studios in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Journalist Brad Moist summed up the subsequent album 'Ekklesia', "It's a Midwest metalcore album that is as ferocious as it is passionate."
The following year For Today returned to Jamie King's Basement Studios to record the 'Portraits' album. Before its release by Facedown in March 2009, Mattie spoke excitedly about the project. "We've been locked up for over two months now, pouring ourselves into our new album. We are excited and proud to say that finally it's finished! All of our new material is technically, creatively and spiritually far above anything we've put out in the past. You can expect 'Portraits' to be heavier, catchier and more technical than our previous album 'Ekklesia' and for it to stand with more authority and conviction than ever before."
As it turned out, HM magazine claimed 'Portraits' "sacrifices originality in an attempt to spread its message in a tired genre" and pronounced it "very unmemorable." Other reviews thought differently. Loudside.com pronounced it "a fantastic album worthy of attention from anyone looking for melodic metalcore or deathcore"; sputnikmusic.com pronounced "For Today will be around for a long time if they keep up releases like this" and ultimate-guitar.com enthused "this album kicks all other metalcore Christian [albums] out the window." Perhaps HM's negative review should be looked at in the same light as their review in 2003 of Switchfoot's 'The Beautiful Letdown' when their journo wrote the album was "perfectly titled. . .and I'm not talking about the words 'the' or 'beautiful'" yet in 2010 was named number 11 by HM in The Top 100 Christian Rock Albums Of All Time.
The HM review was probably a small disappointment to a band so keenly focussed on ministry. Said Mattie Montgomery, "We've seen that, in bars and clubs - in very dark places - people are still coming to see Jesus, for real. I think one of the most courageous things a person can do is to acknowledge that they need a saviour. And, we've had people with broken wrists or with cancer coming for prayer and being touched with the power and love of God. We've had people come to our shows claiming to be an atheist and leave having experienced the REAL God - not the God they read about in some book or heard some old man talk about on TV. We truly are a generation who are fed up with religion. And, I believe that God is honouring that in a real, practical way by making himself manifest in the hard hearts of an abandoned generation."
For their third Facedown album 'Breaker' For Today have brought in another big name producer. Said David Morrison, "We recorded the record with Will Putney at The Machine Shop in New Jersey. They've done all sorts of crazy records like Lamb Of God, Chiodos, Haste The Day, etc. Will is an amazing producer and engineer and he had a lot of really cool ideas to tweak songs while recording. In the end, the record is better because of our time spent with him. We have definitely progressed as musicians over the years while doing this band, but the record still sounds like a For Today record. There is a sing-a-long in the song 'Seraphim' which says, 'Take your flame, ignite the world" and I hope it gets stuck in all of your heads forever!"The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.