More Than Nails in Northeast Ohio

"The vision isn't worth anything without a cause." With that, Clevelander, Larry Toler makes a big statement concerning the motivation behind More Than Nails. A desire to minister is at the forefront of the band's formation and purpose. The lyrics demonstrate this, and professionalism is heard in the overall musical package of this band from Northeast Ohio.

After a year of prayer, Larry (bass) started out on another yearlong journey, first picking up good friend Chuck Bragg (drums) to form the nucleus of the band. A rather miraculous orchestration of "timing" immediately brought Jim Amundsen (electric guitar & BGVs) into the fold, and the quartet was completed about a year ago with Jon Grandt (lead vocals, acoustic guitar). Larry convincingly tells me he's "never been in a band where everybody got along so well." Even so, the world is flowing over with Christians who can get along while playing instruments. Is this another flash-in-the-pan band? Doubt it.

More Than Nails must have gone into the studio with a very good idea of what they wanted and how to get it - a wise decision. What they wanted, according to Larry, was for us to hear what we would if we saw the band live. It's not surprising that they had only about 20 hours to put their project together in the studio. What is surprising was how well these guys fared. The 10-song collection, "Never Die," is a respectable combination of soulful, rock-oriented, original praise songs and freshened-up covers.

Immediate comparisons to Creed and Third Day are easy, but lazy. Jon's passionate vocals are of the grit-and-breath baritone variety, and he even resembles Scott Stapp. His take on the remakes alone proves he is a vocalist. While the band's southern/classic rock influences are worn on the sleeve, there is enough original influence to set MTN apart. Jim's tasty, well-placed solos, Jon's voice, and the band arrangements make even the covers into something worth listening to at least once more. After only six months of being a full band, of course there's room for improvement, you can hear that they already are on the way.

Once I got past the bumps of the forced-grunge-sounding title track and two covers, More Than Nails came out to play with "My Soul Cries Out", a dynamic pop anthem of praise. (It should be noted that the mastering engineer simply sequenced the songs in the order they were recorded, not how they were intended to be laid out.) It's not until the band "theme" song that MTN, uh, nails down their sound, and by then you're starting to enjoy the ride. They thoroughly update the hymn, "Take My Life," and follow that up with the earnest, mid-tempo, "So Deep." After the fourth cover, come two more originals to round out this incarnation of the CD. "You Complete Me," while honest, goes a bit over the top with crooning, and "Never Die" comes to a satisfying close with what is a peek into a worship songwriter's process, the very-live-in-the-studio, confessional "Hold Me Now."

Larry humbly points out that they "pray about everything" concerning the band. Jim adds that they want to "reach thousands of people with the words that we say, and encourage and uplift people the way other Christian artists have done for us."

They have a cause.


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