The road leading James Tunnell, aka Metal Saint, here has been long. Since laying his hands on his first guitar at thirteen years old, Tunnell has pursued his creative ambitions with the same passion and curiosity he still exhibits today. He is a multi-instrumentalist with genuine facility on everything he touches and his religious faith gives him a sturdy foundation and plethora of subjects to mine for his songwriting. His song “Choose” comes from the collection Things Foretold and reveals a recording artist infused with passion that his secular contemporaries can’t hope to match. Tunnell’s early influences like Iron Maiden and Malmsteen come through in the composition, but there’s an individual spirit brimming from every note and chord change that transforms these influences into something uniquely Tunnell’s own. It isn’t a small feat. Too many artists working in this form are content to rework proven formulas without any of the imaginative spark that makes the best music of this ilk succeed.
The track has a slow build concentrating on atmospherics and establishing a mood. Tunnell accomplishes this via a memorable guitar melody with enough gravitas to fit his subject matter and well placed drumming that knows how to rein itself in and not dominate the performance. The track runs a little over four minutes in length, but Tunnell is content to pursue this end for much of the tune before ratcheting up the sonic intensity just after the song’s midway point. It’s a seamless transition well in keeping with the song’s mood and amply proves Tunnell’s musical mettle. The construction of the track is rather obvious, in some respects, but his command of those fundamental building blocks is so complete that the predictability of its development has a pleasing inevitability. “Choose” makes much of its mark on the back of Tunnell’s near perfect assembly of elements.
It also makes its mark thanks to his deep, dramatic vocals. He makes the stakes clear. Turning your back on God, in Tunnell’s world, will cost listeners dearly and the fact he doesn’t deliver it like some fire and brimstone preacher but, instead, with glowering intensity somehow makes the performance all that much stronger. The lyrics have plain spoken poetry that pares the language down to its essentials and Tunnell’s ability to directly communicate as a writer helps the track stand out even more. “Choose” is framed in rather stark terms and contrasts, but it has a surprising accessibility for those not religiously inclined. It is, ultimately, a spectacular success on every level and promises much for the quality of Things Foretold as a whole. We are afforded a glimpse into the burning heart of James Tunnell’s belief and it’s an impassioned testimony of faith that has transformed and sustained his life. There are few, if any, songs you’ll hear this year that sound the same.