No one could have wanted it to happen like this. How ironic to have the release of perhaps your greatest album to date overshadowed by the news that the defining voice of your band is leaving.
It appears that alt-rockers Flyleaf’s third album, aptly titled New Horizons, actually marks the end of an era for the band even as it announces a new one. Just days before the album’s release, the band announced frontwoman Lacey Sturm has decided to step down as lead vocalist for Flyleaf, evoking a collective response of dismay from fans. The news comes on the heels of another blow to the band, the loss of sound engineer Rich Caldwell in a car wreck—an event which may have played into Sturm’s own decision to leave.
Sturm said the following in a statement posted on the band’s website:
“I have been beyond blessed to be in Flyleaf for the past ten years, touring with 4 amazing men and the Flyleaf crew…I am very thankful to have recently become a mom to one of the greatest blessings of my life, my son Jack. You may have also heard that we recently lost our brilliant sound engineer, Rich Caldwell, in a devastating car accident. Now, more than ever, I understand the phrase Memento Mori. I understand that, for me, living life to the fullest in this season means to step down as the lead singer for Flyleaf.”
While Sturm’s decision to re-prioritize in favor of family is certainly praiseworthy, her departure definitely raises some questions as to whether Flyleaf can live up to the bar set by New Horizons itself. Expectations were already high since Memento Mori put the band on the map in 2009, and the new record meets those expectations head-on with a short-but-sweet collection of well-crafted, hooky, lyrically poignant rock tunes—a clear indication that Flyleaf is just now hitting its stride. Standouts on the 30-minute track list are numerous, beginning with the powerful opener “Fire, Fire”, and continuing with the passionate cries of “Call You Out” and “Bury Your Heart,” and the chunky, driving “Green Heart.” The album is a clear winner, showcasing Flyleaf’s continued growth and evolution up to this point.
The question is, can they keep the momentum going? It’s more than just replacing a lead singer; given the nature of Flyleaf’s sound, female vocalists with the growling-to-screaming diversity of Lacey Sturm are admittedly difficult to find.
To the band’s credit, they’ve selected perhaps the best candidate possible as a replacement for Sturm: Vedera lead singer Kristen May. If there’s anyone who can fill Strum’s shoes, May can certainly come close. Nevertheless, it is impossible to replace a lead vocalist without changing the band’s sound, and while Flyleaf’s prospects are certainly good for the future, the fact remains that the songs on New Horizons just won’t sound the same live when the band tours the album. For that reason alone, it might be worth it to get a copy of the record, because Flyleaf won’t sound exactly like this again.