I create my own prison, holding the keys inside.
Punishing myself for all these crimes.
And I’m trying to convince God that I’m not a waste of his time. —“Shame”
II: The Sword comes across as a much more contemplative and humble album than recent Andy Mineo releases. There are flashes of swagger, but these are surrounded by moments of introspective vulnerability. II: The Sword continues on from his I: The Arrow EP from 2014.
The introduction of the album is a short track called “Almost . . .” with guest David James, starting with the question What if your greatest fears are smaller than you think? Within this question is a mixture of uncertainty and hope that pervades what follows.
Other songs pose deep questions. “Friends” asks what true friendship is, answering by observing what friendship isn’t. He laments, “And lately, all my new friends just my co-workers/so where I go when my soul hurtin’?” Humanity’s common desire for deep friendships is evident.
The song “None of My Business” provides an interesting perspective on how to respond to criticism, particularly the trolls and haters online. He raps, “Yeah, if you don't like me, that's your problem/When I let it bother me, that's my problem,” saying that it shouldn’t be our concern what other people say. Mineo admits the difficulty of taking his own advice as at one point in the song his anger grows and he raps that if it weren’t for God, he’d be tempted to violence. Then he brilliantly catches himself and admits how easy it is to be a hypocrite and get caught up in what other people think.
Mineo references a variety of styles and memes of past music. The song “Crazy” uses elements of the African-American spiritual “Standing in The Need of Prayer” to find a way forward through intense online criticism. He creates a soundscape that builds this tension to a point where the listener feels his desperation; the song ends unresolved, similar to many spirituals.
“Shame” is the final and strongest track of the album, starting with a character who is experiencing deep shame and self-hatred, referencing porn addiction in the second verse. As the song continues, featured vocalist Josh Garrels hauntingly repeats the refrain “Jesus washes away all of my sin.” This realization begins to dawn on the song’s character, building to a powerful climax. Shame no longer imprisons; the knowledge that we are loved and forgiven reigns.
II: The Sword explores common human experiences—particularly feelings of loneliness, shame, and doubt—that many can relate to. In these moments of uncertainty and despair, listeners are reminded of common Christian truths around prayer, love, and forgiveness. Many will find encouragement in the raw honesty of Andy Mineo. (Reach Records)