Worship music normally comes in three different styles: traditional, contemporary, and Hillsong. Whenever a new praise album comes out, you can always expect to hear similar sounds within the ten to twelve tracks that normally fill up the album (unless you're David Crowder, then it jumps to 27). And sadly, to see so much similarity from artist to artist and song to song is mildly heartbreaking. Typical themes that rule these albums are the glory of God, the greatness of God, and evangelism. While yes, expressing the greatness of God should always fill our songs, it seems that more and more "offerings" are sounding the same. Along with that, instead of expressing who we are before the Lord, we end up hiding our faults, struggles, and issues under masks of praise. Thankfully, something refreshing is afoot! A group straight out of Europe, known as Rend Collective Experiment, is pouring their hearts out in their very own Organic Family Hymnal.
The album opens beautifully with "Come on My Soul." To say that the lyrics and melody are simple would be an understatement; it's the simplicity that draws the listener in, creating a great foundation for a worshipful atmosphere. "Faithful" follows, however going a very different direction; while the opener was uncomplicated, this track is. With brass horns blaring and busy music it almost has a ska approach to worship. The song isn't the most original in lyrical content but a raw honesty seems to fill the verses as the folks of Rend sing, "Such grace that no man could ever repay, patience that outlives the doubts in my head, faithful Jesus an offering of praise I bring to You." Also one extra plus to this track are the additional vocals of the legendary David Crowder, who considers himself and is an ordained honorary member of the Collective.
"Movements" continues in the raw worship, with indie flair, declaring the need and desperation to move closer to the Lord, despite doubts and struggle. "You Bled" is the first real slow song in this "hymnal." While once again not the most lyrically creative, its transparency is strong, declaring that Jesus took our ugliness, sadness, and embraced our rejection. An excellent benefit of this track is the ability to use it in corporate worship; with a simple and communal melody it is not harmed but improved with additional voices. "Exalt" is another great example for local church worship music lists. The worship pastor/leader will just have to decide if the lyrics, "I exalt you… You're the color of my world," are going to put off the laity or encourage them. For some it might be strange, but others it might be a great expression of worship.
The songs "Broken Bread," "God is Near," "Too Much," and "You Are Love" are truly some excellent songs for personal or even small group setting worship. Each song is very acoustic driven and even have a soft Celtic undertone. While they might not be the ones heard during a Sunday service, these might be some of the best songs for devotional readings and prayer. On a different note is the epic "Above Everything Else." With a combination of progressive/aggressive instrumentation and words that point out the reality of life and the reality of Jesus, this is hands down one of the best worship songs of 2010. As the Collective sing, "You are… Greater than life itself, more precious than perfect health, finer than friendship or romance, more needed than oxygen, more pleasing than thrill or fame, stronger than death or gravity." Beautifully transparent, this song is so potent it might just be one of the songs that we all sing in Heaven.
"Thine Be the Glory" is really the only song that is a hiccup in the album. While it is not a bad song, it really doesn't have the same impact as its predecessors and sadly it feels sloppy. However this is made up for by "Love Divine" which provides a very prayerful atmosphere. It's truly a psalm at heart; very verbose but with a gorgeous melody that stirs up emotions as they sing of the glory of God. "Find Your Kindness" concludes the hymnal on a fun-loving high note. While not a typical worship song, it's all about loving your neighbor, which is something we all need to be reminded of… daily.
Now let me be clear, this album will not be to everyone's liking. If you're a big fan of Arcade Fire, David Crowder, Celtic music, or even indie music superstar Sufjan Stevens, this is what your heart has needed. Regardless, what our friends in Rend Collective Experiment have provided is something that is hard to find in modern day worship music: Honesty. This organic hymnal screams the praises of God but does not deny the fault filled, doubt infested, and war plagued world we live in. On the contrary, they embrace it and call to the Lord for help. With such an incredible debut, I look forward to seeing what else comes out of this collective group. More than that, this might be the music that stirs up a Christ-filled revolution in Europe.
- PReview date: 9/9/10, Review date: 9/26/10, written by Ryan Barbee of Jesusfreakhideout.com