Only a year and change after The Art of Celebration, Northern Ireland based worship/folk/rock/pop/electronic band Rend Collective is back with As Family We Go. While a short turnaround for a new album is a pleasant surprise (not to mention their stellar Christmas album), the end result is a little uneven. While this is still the band we know and love, the songs are less memorable this time around and a few tracks lack their signature sound. Though As Family We Go does not display the band at the top of their game, they still foster beautiful and exciting musical environments to praise God for both personal and corporate settings.
Paving the way for As Family We Go, lead single "You Will Never Run" is a catchy song about God's promise to never leave us. It's one of the most radio-ready songs on the album, but with a slick guitar riff and ridiculously singable lyrics, it's a cut above the grade for the pop-worship genre. But it's when the band experiments with their frenzied sound that the band really shines. Such songs include "Celebrate," "Free As A Bird," and "The Artist," which are all infectiously cheerful and loaded with a wide variety of instruments crafted into intriguing layers and textures. Granted, there isn't anything quite as extraordinary as "Build Your Kingdom Here" or "Burn Like A Star," but they are each strong in their own right.
When Rend Collective steps away from their worship party anthems, the results are a mixed bag. "One and Only" and "Never Walk Alone" are pleasant to listen to and vertically focused, but otherwise unremarkable and a minute longer than necessary. Similarly, the mid-tempo "Every Giant Will Fall" feels like a run-of-the-mill pop-worship song. But not all of these less energetic tracks are underwhelming. "Your Royal Blood" is a creative re-imagining of the famous hymn "Nothing But The Blood," featuring a bluesy electric guitar lick, a Hammond organ, and a chorus where lead singer Chris Llewellyn powerfully proclaims "Your blood will never lose its power." "Just A Glimpse" continues with a similar attitude of exploration with epic electronic undertones and passionately sung lyrics which crave a taste of God's infinite goodness.
The deluxe edition offers some decent remixes, but the two b-sides are the most notable additions. Complete with bagpipes, "Ireland's Call" is a fun tune of Irish pride while "You Never Weigh Me Down" is one of Rend Collective's slowest and most contemplative songs to date. "Ireland's Call" was right to be excluded from the regular edition, not because of inferior quality, but because of its thematic differences from the rest of the tracks. "You Never Weigh Me Down," however, would have been a beautiful replacement for one of the aforementioned weaker songs.
Few bands combine positivity with authenticity the way Rend Collective does. As Family We Go may not be their best effort, but it is still a valiant one. Fans will find a lot to love here, but if you haven't jumped on the Rend Collective bandwagon yet, start with The Art of Celebration or Campfire.- Review date: 8/6/15, written by Christopher Smith of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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