Get your skinny jeans on and dust off your TOMS – Rend Collective are back, and this time safety glasses won’t be required as the Experiment is complete. And the results are good! Rend are releasing their new album soon (fittingly for a Northern irish band it comes out on March 17th, St Patrick’s day) and we got an advance listen.
After their first two studio albums Rend Collective were pretty popular. Then they released the live Campfire album and things snowballed to a whole new level. They became the go-to band for Christian hipsters everywhere. So the challenge was how do you follow up an album as defining as Campfire. It would have been easy for them to just carry on and try and replicate it with new songs. But Rend Collective don’t take the safe option. Campfire was so successful in part because it was so fresh and different, and in part because the worship was so genuine and heartfelt. They have carried on both trends on The Art of Celebration – the sound is fresh and pushes on beyond just replicating the sound of Campfire. This being a studio album they are able to make things more complex with the likes of synth that doesn’t work when you record on a beach. In past Rend have been called a “Christian Mumford & Sons”. Here they take folk-rock to a new place, and given their growing fame it may be that when Mumford & Sons return from their hiatus they are called a “Secular Rend Collective”.
The theme for this album is clear right from the start – joy. It is the name of the first song, and it is a theme that keeps recurring throughout. Again and again it is clear that this is a band that really enjoys what they are doing, and is overjoyed at the truth that we are “free from condemnation”. Lyrically this is a creative album with new and fresh poetic expressions of God’s love for us that doesn’t just repackage the same old clichés with new tunes
The first single from this album is the anthemic track My Lighthouse which is a powerful reminder that God will guide us ‘safe to shore’ through the storms of life and won’t let go (unusually for a Christian worship album it is being released with the hope of UK chart success, and it is testament to the musical respect Rend have gained in the mainstream that Radio 1 have given consideration to playing it.)
The song that most continues the folk-revival feel of Campfire is Create in Me, and with it’s simple footstomp inducing refrain of ‘Create in me a clean, clean heart, create in me a work of art’ it is sure to be hit when they play it live.
People who enjoy Rend’s more stripped back songs will enjoy Simplicity, which is a stripped back song where the minimalist musical style reflects the lyrical expression of coming to God in simplicity, seeking a childlike faith.
The album ends with title track Boldly I approach (The art of celebration) which starts of slow and stripped back and gradually builds into an all-out celebration of the fact that we are welcomed blameless into the arms of majesty.
More so than their previous albums there is a strong biblical thread running through the lyrics – songs are less abstract and more definitely directed to God. Again and again they sing about celebrating all God has done for us – a message the church needs, as so many services can be dull and boring. In addition to 11 songs the album has 2 bonus tracks – a live version of My Lighthouse which in my opinion is better than the studio version, adding even more energy and passion and acting as a nice teaser for the potential of these songs on tour; and a remixed version of Joy that adds some beats to make for a good workout worship song.
This is a well-crafted album that is highly recommended for all who like worship with deep, profound lyrics and some of the finest musical modern-folk excellence you will find anywhere. You can pre-order it now on iTunes etc.