Today I have something a little different for a review. Once before, I’ve given my opinion on a CD, back in 2009 I recommended a Christmas CD to you: How Many Kings by the band Downhere. Well, it’s time for another CD review. Why?
Because Downhere has a new album out. That’s why. The new album is titled On the Altar of Love and it releases today. I pre-ordered a CD, and then was asked to do the review and had the opportunity to listen online to the whole thing. What can I say about this album? (click the link to go to Downhere’s Website so you can buy it!)
First of all, let’s talk about music style. Downhere is a four-man band, with guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard. However, they also have skills with trumpets, spoons, banjos, and more…not counting the studio musicians that come in and play a bit more. One bright spot to me about Downhere in general is that a live drummer as part of the band helps with the creative process. Drum tracks just aren't as fun.
Second, let's talk lyrics. At the end of this review, I've embedded the video to "Let Me Rediscover You." This song captures the strength of songwriting on this album. It does more than rhyme or have catchy lyrics. Rather, Marc, Jason, Glenn, and Jeremy have captured the simple complexity of the Gospel and set it to music that "Of all the mysteries still, the greatest to me is that You're faithful when I fall." It's the timeless truth of God's unending, unswerving grace alongside His holiness and majesty.
Further on lyrics are the words to "Thank You for the Heartbreak" asking "How can a love be a love without a cost?" These themes are developed and strong throughout the album. The lyrics have clear Scriptural connections and striking imagery. I'd reproduce it all here, but you need to hear it instead.
Then there is album flow to consider. In the age of iTunes and MP3 players, some artists have reached a point that they don't really build an album but instead bundle a group of singles for sale. This isn't an album to buy track-by-track. The ebbs and flows of the album together play well, though dividing them into your mix will work as well.
Finally, how does it all come together? The music shows remarkable talent, the writing shows depth, and the album is one that I would extend a rare privilege: I would give up preaching this Sunday morning to allow Downhere to sing these songs instead. It is lyrically focused on the Glory of God. The music and the words together drives the listener to think beyond the normal music.
In summary, when people complain about "fluff" music in Christian music; when people complain about "unfocused" or "shallow" music in Christian music; when someone says Christian music isn't "good artistry," it shows me they need to listen to On the Altar of Love. The album challenges on a personal level and a community level.