Review Date: 4/22/2014
Review By: Iain Moss
Release Date: 4/22/2014
Rating: [usr 9.5]
In October 2012, the Monaghan, Ireland based worship outfit The Remission Flow released their debut album The Light That Floods. Now, today, they return with their sophomore offering Rhythms Of Grace (7Core Music).
The 7-piece worship band’s vision is to lead people in experiencing the radical love of God and encourage them to return to their individual lives completely impassioned and transformed, so they can impart a positive impact on the community around them. They’re also seriously passionate about setting our churches on fire (not literally!) for God and uniting people in worship captivated by the Word of our Lord and Saviour so the united body of Christ can worship in freedom and abandonment. It’s safe to assert that with Rhythms Of Grace they’ve continued their trend of filtering this vision through into their music.
After the initial burst of quiet distorted guitar riffs, the reverberations set the backdrop as Darren Mulligan’s raw, honest and gritty vocals pierce through the music after just a second to commence Rhythms Of Grace with the album opener “Grace And Truth.” Immediately you are transported away from your current surroundings and into your own blissful place, be it your living room, a hilltop overlooking a lake, a clearing in the woods, as Darren opens up with the strikingly relaxing and reassuring lyrics, “Yeah it was grace that brought me near, and it was truth that set me free, and it was love that healed my aching soul, but only blood can make me whole.” Considering the fact that the striking album cover is simply emblazoned with a lone drummer hammering away on a kettledrum, one would expect the drums to feature prominently throughout Rhythms Of Grace. That is indeed the case, and after just 20 or so seconds they burst into life to really help give the track the extra emphasis it needs to effectively carry the message of hope deep into the listener’s soul. “You are grace, you are truth, you are merciful and kind, your name, it echoes through the ages, your arms are open wide.” Lyrics such as the repeated, “God you are for me, I want you all, I need your grace, and in truth I’ll never fall,” really go the extra mile to hammer home the message.
Although “Before The Dawn” opens up with the clichéd “I know that it is darkest just before the dawn, I’ll be holding on to you until it comes,” and contains many ‘oh-oh-oh-ohs’ the lead single from Rhythms Of Grace quickly gets into its stride as being one of the standout songs on the album. Carrying with it a message of encouragement that our trials are only for a season and that His mercies are new every morning, “Before The Dawn” is certainly one of the pop-pier songs on the record and will stick in the listener’s heads for hours for all of the right reasons.
After the relatively clichéd “Before The Dawn,” “Melody” kicks off at the other end of the lyrical spectrum with the imaginative and powerful imagery, “Your name is a burning fire shut up in my bones, shut up in my bones, it can’t be contained, it can’t be constrained, you are alive, stirring my bones,” before entering into various repetitions of “sing to the Lord oh my soul” and “spirit of the living God come fall on me.” Musically, as is with the rest of the album, things are kept simple and, when mixed with the simple lyrics and the female backing singers, the song takes on a contemplative aura, a stark contrast to the preceding song.
The spine tingling atmospheric ending to “Your Love Is A Melody” leads beautifully into “Turn Around,” a song which builds beautifully as it goes along, telling the story of Jesus’ sacrifice and the positive side effects of that as it goes. The drums play a massive part in the build ups in this song, and do what great drums in worship music do, continue to add to the song even when they suddenly are suddenly taken out for more intimate moments of worship.
Once again the drums provide the main driving force as “Fearless” kicks off with an alternative rock feel to it, with the backing drum heartbeat mixing with a combination of guitar riffs, the unmistakably melodic piano tunes and the strumming of an acoustic guitar to get the toes-a-tappin’. Carrying with it a message of being Unashamed of our faith, “Fearless” mixes the serene parts of worship perfectly with the more upbeat side to it; and half-way through you can really feel Darren’s passion come to the forefront as he defiantly asserts, “No no no I will not be ashamed of you, because you’re my king and I’m your son.”
Darren’s raw tones once again open “Vast As Oceans” from the outset, as the heartfelt cry of, “I want to live my life in the rhythms of your grace, I want to feel your touch and warm embrace, I want to drink from the well that could never run dry, I want to feel your heart beat next to mine,” is there for all Christians to relate to. The piano led track talks about wanting a deeper relationship with the Almighty God as He was always there by our sides picking us up and dusting us off when we failed. “In you my king I’m satisfied, and every time I’ve failed you’ve been there by my side, healing brokenness and restoring life, and when the darkness falls and I can not see, I will love you God because you first loved me.”
After the preceding raw worship song, “Mercy Endures” picks the pace right up with the drums once again being at the forefront of the engine driving the song on. Some of the strongest lyrics on Rhythms Of Grace, at least from an imagery point of view, kick the song off to a controlled frenetic start, “Oh yeah you pluck me like a branch from the burning fire, now all I want to know is your heart’s desire, you saved me from a life that was falling apart, you poured your blood for me, now it’s surging through my heart.” There are times throughout Rhythms Of Grace that they sound reasonably similar to their irish counterparts Rend Collective, and this song is most certainly one of them. That being said though, the difference between the two still remains, with Rend Collective being more folk orientated, while The Remission Flow take on a more alternative rock worship vibe. The song, as is quite often the case throughout this project, is about God’s unending grace and mercy and is easily one of the stand out songs on the record, and sure to be one of the next singles. In addition, lyrics such as, “Because what I know, in you, is more beautiful, than I ever knew, and what I have now, in you, is more beautiful,” give the listener a timely reminder of 2Corinthians 5:17 (Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!).
“More Like You,” a song about the heart’s burning desire “to be more like you” and “less like me,” follows and sounds very NEEDTOBREATHE-esque at times and something you’d expect to hear as your evening’s entertainment in a dimly lit suburban café. The fact that it sounds NEEDTOBREATHE-esque is yet further testament to Darren’s vocal range (from a tone point of view) and adds some much needed diversity to the album. Musically the song takes on a smooth jazz feel, with the piano, guitars and drums merging together effortlessly once again to lay the groundwork for the track. With what sounds like a synthesised flute periodically darting in and out, Darren’s vocals are what really stand out here with the following heartfelt lyrics rounding out the song, “And I will lay at your feet again, and rejoice in the risen son, and I believe all the love that I need has been found in you my king.”
The soft moving lyrics, “I want to lay down beside you, still my mind, feel your heart beating next to mine, and I will lie down this pride, and feel your voice, whispering promises over this life,” provide the opening to “Lay Down” as the pace drops off quite significantly. Listeners are encouraged to praise the Lord in every waking moment through the inspiring lyrics, “Oh my God hold me closely, don’t let me go, and I’ll love you always, and his love can only grow, and from the rising of the sun, until the setting of the sun, I’ll guard this hope closely, I’ll praise your name” before the song continues with the similarly brilliant lyrics, “and even though my heart is failing, oh I know your light it flows from the cross into my bones, you’ll never let me go, and when these tired eyes they fail me and I know my time has come, I’ll be walking with my king, yeah I’ll be singing hope.”
The penultimate track, “Trust And Obey,” again sounds similar to Rend Collective in parts and, as the name suggests, the song encourages all Christians to “Trust And Obey” the Lord with all of their hearts. It also serves as a stirring call to action through the ‘pumping up’ lyrics, “yeah in these trials we’ll sing your name, yeah we count it all as joy we won’t refrain, I’ve loved you lord since the day we met, now I’ll be moving in your will I won’t relent.”
Rhythms Of Grace comes to an end with the strikingly strong “It Is Well.” From the simple musical patterns on all the instruments featured, to the simple, yet stirring, vocals, this track is the perfect way to round out the record. It perhaps even offers the most authentic worship vibe on the entire album, as it cries out to God for Him to use us for His good, and not for our own selfish desires, “Oh my king, will you use these bones, use them for your own desire, take my thoughts and my every deed, cleanse them in your burning fire.”
The formal definitions of “Remission” and “Flow” in the dictionary are “forgiveness of sins” and “a steady, continuous stream or supply of something” respectively. The prominent subject throughout Rhythms Of Grace is that of God’s grace being all we need and through His grace all our sins have been forgiven. Throughout Rhythms of Grace, The Remission Flow offers the listener a steady and continuous stream of the aforementioned, and similar, message; figuratively speaking, Rhythms Of Grace is the embodiment of who The Remission Flow are as a band. Even the great album cover sums the album up down to a tee; the light source bathing the drummer in light amongst darkness, the drummer hammering away at the kettledrum with conviction, the raw and rough yet clean look of the drummer, the bulging biceps representing the strength gained through God’s grace, the authenticity, the passion, the simplicity, the serenity, the style……whew that’s a lot of ‘s’s! And someone get me a thesaurus!!
The great thing about The Remission Flow is they don’t try to, nor do they want to, fit in a certain box; they are simply focused on making the music God calls them to make, they are most certainly unique and in a league of their own. If one was forced to find bands that they sound like though, one would immediately be drawn to bands such as NEEDTOBREATHE, Rend Collective, City Harmonic and maybe even bands like Go Stop Go and Kings Kaleidoscope. With the exception of the latter of those bands, all of those bands’ lead singers would also be a point of reference to compare Darren Mulligan’s vocals to.
The musical arrangement throughout Rhythms Of Grace is sublime, as are Darren Mulligan’s vocals, and the combination of the two result in a worship masterpiece full of clever wordplay and subtle nuances. It’s therefore seriously hard to find serious fault with Rhythms Of Grace but, at a push, I’d have to say the only thing that could have made Rhythms Of Grace better was to push themselves further into the alternative rock sound found on “Fearless” and “Mercy Endures,” to simply turn things up a notch or two, as they obviously have it in them. The other minor thing which would have improved Rhythms Of Grace slightly, would have been to make the female vocals on the odd song more prominent, and maybe even let a female vocalist take the lead on a song (“It Is Well” immediately comes to mind in terms of suitability to keep the same ambiance about the album).
Rhythms Of Grace is astonishingly good, and a marked improvement from The Light That Floods, but, as is the case with almost every album, there’s always room for improvement. If The Remission Flow can achieve that amount of improvement from their debut record to their sophomore effort, and with the popularity of worship music on the rise in the modern climate, I seriously can’t wait to see what comes next from this up and coming worship band. The Remission Flow are set to start making serious waves across the Christian Music Scene so do yourself a favor and grab yourself a copy of Rhythms Of Grace at your earliest convenience, you won’t regret it…
The “Before The Dawn” music video premiere can be seen here.
A Quick Personal Afterthought
Throughout this album I had the imagery of a river’s journey firmly planted in my mind (and the hymn “Shine, Jesus, Shine” – ergo the title) – from its beginnings as a babbling brook, to a trickling stream, to a fast flowing body of water channeling through the rough terrain of hills and over several waterfalls, to a wide, slow and open river, all the way to the river’s mouth and out into the rough and raging sea. Everything about this album just fits perfectly with the river’s journey; musically it has its slow, intimate, “trickling” moments, it has its “fast,” “rough” and driving moments, it has its build up to waterfalls moments before dropping right off for some quiet moments (eg “Turn Around”), it has its serene, calm and “open” moments, and, finally, it has its call to action moments readying you for the “rough and raging” world out there. Lyrically and subjectively speaking, at the start of the album its message of grace starts to sink into the listener’s heart as a trickle, and by the end, it’s flowing freely and, over the course of the album, you’ve been built up to go out into the “rough and raging” world out there as a strong and unashamed warrior for Christ. Even the squiggle in their logo, along with the word “flow” in their name, screams “river!”
I would absolutely love to hear in the comments below whether anyone else got/gets this imagery from the album, or whether it’s just me!