Review Date: 08/27/2014
Review By: Jessica Morris
Release Date: 9/16/2014
Rating: [usr 10]

It would be an understatement to say that duo for KING & COUNTRY have released RUN WILD. LIVE FREE. LOVE STRONG. (WORD Entertainment) after three years of pivotal transition. Since the success of the Australian brother’s debut album Crave in 2012, Joel has married, while Luke had his first child and has experienced a life threatening illness. These experiences have come together in their latest musical offering, as they share 14 tracks filled with breathtaking honesty, fun whimsy and an utter determination to walk the Christian life with integrity.  A beautiful balance of the heaviness of their experiences and the light that they have found in Christ, RUN WILD. LIVE FREE. LOVE STRONG. is a testament to their integrity and innate musical prowess as they mix dance and electro beats with simple melodies and striking lyrics.

Opening with “Run Wild,” a stripped back piano melody ushers in an electro synth sound which intensifies throughout the song. In many ways, this song is a dare to the listener, inviting us to break free and live in abundance for Christ. Andy Mineo’s rapping adds another dimension to the track, and somehow the duo implements these different styles into the one song, enforcing their conviction that life is meant to be lived in freedom. The band’s trademark harmonies escalate the track to a new level, and this strong opener sets the tone for an album full of conviction, boldness and honesty.

Preluding “Fix My Eyes” with a military drum beat and synth, for KING & COUNTRY keep the intensity of the first track before branching into the catchy song with clapping. The diversion of the fun melody in the verses and the intensity of the chorus are random and unexpected- yet it works. In a song about the struggles that come with walking the Christian life, the brothers bring a lightness and hope to the journey, while instilling a boldness and unwavering persuasion to follow Christ.

In one word, “To The Dreamers” is honest. The capacity for the band to express the deep sense of loss and brokenness that we feel will instantly draw you in. Yet in this, the melody builds and we are urged to “Keep on charging ahead” and not let go of our dreams. Rather than being a track about reaching for impossible and far off dreams, this song acts as a mediator of the tangible promises God has for our lives. The bridge, which borders on a spoken word and Jon Foreman-esque declaration of God’s promises, elevates the track to a new place. This song will flood your spirit with hope.

“Shoulders” opens with the spoken words of Psalm 121. While this is the most obvious scriptural reference on the album, it reflects the Biblical truths folded throughout each of the 14 tracks. The release is not classified as a ‘worship’ album, but in many ways the Spirit is infused within each track of this album and listeners will find themselves in a place of worship even amidst the electro/synth sound. “Shoulders” is a reminder of the strength we find in God, encouraging us to have faith as they sing, “I don’t have to see to believe that you’re lifting me up on your shoulders.”

The dance backbeat to “No Turning Back” adds an interesting dimension to the album, as they use the imagery of Christ inviting us as beggars into his courts. It is a bold song, the synth adding to the absolute conviction that our identity is found in Christ. Following on with “Without You,” this song is a standout. While there are no weak tracks on the release, the sheer vulnerability and beauty found in the delivery of this track makes it a bench mark, not just on the album, but within the music industry. A direct reference to Luke’s life threatening illness, this song transitions from a prayer to a conversation between a husband and wife as they contemplate the death of the husband. Featuring Luke’s wife Courtney, this song is musically and lyrically exquisite. Overall though, what makes this duet so powerful is their ability to invite you into the story. You become part of the song, and the heart break and hope that is felt becomes your own.  In a culture that idolizes songs about love and lust, this is a song that sincerely depicts what it really means to love someone; to love, irrespective of the circumstances and be completely reliant on God.

“Long Live” lightens the mood with a message of courage as we walk towards our dreams. “Steady” follows with the uplifting message of God’s strength amidst our trials. A fun rift plays through the song highlighting the hope that is present to us even in the deepest struggles of life.

“Already Home” has the duo continue to implement varying musical styles into their tracks, this time opening with an organ before transitioning to a simple base line throughout the verses. A song about the desert seasons in our lives, the organ re-emerges in the chorus as they shift to a ethereal sounding declaration that, “When you’re lost and on your lonesome, let the Heaven’s show you who you are.” “This is Love” is a pop-infused love song, but far from being cliché it is sweet in all the right ways. Managing to communicate the fairy-tale feelings of love through the fast paced beat, the lyrics are pulled from wedding vows, prayers and the book of Corinthians, making it an expression of love in its purest form.

Continuing with “Matter,” the band shares the message that all our concerns and struggles are significant. With a powerful chorus detailing the power of God, this track emphasizes how valuable we are. Their choice to communicate this much needed message highlights the conviction and authenticity that cloaks this album. “It’s Not Over Yet” is whimsy to the core, the catchy drum beat and use of falsetto communicating the hope available to us.

Finishing with “O God Forgive Us,” for KING & COUNTRY mesh the sounds of an old hymn with modern lyrics. This final track epitomes the vocal beauty of the band; their ability to layer melodies and harmony creating an ethereal and poignant atmosphere. A spoken word then closes out the release, highlighting the intentionality behind each moment of RUN WILD. LIVE FREE. LOVE STRONG.

I have had the privilege of reviewing many great artists within the CCM scene and without a doubt, I can say that of all the albums I have reviewed, RUN WILD. LIVE FREE. LOVE STRONG. is my favorite. Musically, this album is bold enough to weave different sounds and genres together in a unique and beautiful way; and lyrically it communicates the simple truths of humanity: we hurt, but there is hope in Christ.

You can grab for KING & COUNTRY’s new album on September 14. Listen to it and be encouraged to RUN WILD. LIVE FREE. and LOVE STRONG.

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