Aryn Michelle’s PARIAH: Examining songs of Biblical Outcasts [Review]
Solo artist Aryn Michelle has recently released PARIAH, a concept album based on the stories of various outcasts throughout the Bible.
The first track, “Furnace of Affliction,” starts somewhat mysteriously, with an underpinning of electronic elements and background vocals. Aryn Michelle’s soulful voice enters a moment later. The song picks up energy as more elements are added. This song sings of Job, who was put through trial after trial, losing everything he had. His friends even questioned what he could have done to deserve all this trouble, and encouraged him to turn his back on God. But Job was faithful through it all, even though he questioned if having God was enough. Job was tried in the furnace of affliction, and God used that to refine his soul and make him even better than before.
“Honest” is a thoughtful and pensive, yet hopeful, follow-up to “Furnace of Affliction.” It starts with a simple and beautiful piano melody. A steady beat on kick drum begins after a few seconds, giving the song a solid yet understated foundation. “Honest” is melancholy and beautiful, with guest vocalist Delaney Ramsdell’s rich voice a perfect complement to Aryn Michelle’s. This song laments the hard times in life, the struggles, the losses, but recognizes that God often blesses us with so much more than we had lost.
Title track “Pariah” sings of the most influential Biblical figure, Jesus Christ himself. He was the ultimate outcast, treated like a criminal despite the many miraculous signs and wonders he performed. Even though he was a religious teacher, he wasn’t welcome in the righteous crowd. They treated him like a pariah and put him to death, but he conquered death and rose as the Messiah. “Pariah” is propelled by a syncopated beat and full of enigmatic synth sounds that give the song a dark and fascinating vibe.
“The Limit” is a fun, energetic song, with a lively beat and deep bass tones. The message of “The Limit” is one we can all relate to. Life can be hard and push us to our limit. People let us down. But we know our God is good, and will ultimately bring us deliverance. Nothing in this world can separate us from His love. “Cast a Stone” beautifully tells the story of the woman caught in adultery. Her peers were ready to stone her for her sin, but a kind stranger stepped in and issued a challenge: whoever is without sin may be the first to cast a stone. One by one they walked away, leaving this woman alone with this stranger. He had stood up for her, and now offered her forgiveness and a new start. The song is comprised of piano and a stirring string ensemble, with Aryn Michelle’s voice intoning a haunting melody, lending an ethereal air to the song.
The album wraps up with the captivating “Shadow of Your Wings.” The sparse instrumentation allows the enchanting melody to shine through. Aryn Michelle conveys a softness and tenderness through her voice. Based on Psalm 63, this song is an earnest cry for God to fill our cups with His love and mercy when this life has left us dry and thirsty.
Aryn Michelle has a unique musical style, and has deftly woven together great music and superb lyrics. This is definitely a great album for someone looking for some more depth to their music, as well as some fun, catchy tunes.