Sometimes the end of something that's good can be the beginning of something that's great. In the case of Audrey Assad, her parting of ways with Sparrow Records after two solid albums led her to return to the independent ranks, but it was perhaps just what her creative spirit needed. After her magnum opus Fortunate Fall made its landing last year, Assad has enjoyed a larger audience with eager expectations. Her new EP, Death, Be Not Proud, presents five new songs that continue the minimalist style Fortunate Fall began.
For this small collection, Assad turned to a line from the poet John Donne for inspiration: "Death, be not proud, though some have called thee mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so." The resulting theme, then, is putting death in its proper place, and the EP is Assad's response. Fittingly, Death, Be Not Proud feels less produced than Assad's previous material, incorporating a sometimes somber, but always serene, atmosphere that draws attention to the words penned. Without too many layers of sound, the stark subject matter gets full attention. The short title track sets the stage for this approach, letting Assad's vocals rise and fall in convincing fashion. "Even death will die," sings Assad, and the rest of the EP follows this thought. "Death In His Grave" is the project standout, demonstrating the unique aspects of Assad's approach while being a perfect choice of cover for this collection. While the track's original songwriter, John Mark McMillan, showcased a rough but refined version of the song on his label debut The Medicine, Assad's soaring and resounding voice brings a new character to McMillan's song. "Receive" is a solo piano track that uses the imagery of communion and the Trinity to connect the frailty of death. "Lamb of God" and "Love is Moving" are less memorable than the others, but they keep the theme alive, and the EP feels like a cohesive unit by the end.
Independent status gives Audrey Assad the opportunity to release more music on a more frequent basis, and projects like Death, Be Not Proud give Assad's listeners more music to appreciate. In the course of dark times and discouragement, the death of death itself is sometimes a needed truth to remember, and Death, Be Not Proud is a beautiful reminder.- Review date: 5/29/14, written by Roger Gelwicks of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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