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JFH Music Review

Gungor, Ghosts Upon The Earth

Ghosts Upon The Earth

Artist Info: Discography
Album length: 12 tracks: 49 minutes, 30 seconds
Street Date: September 20, 2011

In C.S. Lewis' famous novel The Great Divorce, travelers on a bus are introduced to the meadows of heaven. As the people in the story are revealed to be ghosts, the land proves to be far more solid than the travelers' bodies, and the realities of God and heaven are painfully real to these ghosts as they travel the landscape, both physically and mentally. With the title inspired by Lewis's masterpiece, Gungor's Ghosts Upon the Earth displays a keen sense of spiritual reality as Michael and Lisa Gungor and friends traverse through moments of awe-inspired worship. The story told is a remarkable result.

As their previous album Beautiful Things demonstrated just last year, Gungor boasts one of the most unique approaches to worship in the scene. With a grand assortment of instrumentation and musical diversity, Beautiful Things was a breath of fresh air for many, balancing both lyrical quality and a matching inventive melodic approach. Some tracks were obvious candidates for corporate church use (the title track as a prime example) and some were far more abstract in tone; it struck the careful equilibrium, never boringly pretentious or cookie-cutter in delivery. If there's a noticeable difference in method that Ghosts Upon the Earth employs, it's further on the side of developing an artistic fašade than it is distributing the next worship hit for churches worldwide. This isn't to say that some aren't congregational in tone at all ("Brother Moon" and "Crags and Clay" are both possibilities), but Ghosts Upon the Earth is more about creating a stirring and awakening atmosphere for the believer's ears than making a grand public spectacle.

Musical influences present here are really too numerous to name, but inspecting individual songs gives the most accurate picture. The opener "Let There Be" is Gungor's attempt at musically illustrating the world's creation. The entire song is basically one prolonged crescendo; starting with only Lisa's vocals and ending with a multitude of voices, it's a powerful portrayal to hear. Most songs start with a purely acoustic base ("Church Bells" and "Vous Etes Mon Coure" tend to stay that way throughout their duration), but the majority grow into something more by the end. "The Fall" becomes orchestral fanfare, while "Wake Up Sleeper" introduces murky bass-induced synths to deepen the composition, and "When Death Dies" results with a string section and pseudo-handclap percussion. "You Are the Beauty" is a full-blown bluegrass number where banjos and fiddles abound. Finally, the epic finish of "I Will Love You" boasts the simple, but profound, ambience of a boys' choir.

Not unlike Beautiful Things, Ghosts Upon the Earth isn't an album to skirt by any lyrical themes lightly. As a story, creation is examined in "Let There Be," and "Brother Moon" is straight-up adoration of the LORD through the celestial bodies He has made ("Brother moon, shine down your light on us tonight/Show us the love of God/Sister sun, you bring out the day/you shine in the light of God on your face today/Maker of it all, You provide it all"). Similarly, "Crags and Clay" uses nature to glorify the Creator ("Soil is spilling life to life/stars are born to fill the night.../All praises to the one who made it all and finds it beautiful.../fearfully and wonderfully and beautifully made"). The most convicting track is possibly "My Bride;" told from Jesus' perspective, it describes his caring and sacrificial character ("I found you naked/I found you lying there in blood.../I clothed your body/I washed the blood and earth from your hair"), but also captures the sinner's tragic tendency towards rebellion regardless ("Sold your body, exposed yourself to all/slept with strangers, gave them everything you had"). Seemingly in answer, "This Is Not the End" rejoices in the victory the believer has in Christ's forgiveness from one's unfaithfulness to Him. Overall, the album is a story begun and ended in sheer triumph.

Common logic would state that few if any of the songs in this collection have potential to be radio hits, but Gungor doesn't seem interested in meeting this expectation; instead, they have set a particularly high bar not just for themselves but also for the entire worship scene. Far and away the best worship record of 2011, Ghosts Upon the Earth demonstrates that Gungor is relentless in challenging themselves musically and lyrically and their listeners' hearts spiritually. In the end, that's the definition of true worshipful artistry, and as a result akin to Psalm 96, "a new song" has been sung.

- Review date: 9/18/11, written by Roger Gelwicks of

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JFH Staff's Second Opinion

Originality is a common complaint that comes from my lips when referencing worship music. While many artists take the road of radio friendly melodies and regurgitated lyrics there are some who travel a very different path. Those in Gungor are those that journey on the road less traveled. The result: heartfelt lyrics and an intellectual, melting pot of music to satisfy every palette. On the latest release from songwriting veteran Michael Gungor and friends Ghosts Upon the Earth they've demonstrated that it is possible to sing a new song. Obviously with such an ominous title, it can be expected that it's not going to be an album full of warm fuzzies and fluffy bunnies. The approach is so introspective it nearly carries a somewhat darkness to it. Instead of a fist pumping catchy hook, the listener is provided with the haunting soft vocals of Lisa Gungor in the opener "Let There Be" as she sings of the light of God shining through the darkness. This tone is carried throughout a number of songs including "Crags and Clay," "The Fall," and "When Death Dies." These are not negative songs whatsoever, they actually carry great hope, but their tactic isn't to sugar coat but to be honest and transparent.

Within the emotional experience there are also some beautiful and uplifting moments. "Brother Moon" is such a masterpiece of music with excellent complexity. "Church Bells" rides this same joyful tone as Gungor sings of letting innocent children worship the Lord even if na´ve of the reason why. Biblical themes from Song of Songs and Hosea are clearly evident in the back to back tracks "My Bride" and "Vous Etes Mon Coure." The writing is breathtaking and is a sincere representation of Christ's love for His bride, the Church.

If you're looking for something out of the box and are sick of the same old same old, this is the album you've so deeply desired. The music is well thought out, the lyrics are transparent but well thought out, and it can satisfy nearly all listeners. If Beautiful Things was like Van Gogh's "Starry Night," this is Gungor's Mona Lisa. - Ryan Barbee, 9/19/11


. Record Label: Brash Music
. Album length: 12 tracks: 49 minutes, 30 seconds
. Street Date: September 20, 2011
. Buy It: iTunes
. Buy It: iTunes (Deluxe Edition)
. Buy It:

  1. Let There Be (3:09)
  2. Brother Moon (4:11)
  3. Crags and Clay (4:36)
  4. The Fall (3:56)
  5. When Death Dies (3:31)
  6. Church Bells (2:47)
  7. Wake Up Sleeper (4:41)
  8. My Bride (4:26)
  9. Vous Etes Mon Coure (3:53)
  10. This Is Not The End (2:57)
  11. You Are The Beauty (4:46)
  12. I Will Love You (6:42)
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