The leaves are turning and the air is getting crisp. Autumn has just arrived, so that must mean it's time to be bombarded with a plethora of Christmas music releases. The Christian music industry will be out in full force as well to remind us of the reason for the season. Amongst those artists trying to add to the rich musical tradition of the biggest holiday of the year is the Canadian quartet downhere. After a successful Bethlehem Skyline tour and release they decided to go all in with their first complete Christmas album, How Many Kings.
The album opener and title track is the previously released "How Many Kings." This original work is a reminder of the lengths God went to for you and me by stepping down from His throne. While it's obvious to see why it fits on a Christmas collection, this is one that could easily be listened to at any time of the year. Later, the album concludes with the "re-imagined" version of the song which is much more stripped down.
To compliment the title track are a few other all-original works, which turn out to be the strength of the album. "Christmas in Our Hearts" is a declaration that even if all the things that seem to "make" Christmas were gone, there would still be "peace on Earth and forgiveness because it's Christmas in our hearts." This one is upbeat, featuring trumpets, and makes for a fun experience with a rare depth of song writing. "Gift Carol" is another original. With depth in the lyrical content and a slower, more contemplative pace, this one is a reminder that the real Christmas gift didn't come in "sparkly paper."
This collection also features two Christmas classics that seem to have been forgotten over the years. "Good King Wenceslas" is by far the most creative song on the record. Marc Martel takes his voice to places we haven't seen before, going low, to the places usually reserved for co-vocalist Jason Germain, and then soaring up to the heights he's more accustomed to. "Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella" features one of the downhere staples, utilizing both the vocals of Martel and Germain. This almost "dueling" and yet complimentary vocal style creates a wide, sweeping and moving song experience.
Unfortunately, the one downfall of this Christmas collection is the fact that it's a Christmas collection. There is some unwritten rule that states you have to cover some the "classics" or it isn't a good Christmas record. Songs like "Silent Night" and "What Child Is This?" have been done countless times and so there is little room for creativity. The downhere versions simply sound like the same songs you've heard hundreds of times before. This collection would have been better served to feature more all-original works.
Regardless, this is still one of the more solid Christmas releases we've seen from a Christian artist. It's worth picking up for the original works, despite some of the common fare tracks. Downhere fans will be pleased, as much of their staple sound is found here, while people just looking for a new musical Christmas experience will most likely enjoy the mixture of both fresh and classic.- Review date: 9/21/09, written by Matt Johnson of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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