Rend Collective is no longer an experiment. They are an established and influential group who continue making a name for themselves in adding flavor and meaning to the often-dull scene of worship music, and doing so without alienating the fan base of the "genre." And like any good group of artists, they have designed each of their works around a specific theme to add depth to their message. This time around, to contrast with the majority of worship music that seeks to evoke awe, wonder, and inspiration, the group seeks to infuse their music with an aura equally as important but often forgotten: celebration.
The Art of Celebration makes clear from the very first words ("We're choosing celebration / breaking into freedom / you're the song of our hearts ") what the intentions of the album are, and it is up to the group to follow through. "Joy" gets things off to a quick-paced and energetic start, and "Burn like a Star" picks up the pace even more (the latter being one of the collective's best songs to date). "My Lighthouse" proves to be a very worthy selection as a lead single, with it, and the following "More Than Conquerors," slowing things down to an appropriate pace before the more vocally-driven "All That I Am."
At this point, the album starts to lag a bit too much energy-wise, dangerously approaching levels not unlike today's more stagnant pop/worship acts (I won't name names, but I'm sure you can imagine). Thankfully, "Create in Me" picks the pace back up and makes things more interesting in their joyful declaration "You're not finished with me yet!" "Strength Of My Heart" follows with a song that is without a doubt the most mainstream-sounding worship song I've heard from the Collective, with generic structure, orchestration, vocal stylings, and lyrics. Thankfully, "Simplicity" and "Boldly I Approach Thee (The Art Of Celebration)" finish the album on a strong note with the former a sparsely-instrumented track for quiet worship and the latter an ably-adapted hymn rendition with an addendum to tie the album all together. As bonus features, Rend Collective also features a live version of "My Lighthouse" and a remix of the opener, "Joy."
Lyrically, Rend Collective doesn't really break any new ground. In all honesty, I might even go as far as say Rend Collective's lyrics don't really rise to any level above the standard in modern worship of simply stating and restating oft-used metaphors and phrases of worship and glory to God. But this knock against the album is no gross misdemeanor, but merely akin to a parking ticket as an offense. Musically, Rend Collective makes up a lot of ground through their infusion of energy and joyfulness with their usual eclectic and creative instrumentation.
All in all, The Art of Celebration is truly is a solid release. It set out on an ambitious mission to infuse celebration back into worship that, while it didn't fully see trhough due to overlong periods of lagging, was a valiant effort at success. Perhaps The Art Of Celebration isn't the best the Collective has offered, but fans of the group will find it hard to dislike, as will the band's worship base.- Review date: 3/16/14, written by Mark Rice of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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