Album review: The Art of Celebration by Rend Collective
The 11-track release contains two bonus songs – a live rendition of first single My Lighthouse and a remix of opener Joy.
It's fitting that the first line of the album is "We're choosing celebration". The collective are on a mission to call the Church to be a celebrating people.
The band talk about "casting aside our shadows" and trusting God with "our sorrows" before they burst into the chorus of "You're the joy joy joy light in my soul."
The tune sounds suspiciously like Hillsong's "We're gunna dance dance dance in the freedom we know" to begin with but it's a minor quibble as the overwhelming feeling on this album is that Rend are continuing to be a breath of fresh air in worship music.
Their Irish charm, upbeat outlook and remarkable live shows have bought them a fan base that now spans the globe. Rend are unique, through and through.
Third track My Lighthouse had arguably become the band's next big hit even before it was officially released as a single. The track was a favourite at last year's Soul Survivor and Momentum festivals, and its easy to see why.
But it's the follow up More Than Conquerors that packs the greater punch. Strumming his guitar for all its worth, Chris leads the collective in singing "We are more than conquerors through Christ / You have overcome this world this life / We will not bow to sin or to shame / We are defiant in your name". It's a confident and assured performance.
The collective take everything down a notch for All That I Am. Imagine a few members of the band in your living room quietly singing away and you won't be far from the sound that's been captured.
Immeasurably More again mixes everything up. Combining elements of synth pop with their well established folk/worship style, the collective have produced a stunning track, full of beauty.
Finally Free is the record's unlikely hit. The highlights are the perfect guitar playing and stunning imagery: "Your mercy reigns from heaven like confetti at a wedding/ And I am celebrating in the downpour / Your heart is wild with colour / Like a never ending summer / You burn away the winter of my cold and weary heart").
Create In Me is arguably one of the best songs the band have ever released. The simple but determined bridge of "You're not finished with me yet" is deeply encouraging and full of passion and power.
Strength of my Heart is a moving ballad complete with strings and a soaring melody line. It's followed up by the even better Simplicity.
This is Rend Collective's best album to date. Those familiar with their debut release 'Organic Family Hymnal' will know that's quite a claim to make. But unlike most releases in both the Christian and General markets, there isn't a bad song on the album. There are no fillers or halfhearted attempts. It's top quality from start to finish.
This is also the most worship-focused record the band has ever produced. My only criticism is there isn't enough female vocal employed and although Art of Celebration is a great album title, the song itself doesn't stand out enough. But these criticisms pale into insignificance in the light of the overall effort here. Rend again have delivered stunning songwriting, production and, best of all, a beautiful picture of what a worshipping, celebrating church can look like.