City Harmonic's new album Heart is all about being human
For their highly anticipated follow up to I Have A Dream (It Feels Like Home), City Harmonic have gone back to the beginning and the kind of people we were meant to be in God's original and glorious creation.
Heart is out globally from Integrity Music on September 3 and lead track, "City On A Hill", will be released to radio this month.
The album has at its core what it means to be and become human as people who believe in Christ and God's grace.
It's a shift from emphasis on dreams and possibilities in their previous Juno Award-winning album, to the reality of discipleship and what it means practically to follow the example set by Christ in our lives every day.
"We set out to write an album 'on being, and becoming, human', but, in a way, it's about image bearing," says vocalist/songwriter and pianist Elias Dummer.
"By that I mean that yes, we're human — and the Bible tells us that we're made in the image of God and each and every human has an inherited dignity as a result.
"But there's more to it than that. God made this universe around us and often refers to the cosmos as a temple. I mean if you stop and think about the role an 'image' or 'statue' might play in a temple, you begin to see that we humans have quite a role to play.
"Whatever our present circumstances, the biggest challenge before us is to recognize that in Christ we've been given the responsibility and capacity to become like Him, and as we do, we are becoming exactly the kind of humans we were meant to be from the beginning.
"People have always talked about 'the square' representing the physical, the tangible, and the circle representing the spirit, God," continues Elias, making reference to the new album cover artwork. "How do you square the circle? How do you make these things connect? Jesus was the perfect man and God.
"Only in Jesus do we have the ability to say, 'I'm a whole person, not a broken apart thing, whole but broken.' On Heart, we try to unpack what it means to be fully human."
With that in mind, the band looked to Jesus's teachings in the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5 for their track "City on a Hill".
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The single takes "the high concept view of Christ and brings it down to earth in the form of the very things he said in the Sermon on the Mount", Elias explains.
"It also forms a natural transition into the balance of the album which attempts to marry the ideals with our real lives.
"In Christ, God has given us the perfect example to live by, and the means to live that way. For the Christian, discipleship isn't simply adding knowledge to our lives, but it's to become increasingly more like the human example we've been given – to become 'little Christs', and carry our cross through the mud and mire of a broken world in the knowledge that by the grace of God we arise brand new."
The 14-track album is also inspired by the stuff of real life and a lot has happened since their full-length debut two years ago.
Guitarist Aaron Powell welcomed his first child to the world, while drummer Josh Vanderlaan got married. Elias had his fourth child and bassist Eric Fusilier was diagnosed with cancer.
It was Eric's cancer diagnosis that formed the basis for the song "Strong", co-written with Elias. Despite the song's name, it didn't come from a place of immediate strength but a place of struggle, vulnerability and weakness.
"I wasn't really in a place to write anything," Eric confesses. "Emotionally, I felt like a child who had been let down by his parents for the first time. I just couldn't see [my illness] as a blessing. I couldn't connect with God. To confront that stuff and write, 'I am strong in my weakness,' was really difficult because I couldn't deny how I really felt."
Eric underwent a stem cell transplant last year and his cancer is now in remission, but the experience continues to impact him deeply.
Touring was impossible during his cancer treatment but with his health on the mend, Eric is planning to join the band on the road once again for their tour starting in October.
"Being on the other side of it, my emotions now line up with what I believe. God really has been there the whole time, using this for the good. It's a clear picture of God's people coming together, working together... a profound experience," he said.