A Connection Between Spirit and Sound | Posted July 24, 2012 Staff Reviewer
Sometimes a new band comes out of nowhere and sucker punches you. They do it by creating a high-quality album that's pretty near perfect. They do it by presenting lyrics that rival not only the best in Christian music, but some of the deepest hymns. They do it by caring more about telling a story than selling one.
All of this sums up the aural and spiritual experience that is The Heartbeat by Orlando-based worship troupe Bellarive.
"We pray that we would be the conduit between the Creator and His creation, and that His glory would always be the focul point," states Bellarive vocalist Melissa Mage. The band believes in a connection between Spirit and sound, and that belief--that connection--is evident on all of the dozen tracks of The Heartbeat.
Starting off with the inspiring siren-like riff, the title track "Heartbeat" introduces listeners to the soothing and yet dramatic vocals of lead singer Sean Curran as he sings, "I just want to stay here / This is where you hear my soul." Enchanting gang vocals support him, reinforcing, "I just want to stay here." The bridge is subdued, calm and powerfully encouraging: "Stand tall, for we are daughters, we are sons / Step straight into this love / We bear the mark of our Creator."
"It's so beautiful how only You can satisfy this heart," resounds the chorus of "Love Has Found Us," a tremendously worshipful second track that keeps the juxtaposition of passion and peace. Harmonies shine in this track, as a higher voice provides some unexpected aural choices that pay off. This track is all about the meaning that comes with knowing the Lord, and our response to that. I had the chance to hear this song performed live at Creation Festival NW last week by Austin-based worship band The Response, and it was surprisingly congregational. I realized by this second track that although new to the scene, Bellarive is very much a part of the movement to present worship in new, exciting and unexpected ways.
"Hope Is Calling" presents the creative power of God--"What You said to the sun to make it rise must have been beautiful"--in juxtaposition with God's Grace infiltrating our souls: "The day You spoke to the dawn to wake the night / Woke my soul from its slumber."
While "Taste of Eternity"
seems like the title of a jingle for some brand of chocolate (or steak?), this slightly more mellow track explores the truth that we all were created to worship God, and in return, God gives us more of Himself--a bit of Heaven on Earth. Kevin Davis had a fantastic Behind the Song devotional about this (read it here
). Significant drums and volume doesn't come into the picture until two-and-a-half minutes into the song, with synth pad, snare drums, violin and a light guitar riff driving most of the song, allowing the worshipful vocals to shine. The song builds into another gang-vocal crescendo, but tapers off for another masterful, worshipful, simple bridge--"Oh how Holy / Oh how worthy"--before building again.
A rhythmically complex vocal line keeps "Measure of Rest" from being congregational, but certainly not from being worshipful. The overall chill track--which could be at home on a summer-themed Death Cab for Cutie album with its xylophonic and electronic tones--sonically and lyrically induces calm and rest: "Realizing nothing else matters / My heart needs to settle down."
"Sing" is one of the most emotional pieces of the whole project, yet despite the song title, it has no lyrics. It's a completely instrumental track. With angelic tones and overtones, mysterious xylophone tones, Moby-esque reverse-sounding waves, a large nod to the liturgical treasure "Doxology," and cathedral-like "oohs" resounding, this song is a definite experience in worship. Without having talked to the band, I'd guess it's called "Sing" because the band wants you to fill in the words of worship to God. And they've given you quite a canvas on which to paint here.
I hear shades of Relient K at times in "The Father's Heart Song," as this straight-up faster-tempo rock worship tune features simple, fast-flowing lyrical delivery by Curran in similar fashion to Relient K's Matt Thiessen. The exceptional, inventive, unexpected harmonies once again appear in this track's chorus, which declares: "I'm dancing to the rhythm of my Father's heartbeat beating / And it's beating just for me!"
"There's rest for my soul as it remembers that it's free," cries Curran in "Here We Are," another mid-tempo song that employs a bobbing and dipping guitar riff, piano and electric organ, and jingle bells. Gungor has talked up Bellarive to its fans, and it seems Gungor's fans would definitely find something to love here. The track is a creative reminder that our God is bigger than our struggles.
"Tendons" follows up the theme of struggle with a prayer of tearing away our flesh that we might be closer to God. It's a definite slow jam that is strikingly ended by a passionate spoken-word sermon/poem/speech of confession and repentance to the Lord. It's one of the most surprising, jarring, powerful moments of the entire album.
The continuum continues with the piano, xylophone and electro-drum-driven "Shine On," which takes the singer from the point of knowing brokenness and shame to declaring, "We will arise / For Your glory has come / We will shine / With our hearts towards the sun / Shine on." The forgiveness and peace breaks through sonically, too, as a simplistic opening gives way to a ending chorus full of life and many more instruments playing at forte.
Shades of Gungor appear also, with the smooth, high vocals and harmonies of "I Know You," a song of affirmation from the Lord to His beloved. "Life nor death will keep you / You don't have to fear / Nothing comes between us / In the end you're Mine / You'll be just fine." It's a passionate cry of commitment and engagement of Christ to His Church. It's mainly piano driven, with some light guitar riffs and strings complementing the sounds.
"Stories" wraps up the album with a song that presents just that--summarized stories about Jesus--followed by declarations of personal belief: "Yes I believe it, for my eyes have seen the King." Piercing guitar tones provide a soundtrack-like feel to this track, as Jesus is exalted as being the same yesterday, today and forever: "There are stories of a man who saves the nations / They've been echoing through time to meet us here today / Well, His promises are true, they pull us through the darkness."
There's a tremendous storyline that weaves throughout Bellarive's debut effort, The Heartbeat. It goes from the love that went before us (1 John 4:19), to the realization of our own brokenness, to the discovery of how Grace has delivered to us a relationship that'll never end. There's beautiful poetry throughout that could stand on its own.
But wait, there's music.
Sean Curran and Co. have delivered a masterpiece that is as aurally pleasing and diverse as it is lyrically. Typically, a band will play with different styles on a debut album, figure out what works, and then pound that one style for their follow-up. While fluxing between traditional and electronic elements--between jingle bells and drum machines--Bellarive hasn't toyed with various sounds; somehow it has developed one cohesive, eclectic sound. And Curran's vocals soar comfortably, effortlessly and peacefully around it all.
is one of the top worship albums of this decade, and has the opportunity to sucker punch other people with worshipful encounters and moments they might not have expected.
Track to Download Now:
"Love Has Found Us" (buy it now on iTunes