- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2001 1 Jan
At last, a worship album to get excited about! Amazingly, these guys have kept something of a low profile despite releasing a self-titled debut three years ago and contributing to the Alternative Worship Experience album last year. If you've missed them so far, you are missing out. Their first album was good, but a little routine—it sounded like a lot of other "underground" (read: youth) worship albums. With Desperate, the band has found a more aggressive rock sound while still managing to draw the listeners into a worshipful mindset by the end of the album.
One thing I really like about Among Thorns is that it confirms something I've thought all along: Rock music is inherently repetitive because of basic song structure—you may not always know the verses, but you'll be singing along to the chorus before the song is over. So instead of being overly repetitive, Among Thorns' music offers some food for thought to chew on during the verses (and to sing along to when you know them) with some very catchy choruses that will quickly register with the intended worshipping audience. And lyrically, there's no question that this band understands what it means to write worship music. They aren't as original in their words as Delirious or Matt Redman, but at least they have something to say to inspire worship—and they say it without resorting to overused worship clichés. It's a good balance between being repetitive enough for people to learn the songs quickly, and being thoughtful enough to keep people interested in the song.
Something else that caught my attention was the song sequence of the album. It begins with some intense modern rock songs such as the Spirit-inspired "No Rock," "Lay It Down," and the creed/declaration "Jesus Christ." The album then shifts into mid-tempo songs including "Wind of God" and "Take My Hand," which will have you clapping along by the end. Then the album becomes more contemplative and moody with the classic-rock sound of "Jealous God" and the dark and atmospheric sound of the title track. After these songs, we reach the more quiet and meditative worship songs "Breath of Life" and "Come Holy Spirit," finishing off the album with "Forever," which is one of the most powerful worship songs I've ever heard (though much of that power comes from the ultra-dramatic recording on this album). It's an excellent closer to this album of worship, neither ending the album quietly nor breaking the worshipful mood established by the preceding tracks.
I don't want to over-inflate expectations and imply that Desperate is one of the best worship albums I've ever heard. Half of the album is very strong modern rock, which will alienate those looking for a more quiet mood in which to worship (though the music gets very quiet by the end of the album). Also, most modern worship music is designed for the heart rather than the head, and it's rare when it challenges both. Among Thorns is not exactly though-provoking in their lyrics, but they do have a lot more to say than the usual worship music phrasing. I recognize the Christian music industry's desire to find a solid worship band to help fill the Sonicflood-shaped hole, if not step up to the standard set by Delirious. In many ways, this album surpasses Sonicflood's famed debut—it rocks just as hard and is just as worshipful, but all the songs are original (I cannot express enough how good it is to hear a worship album of all new material written by the artist/band). Among Thorns is a solid modern rock worship band, and you should definitely check out Desperate if you're looking for a well-made worship album.