- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2001 1 Jan
Few bands inspire as many mixed emotions for me as Sonicflood does. Their 1999 debut was a solid praise and worship album (with a few missteps) and was a key album to the praise and worship "flood" we're experiencing today. Many of you may not be aware that Sonicflood isn't the band it used to be. The band apparently couldn't decide on their artistic vision vs. their ministry, eventually leading the band members to vote out lead singer Jeff Deyo. Then the band members threatened legal action against each other, and everyone resigned except for bassist Rick Heil. Pardon me for saying so, but calling this new band Sonicflood (despite the involvement of Rick Heil) is in it is kind of like George Harrison going out on tour with a whole new band and calling himself The Beatles. It just ain't the same, and the legal actions leave a bad taste in my mouth when I try to listen to their worship-centered debut. I'm sure Gotee would start a whole new worship band, except they're probably trying to milk the Sonicflood brandname.
It's all a shame, because the long-delayed follow-up live album, Sonicpraise, shows us what we knew all along—that the original Sonicflood was a really talented modern rock band with a good sense of how to write and perform strong worship music. Still, this is a rare case where you can judge an album by it's cover (in this case, a grayscale version of the debut album's cover). Likewise, Sonicpraise is a variation on a theme, an imitation of the original. One can't help but feel that this has been released more for the sake of capitalizing on the successful Sonicflood brand name than for releasing an inspiring worship project.
This is not to say that Sonicpraise is without its merits. Recorded live from their 2000 tour (before their breakup) at the Flevo Festival in Europe and also at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, the band comes across incredibly strong, showing off some excellent guitar solos, atmospheric keyboards/programming, rhythmic bass work, and exciting drumming. Jeff Deyo is extremely effective as the lead singer/worshipper, though at times it sounds as though he's trying to be all three members of dc Talk in the same song. There are several great performances of the band's favorites. "Open the Eyes of My Heart" is a very energetic opener and "Holy One" (one of the band's best songs in my opinion) segues nicely into a cover of "You Are Worthy of My Praise." Additionally there are some nice performances of other band favorites, such as "I Want To Know You," "Carried Away," "I Have Come to Worship," and "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever" (which features Out of Eden just as the album version did). And for the diehard fans, there's more new material (or better said, some new covers of some old songs), such as "Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble?" and "Before the Throne of God Above." Less effective is yet another cover of "Lord I Lift Your Name On High"—you can only do so much with such a simple song before you start tinkering with it too much.
Sonicpraise is a very exciting recording, displaying strong musicianship and a (seemingly) genuine heart for worship. I love how the band blended artistry with worship, and offered a nice mix of simplistic worship and praise songs that have more than one verse to them. It's an excellent recording of a band in its element, though I'm suspicious of the crowd noise, which sometimes sounds like the real thing and other times like it was added later from a sound-effects disc. There's a lot going on behind the scenes that works against this album: the band's terribly handled fallout, their shaky future, and an over-reliance on other artists' material. If you can overlook all that and still love the band that was Sonicflood version 1.0, then I highly recommend this sort of live epitaph called Sonicpraise. I would otherwise direct your attention to bands such as Tree 63, Delirious, Ten Shekel Shirt and Circadian Rhythm—all bands who are making strong modern worship albums that deserve every ounce of the attention that we devoted to Sonicflood's debut.