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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews


  • reviewed by Jim Perry Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2002 1 Jul
Sounds like … solid guitar-driven modern rock a la Garbage, Plumb, Lush, Superchic[k], and the CranberriesAt a Glance … The Benjamin Gate improves upon the thick rock sound of their debut by taking a slightly less dense, more raw and straightforward approach to their music.

Ah, the noisy sonic bliss that is The Benjamin Gate! Since their 2001 international debut, untitled, this South African band has seemed to make all the right moves. With an aggressive female-fronted modern-rock sound that's still relatively unique to the Christian music scene, untitled garnered four Dove Award nominations and cemented The Benjamin Gate as one of the strongest Christian bands on the block. (With the recent success of the rock worship band Tree63, perhaps this is the beginning of a South African invasion!) The Benjamin Gate's new project, Contact, can best be described with the word focus.

With their first album, The Benjamin Gate presented a hard-hitting, guitar-driven, modern-rock style with melodic hooks and a wall of layered sounds that often drew comparisons to Plumb, Garbage, or a harder-rocking version of the Cardigans. With Contact, the band begins with the sound of untitled and develops it further. The ethereal keyboard sounds and drum machine programming that identified untitled with the rave/rock style are toned down, making way for a more raw and straightforward rock sound. Guitarists Marc Pautz and Chris Poisat are still as creative with their effects processing as ever. And Lead vocalist Adrienne Liesching still sounds like Dolores O'Riordan (Cranberries) or Tiffany Arbuckle (Plumb), though on this sophomore release her voice seems stronger, edgier, and more mature.

The Benjamin Gate's enveloping wall of sound, which was a distinguishing element on their debut release, sounds restrained here, calling more attention to the direct vocals, fuller drums, and thicker bass lines. The hooks for much of the tracks on Contact are more creative, using chord progressions that are more interesting and pleasing to the ear, particularly on the songs "Lift Me Up," "The Calling," "Overkill," and "Violently."

The band has grown lyrically on Contact, focusing less on praising God and his works and more on the human struggle to relate to each other and to God. "Lift Me Up" is a fabulous rock opener, which, of the new tracks, most resembles the lyrical persuasion of untitled. "This Is Not" speaks of the fruitlessness of selfish pursuits in life. The Gate provides a tribute to creative and talented Christians everywhere in "The Calling," encouraging them to keep dreaming and not to be afraid to use their abilities to achieve their potential. "Do What You Say" is a sassy lyric that asks Christians to agree to disagree on trivial points that can trip us up and unnecessarily divide us. "Overkill" attacks needless anxiety in our lives, "Need" expresses the desire to be close to God in order to understand the truth, and "Tonight" is a call to action to let our light shine before those who don't yet know Jesus. Perhaps the best track on the album is "Violently," which has a great melodic hook and serves to motivate listeners to fight against evil in order to seek after God, saying, "Got to fight till we reach you/Got to reach till we find you."

You could say The Benjamin's Gate's musical arrangements and lyrics are inextricably linked. The lyrics on untitled were largely vertical and were emphasized by an atmospheric sound with layered background vocals. The varying styles on the album helped convey God's all-encompassing nature. In the same way, the more horizontal lyrics of Contact are emphasized by a more straightforward and organic rock sound. This shows that The Benjamin Gate was focused on their artistic development by understanding how their style accents their lyrics. They've shown that they're not afraid to wade into new territory and that they're savvy enough artistically to be fresh without being drastically different. Contact is a strong sophomore outing, with The Benjamin Gate taking a fresh and creative look at themselves and the world around them.