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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Divine Invitation

  • reviewed by Andree Farias Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 1 Jun
Divine Invitation
Sounds like … atmospheric alternative worship reminiscent of The Violet Burning, with hints of Sigur Ros, the Smashing Pumpkins, Coldplay, and Sleeping At LastAt a glance … both lyrically engaging and musically enrapturing, this group's debut is the antithesis of what today's insipid worship scene has becomeTrack ListingCreation's CallThe Words That You SayInfiniteDivine InvitationSpirit WaltzWhen I SearchRains Pour DownIn the BurningWeight of the WorldPleaseBetter Is One DayI Fall

At first it seemed like an all-too-convenient PR quote, but newcomers Something Like Silas really are the next big thing to come out of San Diego. Before being discovered by Sparrow, the band cut its teeth leading worship at Flood, a burgeoning progressive worship service for young adults. Serious about the notion that worship is more than just the songs you sing in church, their ministry has extended outside their hipper-than-thou congregation. They've played both mainstream clubs and mission trips to Africa.

One need not be a modern worship connoisseur to recognize something special about the soundscapes of the band's debut, Divine Invitation. Something Like Silas couldn't have possibly ventured out beyond their church walls if their music and lyrical approach fell prey to the vapid conventions found in many of today's worship projects.

From the outset, the quintet showcases a penchant for atmospheric ambiances and intricate arrangements that move beyond the predictable and simplistic three-chord structures of most worship songs. These tracks are shrouded in a euphoric, deeply nuanced aura that bring to mind Unforgettable Fire-era U2, or for a more recent reference point, the urgent eagerness of Sleeping At Last, but with a strictly vertical twist. "Infinite," for example, starts off in a dark, minor-key tone that one would expect to last for the whole song; rather, it explodes into a joyful declaration of faith that stands in direct contrast to the gloomy verses.

Plodding, shimmering textures are the foundation for the title track, a prayerful ballad carried by Malina Owyoung's spatial Rhodes electric piano, with each instrument delicately dipping its toes into her arpeggios without fully plunging in until the very last chorus. Like raindrops falling on a hard surface, the tinkling piano accents in "Rains Pour Down" bounce at the same beat of Lenny Beh's drum, while a sweet Edge-like guitar of Nick Maybury caresses their interplay; by the time the tambourine kicks in, the song is already a full-on rocker/cry for the Spirit to fall. Both "In the Burning" and "Creation's Call" follow a similar rock vein, with wailing, slightly dissonant dynamics and even a furious guitar solo at the end of the latter.

All of these sonic qualities would convey as much message as a Sigur Ros album if they weren't accompanied with capable lyrics. In this respect, Something Like Silas doesn't disappoint, as most of their lyrics read like poetry, such as these from "The Words That You Say": "Shade me with words of wisdom/Free my torn heart from this world/Renew my mind and form my will/Teach me to wholly offer more than words that I can sing/So I become the song I bring." The words look good on paper, but their brokenness can disarm you even more as the song climaxes during its emotional bridge. Likewise, if lines like those in "Spirit Waltz" ("My heart cannot break enough for You") or "I Fall" ("Spinning still my head can't figure You out/The silence thickens in the thought of You") are to have an effect, it has to be in the context of the music. For example, when vocalist Eric Owyoung sings, "I fall in love with You," the guitar actually falls with him, making the simple line even more memorable.

While Divine Invitation is a modern worship project, it's not the type that gets you jumping on one foot while singing "I love Jesus" ad nauseam. Instead, it's one that requires you to be in an attitude of adoration and meditation. This doesn't mean the album is a melancholy shoegazer either; instead, it displays a range of moods and movements, very much like the Psalms sometimes expressed anguish and praise in the course of the same song.

I predict a bright future for Something Like Silas and earnestly hope forward-thinking listeners thirsty for artfully done worship music will embrace them. I also hope Sparrow will nurture them continuously until they become successful. Something Like Silas truly is a breath of fresh air, and their music should serve as a blueprint of sorts for how worship should sound in 2004, some five years after the movement started.