The Cries of the Broken
- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2008 1 Nov
- Wrapped Up in You
- Hear Our Prayers
- Burn in Me
- Tonight the Stars Speak
- Forever Holy
- Your Promises Still Remain
- God of Wonders
Worship leader Ben Crist and his band The Glorious Unseen debuted in 2007 with Tonight the Stars Speak—a prototypical example of shoe-gazer alternative worship. It's a style that can certainly be reflective and meditative in its musical outpourings to the Almighty, but without creative spark and passion, it can also be plodding, monotonous, and flat-out dull. Precisely the problem with The Glorious Unseen's national debut, which wasn't without merit—they offered one good song … and then replicated it nine more times.
In the wake of Tonight the Stars Speak, I'm not quite sure what the point is in releasing The Cries of the Broken, other than to have something else to release before the band's follow-up. Available for digital download through iTunes, the EP is basically an acoustic version of half of the previous album.
The problem isn't with whether the songs rely on ambient electric guitars or acoustic guitars with cello—both can be used to facilitate worship. But neither style can save a so-so song. "Wrapped Up in You" benefits slightly from the more intimate sounding mix, but you can't really call the new renditions of "Hear Our Prayers," "Burn in Me," "Forever Holy," and "Tonight the Stars Speak" better or worse. They're merely more of the same, all resembling the originals and one another in style and tone.
For this very reason, it's hard to call the other two tracks new. "Your Promises Still Remain" is comparable to all the other songs with its familiar rhetoric and simplistic, stretched melody. And while a cover of "God of Wonders" is apt since co-producers Marc Byrd and Steve Hindalong (The Choir) wrote it, the band strips the classic of its energy, rendering it as lifeless as the other songs.
Crist's vocals still resemble Mat Kearney and Coldplay's Chris Martin while singing about longing to hear God's voice, feel his embrace, and experience his presence while laying burdens down before him. It's all certainly honest and worshipful, if not even a bit liturgical with all the "Lord, have mercy" styled lyricism, which unfortunately gets a little repetitive after an album of it—modern worship could benefit from more high church.
There isn't a single song here that's bad or hard to listen to. But taken collectively, this EP and the debut are frustrating in their sameness. Other bands have done this alt-worship style much better—The Choir, as well as The Violet Burning, The Listening, Cool Hand Luke, and at times Delirious, to name just a few. As for fans who liked The Glorious Unseen's debut, acquiring this EP essentially amounts to buying the same songs a second time. An unnecessary purchase, unless your church finds that acoustic arrangements are more conducive to corporate worship than atmospheric alt-pop.