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This Is the Moment

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Apr
This Is the Moment
Sounds like … the melodic alternative rock of Zwan (or Smashing Pumpkins), the worshipful rock of Rock 'n' Roll Worship Circus, and the dreamy ethereal sounds of Starflyer 59At a Glance … the latest from The Violet Burning is similar enough to their previous releases to appease fans, but probably not strong enough to attract a wider audience

As one of Christian music's most enduring underground alternative rock bands—fourteen years and counting—those aware of The Violet Burning know it is driven by lead vocalist and songwriter Michael J. Pritzl and the musicians he surrounds himself with for each album. This time he's joined by co-producer and guitarist Andrew Prickett, bassist Herb Grimaud Jr., and drummer Sam West (Stavesacre). The style combines the sounds of new wave and alternative rock staples from the '80s (The Cure, The Smiths, Simple Minds, Love and Rockets) with those from the early '90s (Collective Soul, early Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins). Fans of The Rock 'n' Roll Worship Circus should definitely be listening to The Violet Burning—and most probably do, since both bands hail from the west coast.

Over the years Michael's lyrics have ranged from obtuse spiritual allusions to straight-out worship—The Violet Burning actually started out on an imprint label under Vineyard Music Group, and Michael is a respected songwriter in the Vineyard community. Like 2000's Faith and Devotions of a Satellite Heart, This Is the Moment is a return to the worshipful roots of The Violets, while still retaining the band's particular flavor of alternative rock. Since worship has been such a longtime passion of Michael's, the songs sound genuinely inspired and not like a reaction to a popular musical trend. The first track, "Lovesick," is a bit reminiscent of the Smashing Pumpkins' "1979," and sets the worshipful tone that predominates the album's lyrics. Songs like "Everywhere I Go," "Lost Without You Near Me," and "Slowa" are catchy pop/rock expressions of worship—though the lyrics offer typical sentiments of praise and worship, they are not banal or trite. Among the catchier worship tracks is "The Only One," a hook-filled rocker that seems like it would be at home in a group worship setting.

"Heaven Holds My Heart" is a grace-inspired ballad that reflects as much passion and honesty as a classic Delirious track: "I've got a halo over my head, guiding me home/I've got a few hurts inside of this young heart/I got a sacred flame that burns and leads me on." Powerful and effective, the humble Psalm-inspired "Lord, Rescue Me" almost sounds liturgical, as if a cantor and a congregation were singing a responsive confessional in the dreamy style of Starflyer 59: "May I sing this holy song?/Let my words be true/All I have, I leave behind/I follow after You." Similar in confessional theme, "Let It Begin" is a terrific rock anthem that passionately expresses a desire for cleansing and change, so much so that further into the song Michael delivers what he humorously refers to as "most rock scream ever": "Get me to that river/Take me, oh, down deep/I've got to get this dirt off/Let it being inside me."

One of the more interesting tracks is "Radio Jesus Superstar," in which Michael recalls how Christian music helped change his life back in the '80s: "I can't wait, gonna go full on/The radio is playing my favorite song/The very first time I met You, You were singing in my heart." The ethereal acoustic finale to the album is called "Manta Rae," which is very much like Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready" for a new generation. While it's not quite as universal and timeless as that classic, the new song is still very charming and inviting, like a modern rock spiritual: "I'll rise when my ship comes in/I'll stand up and You'll lead me in/Gonna climb on board, leave these burdens behind/So don't cry when my ship comes in."

I've heard from some Violet Burning fans who consider This Is the Moment one of the band's best albums. However, The Violets rocked with more creativity and innovation on 1998's Demonstrates Plastic and Elastic. As far as worship goes, 1989's Chosen and 2000's Faith and Devotions of a Satellite Heart were both generally more passionate and exciting sounding. Michael J. Pritzl is indeed somewhat a modern worship pioneer (even before Delirious), and not surprisingly he's still very good at it. But he's no longer unique now that modern worship is so prevalent in Christian music today.

Therein lies the trick in recommending This Is the Moment—expectations. The Violet Burning excels in quality worship writing and rock verve, but the album still has a raw, indie rock sound to it. While that won't trouble fans of The Violets, it will keep the band from radio play and widening their audience. Interestingly enough, people will generally more readily embrace the music of The Rock 'n' Roll Worship Circus, a band heavily influenced by The Violet Burning. As far as worshipful modern rock goes, This Is the Moment is indeed a good album, but there's no shaking the feeling that the band did this better back when they were unique.