Faith Grows Strong on Thrive

Ed Cardinal

Artist: Casting Crowns
Title: Thrive
Label: Sony/Beach Street/Reunion

“It’s time for us to more than just survive. We were made to thrive,” declares Casting Crowns lead singer Mark Hall on the folksy, opening title anthem from Thrive, his band’s sixth proper studio album. To that point, the chart-topping Georgia septet forges ahead with another top quality set of thoughtful pop, rock, and worship songs, each one inspiring both weighed down and fired up believers to keep seeking a better life through God’s Word and a deepening relationship with Christ.

An early word of warning: the playful mandolins, banjo, hand claps, and foot stomps on “Thrive” are as light as this record gets. After that, intensity rushes in and rarely subsides. Reminiscent of Brooke Fraser’s memorable Albertine, “All You Ever Wanted” weaves melody, drums, and a leading piano riff into a bold statement about the wayward human heart. “Just Be Held” starts with a burst of strings not far from the Downton Abbey theme before documenting a weary soul who needs to let go and let God.

The victoriously worshipful “You Are the Only One” provides a shining moment of joy—and easily rises as a contender for future Casting Crowns greatest hit. We then return to the heavy yet hopeful message of “Broken Together,” a stark ballad about areas of disappointment in marriage and the graceful solution to every couple’s incomplete dreams. “Love You with the Truth” feels clunky; fitting the concept of how “When we love, we earn the right to speak the truth” into a Skillet-lite jam doesn’t quite work.

Far better are “This Is Now” and “Dream for You,” selections inspired by biblical characters and featuring the blend of acoustic and electric guitars plus male and female voices that best defines Casting Crowns. The former gives voice to Peter as he considers the highs and lows of his spiritual journey, giving us in turn an honest believer to whom we can relate. The latter, its chorus on par with “If We Are the Body,” looks at the unexpected paths of David and Mary in a strong testament to the supremacy of God’s plans.

Thrive wraps dramatically. “House of Their Dreams” is a muted meditation on the tragedy of families that chase material things but overlook the richness of being together. “Waiting for the Night to Fall” calls out Satan who thrives on our lack of spiritual discipline. It may not be the easiest, breeziest listen this time around from Casting Crowns, but this album can help fight that dark enemy with every play.

*Published 1/21/2014