It is a somewhat tall order to deal with atmosphere in a worship album where the norm is joy and praise, but with the newest release from Fellowship Creative (FC), Eclipsed, they attempt to do just that. The outfit from Grapevine, Texas led by Derric Bonnot has a firm grasp that the Christian experience has many levels including fear, yearning and darkness as well as their counterparts of security, completion and light.
“This album was really written through a lot of darkness,” Bonnot says. “Situations either we were dealing with or people in our church were dealing with — things from depression, cancer, the loss of loved ones, miscarriages and, on top of all that, just the daily battles of everyday life, stress and anxiety. But one thing God is always teaching us is that so often in the darkness, the light shines the brightest.”
By creating a soundscape of music that pairs with the lyrical content in each song, FC takes the listener through the ups and downs that one can expect living in a broken world without giving an inch. Refreshing realism, few nods to 1980’s modern music and homage to revival mark this project which may be their most ambitious to date.
Songs on Album:
The Moment: From the outset, FC begins by creating atmosphere in the initial offering. The slow digital echo of the drum machine allows for ample time for the singer to paint his picture of the bleakness of being separated from God as if in a sleep. That “curse” begins the journey to the Father and faith. Unsteady, the singer plows forward towards the unknown until the he reaches the moment where the darkness is parted by the light. “This is the moment that we awake!” shatters the slumber and the song kicks into its chorus and the protagonist begins the journey renewed with faith.
Grace on top of Grace: After awakening to a new life, the joy is evident in this lead single from the album. It jumps directly into the classic pop rock that listeners have come to expect in a contemporary Christian praise song. Guitars driven by synthesized keys and a vocal with evident bliss, FC hits the bullseye directly. The recognition that at the cross Jesus “took my place, with grace on top of grace” illustrates the sometimes lost point that believers have always had grace from God and he doubled down that grace by sending Jesus. Bonnot mentions that it is an “anthem of joy” in Fellowship Creative’s Song Stories, and that is indeed what it is. John 1:16 “Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.”
Jesus Our Hope: With an updated nod to the revival songs of tents long ago, FC handclaps its way through the third track on Eclipsed. The refrain “Jesus our Hope” anchors the song and the idea that his blood has paved over the dirt, pothole-filled road to salvation. The track contains the first reference to “eclipse” where its glory outshines hurt with light. Ending with a rousing choir of “Higher and higher!” the listener has the double experience of the nostalgia of the small churches of youth and the hope of what is yet to come through our Savior.
Stars: Opening the door to the realism that all believers experience, Stars begins as an acoustic ballad of yearning for God. Bonnot notes it “was written in the darkness. It was written in the waiting,” through personal struggles that mar life. Psalm 5:11 “But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them that those who love your name may rejoice in you” echo through the song. Joined by a female high harmony, the track works because the male/female vocal joins us all in the journey through life. Interestingly, though conceived in darkness, it is a love song to the lord. Poignantly ending a verse is the lyric, “all I need is you to make me right.”
Jesus is Alive: With a heavy synthesized drone, the fifth track begins with a woman singing out to Jesus in praise for his sacrifice on the cross. In typical contemporary worship fashion, the theme of sin being erased by the Resurrection is reaffirmed throughout. A song, seemingly, written specifically for church service giving the worshipper an opportunity to cry out to Jesus.
Never Give Up: The first nod to the 1980’s modern music scene is the sixth song on Eclipsed. A Thompson Twins sounding piece that relies on electric drums and keys, Never Give Up is an ode to God and his steadiness is our lives. His love is always there, just like a cheesy saxophone solo is at the end of every 80’s song (and, yes, this song as well!”
Caution to the Wind: Continuing a look back through pop music, Caution to the Wind has an almost pop punk feel of a Blink 182 song. The vocal is has that sarcastic, sneering quality that marks the irreverence of the genre, but the lyrics juxtaposed into the song are anything but irreverent. Where a punk song would have the singer standing alone against the world in defiance, FC twists this back on itself and has the singer saying “I go where you lead.” Throwing caution to the wind takes on a whole new meaning as the vocalist gives all of himself to Jesus.
No Escape: A clear homage to U2’s Joshua Tree, the eighth track on Eclipse expounds the idea that we cannot run from our God. “I’m captured by Your grace,” allows that there is, in fact, no escape from the love of Jesus. Like the rays escaping around the eclipsed sun, Gods love won’t be contained. With long high notes, like Bono, the vocalist gives us the clear understanding that escape is not an option.
Lead Me: Another keyboard introduction, with a smattering of digital loop, the latter half of Eclipsed continues in the 80’s vein with Lead Me. It is quite possible that a Casio keyboard may have been used as a sample in this offering. Exploring the idea that we are beholden to a higher power, the singer wants nothing more than to be shepherded by God. An honest, real approach to the relationship with the Lord is the genesis of the song.
Eclipsed: The title track of the album jumps off like a song from INXS’s 80’s album KICK. Guitars pushing, drums pounding and keys pulsing, one can imagine a crowd jumping in unison as the vocal “And Your light, it shines on,” drops in to the chorus and culminates with “and we’re eclipsed!” The image of light bursting through the darkness of a concert is the perfect backdrop to the overall thematic element of the album.
Holding on to You: Inexplicably, the album doesn’t end with the song Eclipsed. It finishes with another 80’s throwback. Holding on to You is a seven minute Howard Jones-like ballad that allows the singer to let us know that he is always going to hold on to all that Jesus has given us. It does give FC the opportunity to reestablish a bit of melodic heaviness that was at the beginning, possibly rounding out what they had initially set out to accomplish.
Things to Note:
Negatives: All of the tracks have the breath of God on them and can be listened to during many walks in life, but as a whole concept, Eclipsed wanders a bit during the second half. The order of the tracks seems a bit out of whack, especially ending with Holding on to You rather than Eclipsed.
Positives: The first four songs of Eclipsed really jump out of the speaker with God’s truths. FC’s handling of the delicate notion that flaws, darkness and waiting on God are all a part of the journey for followers of Christ puts them into a real and visceral category of which a few worship bands are a part.
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