It’s something of a clichéd statement but there’s been something of a fresh wind blowing in the worship music world. While the years have seen the genre evolve from hymns to choruses to something in between, more recent years have seen the development of worship music as something both artistic and creative as well as deeply personal and theologically grounded. Artists like John Mark McMillan, Gungor, and rising worshippers like Hunter Thompson have slowly been pushing the definitions of what worship music is and can be, their infusion of eclectic soundscapes merging with rich songwriting to formulate something truly beautiful and new. And it’s into this changing tide that The Brilliance and their terrific offering Brother emerges.
Composed of David Gungor and John Arndt, alongside a revolving cast of players, The Brilliance have been steadily developing a following, releasing four albums and playing churches and house shows across the country. As they’ve progressed, their unique blend of liturgical-flavored worship has enamored listeners and has led to this debut release for Integrity Music.
The record leads off with the engaging, seemingly simple title track, “Brother.” Yet there’s nothing simple about this as insightful, powerful lyrics (“Forgiveness is the garment of our courage”) are met with a diverse array of sounds, from bright piano fills accented by warm cello and organic-flavored percussion that truly set this apart. “Now and At the Hour” is a subtle duet, almost reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel, yet the insistent acoustic guitar gives an added intensity to the proceedings before ebbing into the slow build of “Yahweh” which rises to an emotive crescendo of sound with lyrics of need and submission.
A Psalm-like vibe flows from “Does Your Heart Break,” moody cello framing the lyrics as they sing with powerful honesty, “Cannot feel it in my soul/Cannot see You, I’m alone/Can the blind have sight, have sight.” The track is hammered with some electronic percussion with is unsettling but seems right, given the authentic exploration of doubt. “Love Remains” celebrates God’s faithfulness with another juxtaposition of the acoustic and electric, a pressing violin note running throughout while clever percussion provides texture.
“Breathe” rambles along with a Sufjan-inspired collision of bright tones and rousing strings while “Dust We Are and Shall Become” draws from a more subdued palette, the strings and rich vocal harmonies carrying the track most of the way. One of the more simpler yet no less powerful songwriting endeavors, “Prayers of the People” finds The Brilliance asking pleading “Lord have mercy,” only to answer poignantly in return, “Christ has mercy.” “Make Us One” almost feels like a jazz number, a seemingly stream of consciousness soundscape that delivers one of the record’s most powerful lines as they sing, “Why do we choose who’s in/And who to cast out/Can an answer leave room for our doubt?,” a line that may alienate some listeners while drawing others. And with “May You Find a Light/Reprise,” the duo closes out the album with a warm, brightly colored track that leaves listeners on a high note.
That high note is one that continues to resonate throughout multiple listens of this great offering from The Brilliance. Brother is the type of record that manages to speak on multiple levels, appealing to a sense of aesthetic with rich, nuanced artistry while carrying the same in the lyrical content. That combination results in a listening atmosphere that is really something other, standing out from the pack with ease and making this a must listen for discerning fans.
Download Brother on iTunes here.
This review was first published at Soul-Audio.com.