|Worship All Night Long | Posted August 13, 2013
When David Crowder*Band announced they would be going their separate ways, one thought that they were going to do exactly that—go their separate ways. Although the final DC*B album was called Give Us Rest, the band didn't really mean it. Everyone took a quick breath and plunged into the next phase of music ministry.
While Crowder himself pursued a more folk worship experience, the rest of the guys—Mark Waldrop, Mike Dodson, Jack Parker and Jeremy "B-Wack" Bush—wanted to continue making a brand of modern "church music." Thus, the Digital Age came about.
The band first caught the attention of fans (new and old) with the release of their Rehearsals EP shortly after announcing their formation, a collection of six songs, including a hit remake of All Sons & Daughters' "All the Poor and Powerless," a rendition of "How Great Thou Art" and two versions of songs from Give Us Rest: "After All (Holy)" and "Oh My God / I Am a Seed."
Now, with much anticipation, the Waco, Texas band releases its first full-length album as a band, the concept album, Evening:Morning. The Digital Age says the project takes the listener from evening to morning (7 p.m. to 7 a.m.), with each of the 12 tracks representing a particular hour period.
"Captured" is the first real single released from Evening:Morning, and it's arguably the best track on the album. It's hard to pin a genre to this song, but it contains the driving tempo and folk energy of a Mumford & Songs with obvious pop sensibilities. You'll hear a familiar chord progression, but you won't care. They make it so catchy and so fun to sing, "Your love, Your love has rescued me / Your love, has come to set me free / Your love, Your love is all I need." Mike Dodson's lead vocals fade into choir-like harmonies throughout.
The driving, soaring guitar riff that opens "Symphony" immediately elicits memories of David Crowder*Band, as this definitely sounds like it was cut from the same cloth. Mike D's vocals, while very different than Crowder's, fit the bill for more of an indie sound. The very worshipful, straightforward lyrics easily could have been sung by Crowder on a previous album: "Praise be to God who has set me free in a symphony of praise!" The story here is that the rockin' worship sound lives on.
"All the Poor and Powerless," the breakout hit of The Digital Age, has a gentler feel than the "live" version presented on the Rehearsals EP. While the general arrangement and structure is the same, there are more ambient electric guitar garnishes and soothing tones. Even during the part where the bridge jumps an octave, it's still quite a bit more subdued. It is, after all, the 9 p.m. slot. Personally, I didn't see a need to re-record the song when the Rehearsals version was as good and as polished as it already was.
The rock worship sound that drove "Symphony" finds its way back onto the album with "Your Name (We Shout)," a declarative praise piece that has its own distinct feel for The Digital Age (meaning, I couldn't picture David Crowder singing it). Rich harmonies between Mike D. and Mark ring out as they sing, "We shout, we shout / Your name across the universe / Aloud, aloud / The sound of Heaven will be heard / With all that is within us shout Your name." The bridge is particularly powerful as they sing, "We cannot contain, not contain Your glory / Heaven open wide, open wide / We are reaching out / We have found Your freedom / Heaven is alive."
A thought: The Digital Age was "screaming it from the mountains" at 9 p.m., and "shouted His name" at 10 p.m. That's going to make for some very upset neighbors. Moving on...
Guitar tones accompany electronically altered harmonic voices (not entirely unlike Imogen Heap's "Hide and Seek") on "Overcome," a mostly relaxed ballad that simply sings about being overcome by Jesus' love. A powerful, cinematic bridge shows the passion that comes as we receive His love and grace in the dark hours of life (a la 11 p.m.).
So far on the album, there hasn't been a lot of "digital" from The Digital Age. On "Through the Night," though, listeners' ears immediately perk up with various video game percussive sounds driving this haunting hybrid of Gregorian chant, rock opera and movie soundtrack. The song speaks to endurance and holding fast to the Truth in the midst of despair: "We'll sing across Your oceans / We'll sing across Your shores / We'll sing it through the night / We'll sing because we're Yours."
"So light us up / We'll shine Your light / We will glow!" shouts the driving, synth-infused chorus of "Glow," the most digital track on The Digital Age's album. It's a prayer for light in the midst of darkness, a declaration of faith that indeed "we will glow." It definitely is reminiscent of DC*B jams, but Mike D's more understated lead vocals allow the instrumentals to really shine on this one.
The increasingly popular song by United Pursuit Band, "Break Every Chain," comes next in the 2 a.m. spot. At one of the loneliest times of the night (and the time many bars close), this song declares over and over, "There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain." The arrangement lacks the passion of the original recording by UPB, which ultimately makes the song feel lacking. Even the instrumentals lack the necessary dynamics to really sell this song. It's not that The Digital Age does a bad job; it's just that the United Pursuit Band version is so passionate and good, it's hard not to compare.
"Believe" is a totally chilled out, ambient track based on the Apostle's Creed. Guitar-driven and filled out by octave-split singing by Mike D. and Mark, this is a 21st Century chant of sorts. It's not radio-friendly by any stretch, but a great way to declare some of the unifying truths of the Christian faith. And if you haven't seen the cool video they filmed for it, you'll have to check that out.
Probably the most Crowder Band-sounding track on the whole album, the energetic, driving "God Of Us All" deploys that magical formula of guitars, power vocals (Mike D's strongest on the album) and synths. Lyrically, there's a beautiful picture of the presence of the Holy Spirit on the second verse: "Like wind you fly beneath my skin / O King on High, enter in." At 4 a.m., the utter darkness is starting to give way with this track.
"Always You" is a reverent, awed calling of the sunrise. With two minutes of instrumental introduction, there's this build to this climactic moment. Having made it through the worst darkness, the singer resounds, "It's always You," in enamoured, dramatic fashion. The most soundtrack-like song of the album paints a picture almost of a reunited love: "I will bend but I won't break / Steal my heart, it's Yours to take."
Chirping birds introduce the culminating track on the album, "Morning Song." Simple acoustic guitar joins the birds before split-octave singers present whispery vocals that reflect a peace that only comes with experiencing God's presence and faithfulness through the night. It's among the simplest of songs, and the simplest of messages. Things can get complicated in the night, but coming out the other side yields a simple, childlike faith. The chirping birds close out the album alone.
While there are definitely some flashes of David Crowder*Band glory on Evening:Morning, there's plenty of brilliance here in previously untraveled musical territory. It's a big shift to replace a dramatic, iconic voice like Crowder's, and The Digital Age made the right call by not trying to do so. Instead, they leveraged the simplicity of Dodson's voice and paired it with Waldrop's higher tones to create an ethereal, haunting, choral sound throughout the album. DC*B fans looking for a more dominant vocal performance will be disappointed, but music fans willing to look a little beneath the surface will recognize the genius in making the vocals just another instrument.
The album's concept holds for the most part, particularly in the middle of the "night." Evening:Morning isn't a commercial album per se (i.e., it's got too much originality), but it's definitely worshipful and continues the legacy DC*B had of producing cutting-edge "church music." In an age of purchasing individual songs, many may never discover the beauty of the entire "night," but nonetheless, most of the songs stand alone as potential Sunday morning worship songs.
The Digital Age's music by and large doesn't reflect its name, but that's totally OK. They could be called The Big Green Slugs for all we care; what matters is that they're generally making musically artful songs that present thoughtful yet simple truths.
Song to Download Now:
"Captured" (Get it on iTunes here
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