Picking right up from where they left off with Heartbeat, Bellarive’s celebrated major-label debut, the group continues to cast a wide vision for what worship can be with its follow-up Before There Was. Congregational yet creative, inspiring and innovative, Before There Was was birthed out of the band’s tight-knit community and written for anyone hoping to make sense out of life and what God is doing in the midst of it.
“With worship music, the spirit of God is woven into the DNA of every song. It’s very intentional that way,” vocalist/guitarist Sean Curran shares. “And even if it’s just for a moment, if people can realize that God is closer than they ever imagined, if they can believe and hold fast to the promises He’s spoken over their lives, we all actually begin to look more like Him.... I think that’s what worshiping in Spirit and Truth is all about.”
Unlike many bands united primarily for music’s sake, Bellarive, comprised of Curran, Melissa Mage (vocals, percussion), Mike Mage (programming, guitars, vocals), Josh Luker (bass, percussion) and Kenny Werner (drums) is more akin to a family, which lends a decidedly personal flair to the songwriting.
“I think that’s one thing that truly sets us apart,” Sean says. “We know each other’s deepest, darkest secrets and failures, and somehow, God is weaving all that together to bring glory to Himself. It’s a story that God is writing, and yet He’s inviting all these other people to be a part of it, too. It’s incredibly rewarding.”
For Before There Was, Bellarive found incredible inspiration from the teachings and revelations unpacked in the book of Ephesians. “Paul paints the picture of God’s love and grace with such an eternal scope that it’s almost paralyzing,” Sean shares. “It leaves you stunned with the most breathtaking sense of God’s supremacy and His purpose for creation. It says that even before the foundations of the earth, God had us in mind and set out to make us a part of His family through Christ. That’s an incredibly overwhelming thought, that God desires union with his Creation, and even before time, He set out to make that possible.”
With the songs serving as a response to this eternal covenant, Before There Was weaves theology, hope and confession together in a compelling way that can’t help but resonate.
On the album’s first single, “Bring Us Back,” a marked departure from Bellarive’s moodier fare, the group is in full-on rejoicing mode as it celebrates grace and the ministry of reconciliation.
“For a long time, I thought of grace as only a means of saving us from something, but it’s so much more,” Sean reflects. “It does save us but it also propels us into the Kingdom of God and pulls us toward Him. ‘Bring Us Back’ rejoices in how He actually replaces our sin with Himself and calls us His children—and to His righteousness.”
Continuing in the spirit of triumph, “Your Great Love” is a buoyant reminder of Jesus’s sacrifice, something that can be easily forgotten in the busyness of everyday existence. “His heart for coming and surrendering Himself, being obedient all the way to death has actually beaten death,” Sean says. “That can’t be undone, so ‘Your Great Love’ is a song that lifts our gaze and reminds us of that eternal covenant.”
Rounding out the album’s key tracks is “Calling on Fire,” an evocative picture of how fire is such an important part of God’s plan and in revealing His power, presence and glory. “Fire is something that is really close to God’s heart for us. There’s something refining about it. It carries from the atoning and praise sacrifices of the old testament all the way through into Jesus’s teaching about being baptized by water and fire,” Sean shares. “There’s something about putting ourselves through the fire and coming out clean. That’s the heart of the song, calling on God and having our deepest desires be for all of God to replace all of us.”
By not shying away from the complexities of the Christian faith, Bellarive’s music engages the listener on multiple levels. With strong hooks and intricate melodies serving as a captivating foundation, the lyrics encompass the band’s driving passion, namely to sing about these truths together as the Church. “We want to sing something that says ‘God, consume me. Take all of me,’” Sean concludes. “We want to be put through so the fire so we can come out refined. We want to burn away all that’s not of God.”
That may be a tall order, but Bellarive certainly makes the most of the opportunity in a thoroughly engaging fashion with Before There Was.