|Lasting Connections | Posted July 27, 2013
It’s remarkable how the whole six degrees of separation thing works. Especially in Christian music. It was a natural progression that when I purchased my first ever Christian album, Jeremy Camp’s Stay, I’d eventually find my way to his wife, Adrienne Camp, a female vocalist with a career in her own right.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that she was once Adrienne Liesching, the lead vocalist of a female-fronted rock group known as The Benjamin Gate, composed of herself and teenage best friends Mac Pautz, Costa Balamatsias, Nick Volsteedt and Chris Poisat. After a quick internet search of the band, I was quickly intrigued by their short-lived story, and even more eager to hear the music that followed.
Upon being discovered through studio demos, the young band hailing from South Africa moved to the U.S. to sign with Forefront Records and record their first project, Untitled, back in 2001. The group toured like crazy to promote the first record and began to gain a cult-like following with their high energy live performances, dramatic sense of style, and signature gas mask logo that graced all of their memorabilia.
Following their first hit “All Over Me,” the group got to work straight away on recording their follow-up and final CD, Contact. Although a fair amount of time and money was spent on marketing, its reception was met without hype, in part due to their sudden change of style, which transitioned from a techno pop group to a mainstream alternative pop/rock sound.
The group toured hard again over the next two years. While on the road, Adrienne began dating then up-and-comer Jeremy Camp, and it wasn’t long before the two were engaged. You can imagine how much of a shock it was to fans when only a month after word of their impending marriage, the band amiably decided to call it quits. While Yoko-Ono syndrome struck and fingers quickly pointed to Jeremy, the reality was that the band was burned out and unhappy. Each of them felt it was time to purse different avenues of life and move on.
With The Benjamin Gate’s sudden demise came the overnight oversight of the two efforts they contributed to CCM. As someone who enjoys blowing the dust off of a forgotten gem, I was ecstatic to finally find a copy of their 2002 Contact album. Little did I know upon my discovery, I'd found what is now counted as one of my all-time favorite records.
From the first track “Lift Me Up,” the departure from their debut album is evident. Two separate soaring guitar riffs attack the listener right away, and Adrienne’s light soprano vocals meet flawlessly with the carefree flow of the melody.
“This Is Not” follows, and borderlines a punk tune in its quirky rock vibe and earworm electronics. The song can be seen as an angsty break-up track, but never specifies a person and can be directly pointed to a number of things or people, making it all the more unique.
Über radio-friendly “The Calling” paves the way for the most hard rock dominant song on the album, “Do What You Say,” which the band dedicated to quote “mouth flapping Christians who need to walk their talk.” A harsh message is met with an equally harsh sound, and quickly rises as the strongest cut.
A cover of Men At Work‘s “Overkill” graces the palate of the listener next and transforms a cheesy 80’s classic into an eerie alternative rock jewel, which channels shades of Shirley Manson in Adrienne’s creepy vocals: “I can’t get to sleep, I think about the implications of diving in too deep, and possibly the complications / Especially at night, I worry over situations that I know will be alright, it’s just overkill.”
The first overtly Christian message on the album, “Need,” sounds more like a raw, unfiltered journal entry than a song, while the pace picks up once more with the prayerfully bubbly rocker “Light.”
“Your Kisses Blind Me” can be taken controversially if seen in a literal way, but can no more be confused with modern classic “How He Loves” in its relation to divine intimacy. Incredibly written, the song would fit right in with today’s current worship movement, forming a very strong moment on the album: “Beautiful You are to me, moon above the raging sea / beautiful You are to me, flame of fire inside of me.”
“Tonight” is an anthemic rally for the church to stand united and be a shining city on a hill for Christ, offering the clever line: “If this is the beginning of the end of time, how much longer have we got to sing this rhyme?”
“Gratitude” and the most dated-sounding track on the album, “The Way You Are,” offer more flawlessly moody, melodic worship, while “Violently” launches with more stellar guitar work (which you will see an abundance of throughout the entire project) and grinds out our soul’s need for a Savior.
The honest and alternative “Fall Away” closes the album, but does so in a way that makes it feel incomplete, almost as if there should be one more track to tie it all together. A hidden radio edit of “The Calling” on the tail end is a nice touch, but still feels as if it lacks. Then again, perhaps wanting more is the sign of a job well done.
How Does It Hold Up Today?
Arguably, this album not only holds up well in the 11 years since it’s release, I’d even say it was sorely before its time. There are a few moments on the record that have a fresh-faced “new millennium” sound, but somehow, when incorporated with their mix of attitude rock and alternative electronic elements, create something spectacular you want to listen to over and over again. Lyrically, the album stands the test of time as well. In-your-face statements sprinkled with an occasional flair for dramatic worship hold up today with very solid stature.
What Is The Band Up To Today?
Members of The Benjamin Gate are scattered far and wide these days, while some of the members are AWOL altogether. Mac and his family moved to England to be closer to his wife’s relatives, Costas relocated back to South Africa, and last anyone heard of Nick, he was pursuing a modeling career in Los Angeles. They’ve all remained relatively low key.
The female face of the band has gone on to have the most success. After marrying Jeremy Camp in 2003 and quickly starting a family, Adrienne Camp made several guest appearances singing for her husband before reemerging from a premature retirement to release two solo albums under the name Adie in 2006 and 2010 respectively.
A radical departure from the band’s sound, both albums are solely pop/worship oriented, proving to longtime listeners just how diverse her vocal abilities really are. Though she hasn’t implied a desire to make more music in the near future, Adrienne has said in past interviews that dabbling in rock music again isn’t something she’s opposed to, and given the inspiration, another rock-fueled record might happen one day.
Contact is an album glimmering with righteous relevancy by one of the most underrated acts to hit CCM. If I were ever cast away to a deserted island for the rest of my life and was only allowed to take a handful of albums with me, this is unquestionably the first one I’d reach for. That alone makes a rather clear statement.
Song to Download Now:
“Do What You Say” (Get it on iTunes here
Comments (0) | Add Comment | Is This Review Helpful? Yes | No