A project which started as a worship team of highschoolers has now become one of the stronger worship talents on the music scene. Warr Acres describes their musical offerings as eclectic and their new album, Hope Will Rise, certainly exemplifies this right from the start with very varied musical offerings that sample several different brands of an accessible pop sound.
"Pulse" gets things kicking with some exciting energy and goes a long way towards launching the album as a whole. It wields one of the album's stronger and more catchy choruses that will be great for concerts. It also flawlessly demonstrates that you can definitely mix worshipful lyrics and impossibly catchy melodies, as exemplified in the chorus: "We sing your greatness and your fame / Our lives are anchored in your name / We join the heavens with our song / And all the earth will sing along."
"Freedom Fall" steers the album in a more electronic musical direction that carries quite a different feel than the opener. Already, it's clear that Warr Acres isn't going to let themselves be too pinned down to any one genre. The electronic beat creates quite a fun radio-ready track that is both Christ-centric and danceable. A guest spot by one of the most promising new artists in Christian music, Jonathan Thulin, helps to really make this track a standout on the album. It's also got some honest and encouraging lyrics to guide Christians through difficult moments in life, as it reminds us "Your hope is hiding here / In the midst of a list of our faults and fears / Your love is covering / All the pain and the shame of suffering." With two tracks as strong as these leading the album, it's definitely a successful play to grab the listener's ears.
Track 3, "Light Up The Night," again shifts the style with a poppy whistle beat that eventually evolves into a more traditional contemporary pop chorus. "Beautifully Complete" continues the trend of refusing to stay close to the style of the preceeding track. This track carries some more orchestral backing and plays as a more familiar type of contemporary radio hit. The song seems built for success and powerful concert performances, and simple lyrics like "When I'm found in You, I am beautifully complete" manage to take a simple and common truth commonly expressed in Christian music and make it resound with passion and meaning.
"This Beautiful Life" finally seems to offer some sort of settling of style for the album, having shades of several of the previous tracks and feeling like a fairly safe pop offering that keeps the album's pace without feeling the need to introduce yet another style. This is good, since too many different styles in one album could have let to a disjointed feeling and this song goes a long way to offering some consistency.
Lead single "Hope Will Rise" returns to the soft contemporary style. While it starts fairly subdued, it eventually finds it's wings and takes off into a more soaring and memorable cut on the album, complete with a "Nothing But The Blood" interlude that is pulled off in an almost haunting and spine-tingling way that serves to complete the song.
"So Much Greater" is another album highlight with a familiar but still catchy chorus that again pleads for radio exposure and Church service inclusions. Musically, it also boasts some light rock moments and just a hint of orchestral backing to help it feel like an offering that is truly aiming for it's full potential. There's even some saxophone on the bridge that harkens back to the album's diverse musical identity.
"All Around" does well at blending some of the electronic side and the pop side together into quite an accessible track, but it does lack some of the punch of the first half of the album. For a moment, it does feel a bit like the album is losing steam. But the soothing piano intro to "Psalm 27" and the hymn-like progression of the verses definitely help to get things feeling back on track. It's orchestral instrumentation carries an almost cinematic feel to it and the musical outro penetrates deep into the soul. I could have been happy with a whole track of that. This would've also made quite a strong closer to the album, but there are still three tracks left.
So they've obviously saved the best for last, right? Well, "Nobody Else" definitely keeps things interesting. There's a soothing piano backing to what is ultimately a very personal and emotional song praising God on a deeper level than is often seen in worship music: "All I have is Yours / I give it up / I want you more / You are all I have when all else fails / You're my cure." The song plays almost like a love ballad that could close out a movie or an episode of a television drama. The bridge begins to add in some intriguing distortion that explodes into a climactic and soaring finale with choral vocals and intense melodies. Again, this too could have served as a terrific finale, perhaps even stronger than previous track. With the ante seemingly upped every song as the album winds down, there's definitely a feeling of excitement as to just what the band has planned for the actual finale.
Alas, "Linger" doesn't deliver as well as the previous two tracks in this department. It's definitely a beautiful track musically and is lyrically at least on par with most of the album thus far. It just feels to make the album linger a tad more than it should, which felt like an issue on a few songs on the second half. At 14 tracks, it sometimes does feel like the album might have been better served if it were a cut or two shorter.
"Here At Your Feet" is a slow-building song that gets gradually more intense with choral chants coming in the latter half, building towards a crescendo of a finish. It's definitely a satisfying closer in and of itself, but it does feel a bit overshadowed by some of the songs a few tracks back. Given the anticipation building through those tracks, I think the finale could have and should have been stronger, even if it meant a bit of a track re-ordering. Still, that aside, the song serves as a worthy conclusion to a fine collection of worship songs.
Warr Acres have taken your more traditional radio-ready worship music and, for the most part, put an eclectic variety of spins on it. From some engaging pop and light rock, to danceable electronic offerings, to cinematic emotional ballads, they've managed to show themselves a talented and diverse group capable of reaching a wide audience with their unflinching Christ-centric message. This is definitely a group to keep your eye on. Who knows what kinds of gems they could put out in the future with an album like this to build on!
Song to Download Now:
"Hope Will Rise"