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Journey of Joy
Posted October 18, 2013
By MaryNikkel_NRT, Staff Reviewer

When iconic alternative rockers Thrice announced their hiatus in 2012, fans were left feeling bereft of the contemplative songwriting voice of frontman Dustin Kensrue. Fortunately, he didn't bow out of music making entirely. Kensrue's involvement now comes through west coast mega-church Mars Hill, and his new solo worship venture is ushered in under the Mars Hill Music umbrella.
Although the lyrics of The Water and The Blood retain the poetic and thoughtful songwriting style established in Thrice's work, the content is much more concrete. Where Thrice allowed spirituality to serve as a constantly tugging undercurrent, Kensrue's latest is an outpouring of theologically rich declarations. 
Opening track "Rejoice" immediately sets the tone of the album as being marked by joy. These are songs that could easily be taken and used in a congregational setting. "Rock of Ages" takes the words of the classic hymn and builds a new tune and a new chorus around them. Although re-writing hymns is always a little hit or miss, in this case Kensrue pulls it off.
"Suffering Servant" uses rich scriptural phrasing to paint a picture of Christ's loving suffering in the face of the earth's rejection. Despite the more mournful theme, musically this song continues in the already set path of a raw, indie sound. The slight layer of vocal grit that worked so well in Thrice's post-hardcore pieces also lends itself beautifully to the rough sound of this project. Suitably, the music is produced to leave a level of fuzz around the instruments' tone that gives the listener the sense of being in the room with the artist, joining in praise.
"My One Comfort" declares the surety of Christ's atonement as cause for celebration, beginning with the simple yet powerful statement "my one comfort both in life and death is that I am not my own / I was bought with blood / and I confess I belong to You alone." "God is Good" explores the theme of recognizing God's goodness even when we perceive Him as silent or passive.
Continuing with the rich theological content, "Grace Alone" explores our deep dependence on grace to even be able to enter a relationship with God. Musically, "The Voice of the Lord" draws on a subtle jangle in the guitar tone and a more aggressive drive that makes this song the most reminiscent of Thrice's work. This song focuses on the overwhelming power of God's voice and the way we respond to it as His creation.
"It's Not Enough" is the first track to strip back the instrumentation and structure to achieve a more vulnerable moment in the music, lending itself perfectly to a vibrantly poetic picture of our deep need for Christ. The lyrics walk through ways our souls try to satisfy themselves ("I could walk the world forever / 'til my shoes were filled with blood"), concluding in the bridge, "it's not enough to make me whole / it's not enough and never was.
"Come Lord Jesus" returns to the more upbeat sound of the rest of the collection. Although lyrically the cry for Christ's return focuses more on imagery of His coming return, in another light it could also be an acceptable advent song. "Oh God" is held together by subtle piano chords, an instrument that is most clearly present on the last few tracks of the album. "It Is Finished" grants a final call to draw deep joy and peace from the reality that Jesus already accomplished what we never could. The album ends with the encouragement "go bravely into battle knowing He has won the war."
Closing Thoughts:
Although some of the lyrical framing and vocal stylings are the same, this is definitely unique and distinct in all other ways from the experimental angst of Thrice's work. The slight raw edge of the music lends a sense of genuineness to the project, while the lyrics flow from a rock solid scripture foundation. The doctrine-heavy statements definitely bear a recognizably Reformed leaning, as is to be expected from a Mars Hill artist, but they are sung with a humility and openness that invites believers from all denominations into unified worship. Although musically this album does not set itself too far apart from other recent indie-leaning worship projects, the thoughtful lyrics and joyful spirit make this an album well worth an attentive listen.
Song to Download Now:
"It's Not Enough" (Get it on iTunes here.)

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