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Emphasizing the Fellowship
Posted April 09, 2015
By MarcusHathcock_NRT, Staff Reviewer

Nowadays, it seems that pretty much every megachurch in America is recording an album, and for the most part, a whole lot of them follow the same formula, musically speaking. Prevailing trends often take center stage, and there's little actual pioneering when it comes to the sound these albums provide--and, true enough, in a medium that's designed to appeal to people coming in on Sunday morning in hopes of getting them to sing to their Creator, it's not necessarily a bad thing. 

For those seeking a little more musical meat in their church-based worship, Fellowship Creative fits the bill. The 2014 WE LOVE CHRISTIAN MUSIC AWARDS nominee wowed and surprised people with their unconventional national debut, Running to Follow, and now, less than a year later, they're back with a new EP, Alive in Us, featuring four new songs and two acoustic renditions of two of those songs. 

"Grace On Top Of Grace" is a four-on-the-floor low-key but uptempo opener that would be at home on a Matt Redman record. Very hymn-like in its structure and almost Celtic in its execution, the song is another stylistic surprise from Fellowship Creative, although it probably runs closer to the mainstream sounds than one might expect from hearing Running to Follow. The "once lost, now found" message of the song is one of grateful celebration.

Instead of pounding synths orchestrating "With Us," it sounds as if they've deployed a mandolin to produce the looping riff that drives this second uptempo number. The standout track on this EP, "With Us" is a declaration of the power and freedom that comes with realizing the Lord is for us and not against us now that we're in Christ. While it has plenty of dance track DNA, there's something quasi-folky about it, almost like Crowder's "folktronica" that's intriguing, which is representative of Fellowship Creative's musical allure.

The simple ballad "Name of Jesus" attributes the forgiveness of sins and stains made clean by being "covered in the name of Jesus," a word picture not often sang in contemporary worship music. The contemplative, piano driven song is strongest in the crescendoing bridge, as the male vocalist sings: "All my strength is in You, Lord / Now my heart will sing Your praise / Nothing formed against me stands / In the power of Your name."

A total Easter song, "Jesus Is Alive" declares the Lord's triumph over death and the grave. Like Bill Gaither's "Because He Lives" and Matt Maher's "Because He Lives (Amen)" before it, this song goes from focusing on Jesus' victory to the fact that we get to share in such victory. Military-like snare drums build the intensity of this cinematic song, as does a bed of subtle electronic programming elements. This is probably Fellowship Creative's greatest slow-song to date. 

The acoustic version of "With Us" almost sounds completely different, with the stripped down, two acoustic guitar arrangement that allows the singer's Jeremy Riddle-like voice to shine. While it's clear this version was included to show that this song could be done with a lone worship leader and a guitar (or two), it would've been nice to hear a cajon or some sort of percussion driving the tune.

They flesh out the acoustic version of "Jesus Is Alive" a little better, with piano, strings and even a bit of ambient electric guitar (I think) providing a fuller experience for such an epic, cinematic song. This still-powerful, but more subdued version of this song is beautiful as a meditative song or something that could be used during Communion or a baptism. 

Closing Thoughts:
While not as divergent musically as Running to Follow, it's clear that Fellowship Creative's Alive in Us EP is geared toward the global Church, providing accessible instrumentations, memorable choruses and important themes that easily will find their way to scores of Sunday morning services. 

There are some great worshipful moments on the record, and the production quality is stellar. The subject matter of Jesus being alive and active is something that never gets old, and the band does its duty best to put its unique stamp on a timeless concept, to the point where you're feeling like you're truly singing a new song unto the Lord. 

Whereas the group's debut record stretched the bounds of musical and stylistic creativity, making us all take another look at what worship albums could sound like, Alive in Us shows us the apostolic heart of Fellowship Creative's worship ministry by giving the "capital C" Church resources to get people praising. Whereas the debut emphasized the CREATIVE in Fellowship Creative, this EP emphasizes the FELLOWSHIP.

Song to Download Now:
"With Us" (Get it on iTunes here.)


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