Prime Cuts: The Invitation Medley, Holy, Holy, Holy, 10,000 Reasons
Overall Grade: 5/5
It's a challenge these days to encounter the "wow" factor in hymns. This is by no means an incredulous taunt on the church's ancient songbook. Rather, it's difficult to add excitement or offer a new reads to tried-and-true standards such as "Holy Holy Holy" or "Great is Thy Faithfulness" or "How Great Thou Art." Yet, Anthem Lights are able to leave us breathless with awe with the second instalment of "Hymns." They have done this not by writing new verses or tags to the hymns. Neither have they added innovative hip hop beats nor have they tried to re-write the melodies. In fact, utilising only a piano on particular tracks (some songs are even stripped of any instruments - wood or metal) and their harmony voices, they really made us sit up and listen.
Way back in 2011 when Reunion Records first released Anthem Lights' eponymous album, many have caricatured the group as a Christianised boy band. But time and their subsequent solid releases have proved naysayers wrong. Since their debut, the quartet have been prodigious in their releases. After 7 short years, they are already championing their sixth release "Hymns Vol. 2." This is not counting the countless EPs and singles they have littered all across Spotify and iTunes.
So, why does this record "wow"? First, Anthem Lights do not just sing. Rather, they have an artful way of stacking up their harmonies making them sound unified. Take a listen, for instance, to "Holy, Holy, Holy." Even without the utilisation of a piano or any other instrument, the boys sound so heavenly when they put their vocals together. More heavenly moments abound with "All Creatures of Our God and King." The way the guys modulate their notes and the way they place their various vocal emphases make this hymn take on a new life that is so refreshing. Then they add a personal dimension to "My Jesus, I Love You," giving it a more updated contemporary sound.
Second, Anthem Lights are also to be congratulated for their mashups. Over the years, their mashups --- which consists of songs being stringed together as a medley--- have gone viral on multiple occasions. They have done this again with "The Invitation Medley," "The Blood Medley" and "The Crown Medley." Most impressive among the trio is "The Invitation Medley" where they have joined together three often unrelated hymns, "Turn Your Eyes," "I Surrender All" and "I Have Decided." And to satisfy contemporary worship music pundits, they have also put their signature sound on Matt Redman's "10,000 Reasons."
For the beauty of how our voices can function as both instruments and vocals, this record itself is an eye-opener. And if you grimace over the singing of hymns, this record will remove all preconceptions and make you fall in love with these sonic treasures all over again.