Prime Cuts: Fire's Gonna Fall, Always Be My Love, Everybody's Broken
Overall Grade: 2.5/5
"Iron Lung" is a strange title for a worship project. However, a little understanding of the album's sui genesis immediately clears the mystery: as a child, Smith was diagnosed with a serious case of bronchial pneumonia, which became so life and death that he was literally placed in an oxygen tent similar to an 'iron lung.' As the medical device kept him alive, Smith's faith-filled parents prayed that if God would "let him make a noise," they would give their son back to Him and dedicate him to His service. The profound experience of their pain and turmoil heavily influenced Smith to title the album Iron Lung, as did the unexpected death of Smith's mother-in-law during the making of the album. His family's sudden loss deeply affected the recording of his vocals, as he poured out his heart as the lyrics were brought to life.
This means that "Iron Lung" is supposed to be a deeply personal album for the former frontman of Delirious?. However, this is where the blunder lies: for a deeply personal song, the title cut "Iron Lung" is ostensibly guarded. The steely strings sound like it belongs to a sci-fi movie and Smith's aloof-sounding vocals recorded as if he were 10 feet away from the microphone make the song sounds very impersonal. Even when the lyrics hints at Smith's childhood illness and the distress of his parents, the song doesn't invite us into the emotions of the entire saga. It's as if there was a metallic fence erected between us and the happenstances of the song. We don't get to taste and feel the angst and anguish of the song.
For a deeply personal record, why do we have songs like "Great and Glorious" and "Exalt"? These are over the top theatrical rock anthems calling to mind Pink Floyd and Meatloaf with lyrics that are as generic as the average worship songs over-saturating our market now. If viewed as a worship song per se, "Fire's Gonna Fall" and "Everybody's Broken" are noteworthy. "Everybody's Broken" has a cool Beatles-esque intro before transitioning to an explosive rock exposition of Ezekiel 37. "Fire's Gonna Fall" has an irresistible catchy melody but the lyrics are not clear enough. What's this fire Smith is referring to? The Holy Spirit? Speaking in tongues? And how does this fire start? The song leaves more questions than answers.
Nevertheless, there are some attempts of redemption towards the end of the record. "Always Be My Love" is a so-so attempt by Smith in the balladry department; however the song again fails in its over-generalised vanilla lyrics. "Give Thanks for a Broken Heart" could have been the saving grace of the record. However, producer Gabriel Wilson (Bethel Music, John Mark McMillan) needs to be fired for surrounding this deeply reflective song with loud schmaltzy strings that completely destroy every trace of the song's emotive nuances.
For a veteran artist like Smith, this album is simply misdirected. Smith needs to make up his mind if this is a worship project or a more reflective personal album. This is because this project tries to tackle both but fails miserably in both endeavors.