The David Crowder*Band are no more. With a career spanning about 15 years, 6 albums, 4 EPs and a lot of touring they have decided to call it a day.
It is easy to pass over the fact they released 6 albums and think it is just a number.
Just as there was 6 days of creation and a final day of rest, so the Crowder*Band have had their musical-creation project conclude on a 6th album that is appealing for rest.
In addition to this the number 7 (a number often understood as denoting some sense of completion) has recurred again and again (as we shall see) within the band’s thought leading up to this album (their final tour was named The 7 Tour), as well as in the album itself because of the end it spells.
The title of the album itself is subject to a host of meanings.
The appeal for rest is framed in that the album takes it shape around the liturgical structure of a Requiem Mass (or a ‘mass for the dead’) – which take place to commemorate a person’s passing (this is not inappropriate given that the band has now, strictly speaking, “passed on”).
However there is another meaning within the words – which is just typical of the Crowder*Band. This meaning plays off the bands nerdy, physics-loving side.
Mass here refers to a body of matter; and c represents the character in equations that denotes the speed of light. The two, as I understand it, come together in physics in the reality that if a body of mass was to travel at the speed of light it is understood that such a body would have infinite mass.
This second layer of symbolism, centring around light, is at work within the album, just as it has been in previous albums, observing that as we humans (as bodies of mass) approach the light (or speed of light), Jesus we are pulled away from our depravity and sinfulness into a new, wholly and infinitely other, experience.
Just as these fun and games have been at work in the album names and song meanings (since Can You Hear Us?, through Illuminate, A Collision or (3+4=7), Remedy andChurch Music to Give Us Rest) so too has a wealth of depth, thought, creativity and intricacy been active in the music.
The Crowder*Band have never done anything by halves. They have taught us, through their exceptional and extreme creativity, something of what it means to worship.
None to often in the world of music, never mind Christian music, will you find a band who has made mainstream the experimental nature of using a mod-ed out Guitar Hero guitar. Or made a robotic drum kit named Steve-3PO for use on stage and in studio. Or popularised vastly different sonic avenues which have been explored throughout their records all executed with precision.
This has been absolutely necessary and desperately needed in a genre of music that has, none too often, lacked any truly creative spark and often settled for music and songs that border on the shallow and superficial.
This brings us to the threshold of Give Us Rest or (A Requiem Mass in C [The Happiest of All Keys]).
What can be said of this album? The band’s final offering.
The only fitting phrase is that this album is, I believe, their magnum opus.
Now that is a controversial statement because we are talking about a group that has, at least since Illuminate, steadily redefined and reenergised what we can expect from the Christian music industry.
Yet, within the ambitious directionality of their musical projects, that this album is their magnum opus should only make perfect sense. It has been commented that in many ways it is the extension and conclusion of the topic explored in A Collision. Not only this, but it draws together the sonic development the group has explored throughout its career. How so?
Well within this 7 section (taking on the structure of the Requiem Mass – and again drawing us to this no. 7 theme), 34 song, 1 hr 40 mins 45 secs work of art, the band’s tendencies toward bluegrass (a la A Collision) and the more experimental-arena-rock opera (Church Music) come together with the more standard, but by no means straightforward, songs they have crafted (think No One Like You or the Remedyalbum).
Give Us Rest draws all of this together, the music, themes, direction and purpose of the band’s previous efforts. And within the scheme an honest petition of wishing to find rest in God in the midst of the pain and mess of life is made. It is within this all that the band has ever sought to do begins to coalesce to leave us with something that is truly great.
The opening lyrics of Oh Great God, Give Us Rest demonstrate this:
Oh great God, give us rest.
We’re all worn thin from all of this
At the end of our hope with nothing left
Oh great God, give us rest
Oh great God, do your best
Have you seen this place, it’s all a mess
And I’ve done my part too well I guess
Oh great God, do your best
Now it would be absurd to do a song by song breakdown and analysis of the album, but with this plea and the structure of the Mass for its consideration we are now taken on a journey through a sonic terrain journeying through pounding and upbeat rock songs, to the bluegrass infused, even dark and brooding, reflective and heart-laid bare requests for mercy and forgiveness.
Disc 1 in fact finishes with a jaw dropping 7 (what, again?) song piece called Sequence(name sake of the liturgical section of the Mass) or as the Latin translates – Day of Wrath. Appropriately the music crafted for this section doesn’t skimp on the threat of the sections name. Blending Sufjan Stevens with something almost like Cloudkicker the bands experimental, rock opera sentimentalities are given space to breathe and do its work – the results are stunning (and dare I say, at times, aggressive)!
Disc 2 takes the plea for rest in God and drives it, like Disc 1, as we move closer to the album’s conclusion, toward Christ.
Through songs that wonderfully explore our position, relative to God (I Am A Seed andAfter All (Holy)) we are moved with the music toward acknowledging and celebrating the new possibilities and hope Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection have awoken both in us and in the world (Oh, Great Love of God and Because He Lives).
As the album closes Crowder sings
Because He lives I can face tomorrow
Because He lives all fear is gone
Because I know
He holds the future
And life is worth living just because He lives
It is in this place we find rest, hope, purpose and are drawn as bodies of mass toward a light of infinite brightness – there is no more fitting a conclusion to the album than that.
Give Us Rest in some senses may lack the cohesion Church Music showed and the sheer length may put some off of it all together.
Despite this, the resolute honesty of a man and his band searching for God, like most of us are, is something that carries you through the terrain of this album. In addition the intricacy, performance and production of the album are so exquisite that it would be hard not to see this as the most fitting conclusion, in every sense, to a career that has successfully shown all of us what it means to create, not as chore but for the sheer joy of being given the breath to do it.
So thank you David Crowder*Band for what you have done here. Thank you for the journey I and many others have been on with you. Thank you for where you have taken us to on this album. And ultimately, thank you for teaching us that creativity exists in abundance in certain people and that when 6 or 7 of these people get together, with a desire to do all that they can for God, something can be brought about that opens all our eyes to what music can and should do.