Kingdom Of Comfort (Christianity Today)
Last modified: 01 Mar 2008
Source: Christianity Today
Author: Russ Breimeier
Date: Mar 2008
There was a stretch of albums where things seemed like an either/or proposition for Delirious-either worship music (Glo, World Service) or alternative rock (Mezzamorphis, Touch). As a result, the Brit rock band always seemed at odds either with fans waiting for the next "I Can Sing of Your Love Forever" or those expecting the band to offer increasingly inventive rock. But with 2005's The Mission Bell, Delirious rediscovered that they could have it both ways, just as they did with King of Fools ten years ago, combining songs of worship with songs that inspire us to worship.
The band's twelfth album Kingdom of Comfort continues that path of artistry, and if The Mission Bell was heard as a call to action, then this record is the sound of Christians in action. Inspired by recent tours and mission trips to poverty-stricken nations like Cambodia, India, and Rwanda, the band began to question whether they were filling their lives with eternal things or earthly. The experience led Martin Smith and company to develop Compassionart, but that's another story.
Hence the provocative cover art indicting the disposable consumerism of the music business and this present iPod/Starbucks generation-all in pristine Apple white, no less. The theme carries over into some songs as well, starting with the title track, a plea for deliverance from material greed and the trappings of the world that keep us from doing God's work. One of the album's most powerful lyrics comes in "Love Will Find a Way," a summary of the internal tension that most Christians experience on a mission trip: "I stare in the eyes of this flesh and bone/I'm a tourist here so tomorrow I go home/I try to make sense of the things I've seen/Between the poverty and the five-star dream."
If only more of the songs delved as deeply into Delirious' third-world experiences. Instead, unless you're familiar with the stories behind the songs, you wouldn't know that "Wonder" was inspired by a prostitute's child in India, or that "All God's Children" stemmed from having such children (and their mothers, no less) come on stage to dance with the band. Without context, they're simply songs about a changed heart and anticipation of Christ's return.
Don't mistake such missed opportunities to share as indictment of the songs themselves. Kingdom of Comfort is still an impressive record from every angle, especially the band's overall sound. Aided by producer Sam Gibson (Pearl Jam, Hillsong United), Delirious has gone back to the building blocks of rock, scaling back somewhat on the choirs and strings (though both appear in a couple tracks). Unlike most bands in Christian music, this one is more than willing to play with its tones from track to track. I love Jon Thatcher's darker, heavier bass on "Break the Silence" in contrast to the rest of the album, and Stew Smith's drums seem as explosive as Led Zeppelin or Phil Collins on "Wonder."
For that matter, Stu G's guitar work takes on a starker, more flowing quality reminiscent of Radiohead in the title track, flirting with folk and alternative rock. Tim Jupp adds loads of synth to the heavy guitars of "Stare the Monster Down," a thrilling rocker about seeking God for refuge from life's obstacles. There's almost a Latin undertone to the lighter rock of "Eagle Rider," an ode to the Holy Spirit that draws on the imagery of Isaiah 40, while "Give What You've Got" takes on a rowdier classic rock shuffle that recalls U2's "Love and Peace or Else."
And yes, there's still room for some worshipful anthems in all of this, the most prominent being "We Give You Praise," an elegant rock ballad in the Cutting Edge tradition with more emotion and originality to the lyrics than the simplistic title lets on, giving thanks to "the King of all the earth [who] has saved us from ourselves." There's also the hymn-like "How Sweet the Name," a piano ballad as gentle as Delirious' "What a Friend I've Found" before exploding into atmospheric rock at the end. Less likely to find their way into the average church service are "All God's Children" and "My Soul Sings," simply because they sound so huge, but they make a stirring worshipful finale to the album nonetheless.
Though some of the songs admittedly feel like the usual rock anthems from Delirious, like the U2-styled "Love Will Find a Way" or "God Is Smiling" (which starts off resembling Jars of Clay's "Work"), at least their sound and production distinguishes them from previously released songs by the band. What impresses most about Kingdom of Comfort is Delirious' willingness to continually push themselves out of their creative comfort zone, but it's when the band blatantly challenges us to live outside our comfort zone that this album succeeds the most.