Review Summary: Break me free to live enchanted, beyond controlKings Kaleidoscope
is one of the rare bands in Christian music that isn't afraid to do whatever they want. Looking at their discography makes this plainly obvious. In addition to recording church-focused worship music (most of it from their days at Mars Hill Church in Seattle), they have also created what I cite as one of the most game-changing albums in all of Christian music, their full-length debut Becoming Who We Are
. It combined the sonic complexities of the incredibly dense indie rock created by bands like Broken Social Scene
, The Polyphonic Spree
, and Arcade Fire
with incredibly poignant, heartfelt, vertical lyrics.
Here's the question, though: how do you follow that absolutely perfect, widely acclaimed monstrosity"
Well, in Beyond Control
, Kings Kaleidoscope
has given us the answer, and I don't know if it's the one that everyone (especially me) was expecting.
You see, one of the things I loved about Becoming Who We Are
is its sonic density and complexity. It was one of the most instantaneously grabbing albums I have ever listened to from a musical perspective. Beyond Control
, on the other hand, strips a lot of that massive, epic sound away. That whole incredibly dense thing they had going on" Yeah, it's pretty much gone now.
Now, that may sound like a bad thing, but here's the funniest part of this shift: it's actually incredibly rewarding. There's a lot less of an overwhelming sense to the music, which might actually make it better to some ears. Beyond Control
also shows some increased usage of horns, which in addition to some choral bits make the record have some serious soul and swagger at times, in particular "Most of It," "In This Ocean Pt. I," and "Sabotage/Home." Their previous efforts showed brief moments of this, but in Beyond Control
there's this bouncy feeling that underlies most of the album's first half. It makes for a very interesting listen that is strange at first but addictive after a few times through. Even though that epic, sweeping feeling is gone, the album is still excellent and shows a striving for incredible artistry while showing musical change and evolution.
Lyrically, there's a much different feeling to Beyond Control
than the more corporately focused music Kings Kaleidoscope
has been releasing before. Chad Gardner, the band's lead singer, said that this is not as much an album for the church as it is for the individual Christian. It is intended to be for private moments of worship, and the lyricism shows this. It's much more inwardly focused on our individual relationships with both God and the world and how we need to interact with each. The first non-instrumental track "Enchanted" shows this theme quite plainly and sets the overall tone for the album: "I'm connected in a daze / Roam unconscious disengaged / In a simulated world / I sustain / Swimming senseless through a void / Ease my appetite with noise / In a stimulated world / Go insane." The entirety of the album revolves around this theme of being "beyond control"; however, the more I listen to it, the more it feels like it's less about us being unrestrained in the way we live out our faith and more about how we need to let go of our own control over our own lives and give it over to God. It's a really cool album lyrically, and for some people (including possibly me) might be more relatable than Becoming Who We Are
because of its theme.
Now, typically here I'd wrap up my review; however, there's one more thing that needs mentioning. If you take a look at the tracklist on iTunes or Spotify or wherever, you might notice that there's an explicit tag next to Beyond Control
's twelfth track "A Prayer." This is not a typo: twice there is an explicit lyric that is either this, "Will I waste inside the silence" / Where the fear is f**king violent" or a slight variation. There is an extended and really cool story behind the way that Chad wrote this song, and I highly encourage those curious enough to go see what he has to say. If you're not interested in hearing this language, there is a clean version available on both digital and CD that replaces it with "vicious violent." I personally prefer the original uncensored version here because of both the story behind the song and the fact that the explicit version makes more lyrical sense to me. If you want to skip even the clean version of this record based on principle, go right ahead. I won't object to your convictions. If you never read my writing again because I actually support the use of this lyricism in this context, so be it. I just want to make you aware of this and let you know that there is the choice in front of you to listen to a clean version of this song. Believe it or not, this is actually right now my favorite song on the entire album because of God's response to Chad's prayer (the prayer itself is where this lyric is contained). It's also incredibly musically interesting and is definitely worth some kind of a listen in either version for that reason alone.
Honestly, I'm having a tough time giving Beyond Control
the same perfect score as Becoming Who We Are
because of the way the latter has affected me. That being said, this is still one of the best albums I've listened to so far this year because of its incredible lyrical poignancy and its adventurous genre-blending musical choices. If you've got no deep-seated objections to the explicit lyrics either in execution or principle, I wholeheartedly recommend purchasing either version of Beyond Control
. It's an incredible piece of music that is more than worth your time.
Best tracks: "A Prayer," "Enchanted," "Lost"" "Most of It," "In This Ocean Pts. I & II"