Review Summary: Zeal: An album unmatched in passion and joy that will surely infect any one who gives it a listen!
Kings Kaleidoscope is a remarkable anomaly amongst a torrent of mediocre and subpar worship groups. Never content to be pinned down by any particular labels, this band is constantly exploring new territory and combining elements that most bands, whether worship-oriented or not, would view as being in juxtaposition with each other. Kings Kaleidoscope, however, is not afraid about such experimentation, which is evident by their unabashed risk-taking. Remarkably, their endeavors have wildly succeeded almost every time. Unfortunately, the willingness to take so many risks can often result in missteps, a few of which are apparent on their (technically) third LP Zeal, where KK further develops the sound begun on The Beauty Between while incorporating elements from The Beauty Between.
The album opens with the brief introduction “In Coma,” where Chad sings amongst minimal instrumentation. The brass in this track falsely prepared me to expect the following album to be a Beauty Between Part II. When “Hero Over My Head” burst out, I was quickly proven wrong. The complexity of the arrangements, along with the members' massive energy and precision of execution, on this track is utterly stunning, incorporating elements of worship, hip-hop, alternative rock, gospel, and even hints of EDM into a surprisingly cohesive track. Another highlight is “Naked Feet, Holy Fire,” (which at times I mistook for alternative rock from the late 90s) has a chorus that is sure to stay stuck in your head for days. The soundscape of “Aimless Knight” is absolutely gorgeous, and would fit nicely in the track-list of any movie soundtrack. Also impressive is the surprisingly soothing and moving rendition of the well-known Sunday school song "Jesus Loves Me" on the song "Oxygen." However, one of the album's greatest highlights is the massive three part "The Rush." It is extremely riveting, overflowing with pure joy and an undeniable passion for the Gospel; one cannot help but shout out "holy, righteous, ratchet squad!" Though all three parts are distinctly unique, the cohesiveness of the entire entity is quite surprising.
Unfortunately, the cohesiveness of the "The Rush" cannot be said for the album as a whole. In fact, this is the greatest weakness of the album. As a whole, the album is so diverse musically that there is no discernable musical coherence throughout the album. “Backwards” is perhaps the best example. Incorporating various strains of hip-hop influences, the song does not appear to have any particular musical focus, and as a result, never really reaches any sort of apex musically. “Same Blood,” though the message of the necessity of dependency is respectable, is a song that itself does not have any particularly unique qualities making it worthy of repeated listens. “A Little Bit of Faith,” while a solid song, is an odd choice for a closer, considering the jarring contrast from “Oxygen” preceding it. In fact, I believe that the latter would have served as a much better closer.
In hindsight, I cannot consider Zeal a bad album by any means, as it is light years ahead, both musically and lyrically, of many worship groups popular in Christian entertainment. This album certainly brings a passion that I would dare say is unmatched by any other of their albums. Unfortunately, it at times seems a little too ecstatic to be fully appreciated. I understand that this may be a highly unpopular opinion, especially amongst hardcore KK fans who will consider this one of their finest albums to date. I am not stating that this album should be glossed over. Like all of KK’s albums, this one requires repeated listens in order for one to fully appreciate the creativity and effort poured into it. You would be truly be missing something great if you chose not to give it a listen. I would suggest starting with “Hero over My Head,” “The Rush (Pts. 1, 2, & 3), and “Oxygen.” While you’re at it, pick up some of the gaudy, quirky merchandise available on their website!