Several things about this album set it apart, not only in the Christian market, but among worship bands in churches all across America. Rend Collective is by self-definition an “experiment” in collaboration with the purpose of worshiping the Lord with authenticity and heart, while forming a community reminiscent of what I imagine the early Church was like. If you can believe it, it was recorded on a beach in Northern Ireland (where the band is from) with only acoustic instruments and a few dozen people. There was also an actual campfire that everyone sang around and can be heard crackling in the background of every single song, along with the soft crashing of waves.
The album starts with the universal campfire song of community and togetherness, “Kumbaya,” which could have set the tone of the album a little better had everyone sung instead of just the lead signer, but my complaints will end here :)
“Come on My Soul” truly sets the tone of the rest of the album with acoustic guitar and a short opening prayer from lead singer Gareth Gilkeson. He is soon joined by the rest of the collective and a glockenspiel, and kicks into gear with what sounds like a mandolin. From here, more and more instruments and voices join (some with enthusiastic howls and shouts) and just puts the listener right into the middle of an authentic worship service.
“Build Your Kingdom Here” may remind everyone of Mumford & Sons, but one listen and I hope you'll agree that the similarity stops there. This song leaves no instrument or voice out and will have you dancing and singing along after just one listen. The banjo and fiddles are a welcome addition.
“Movements” begins with a wonderfully complex and driving ukelele solo, soon joined by hand claps, accordion, and various other voices. While this song, along with others on the album, contains the dreaded “Oooh Oooh Oooohs” that are found in so many youth worship songs and even mainstream radio singles, you just don't care because everyone is having such a good time you can't help but sing along. It also comes from a different place and so is readily accepted.
The only two songs not written by the band are Matt Redman's “10,000 Reasons” and the classic hymn “You are My Vision.” The latter is one of the best versions I have ever heard. It opens with Gareth and who I think is his wife singing, accompanied only by banjo, acoustic guitar, and a very lovely fiddle. After the second verse, the rest of the band kicks it up to a whole other level. It's definitely the most “fun” hymn I've heard.
There are several slower songs on the album which are just as good and deserve a listen, but I wanted to end with the last song on the album which definitely goes out with a bang! “Praise Like Fireworks” not only actually bursts out of the gate musically, but you can actually hear fireworks going off! Nothing is held back and this song reflects sum total of the worshipful hearts of the Rend Collective Experiment. I catch myself singing this one all the time :)
I can't be more pleasantly surprised with this album and I find myself listening to at least one song every day. Worship this fresh and real should have its place at home as well as in the church and I can't wait to hear more!