The Burning Bush
Do I feel cheated? Is it possible to feel cheated in a good way? Discovering a nugget of truth about a band I happen to like a lot is not the worst thing that could happen to you, but I do feel I should punish myself for not paying more attention for the last twenty years or so.
It's an easy trap to fall into and if you're the type of person who likes hitting The Big Machine to siphon every last grain of knowledge about something, it's highly likely if you were in my shoes, you would know all of this already. Here's the killing joke: if I had known what was going on behind the scenes, it's unlikely that I would have given this band the time of day or night and I would have missed out on one of the finest albums I have ever crossed paths with.
These guys are not alone in their delivery system either - bands like this never are - but I'm sure if I looked closely, I may find there are dozens of them and damn it all to hell, some of them would likely be worth at least spending some time with to figure out if they were worth following up on.
With God on your side, things like that probably happen a lot.
I can't imagine what it must be like playing in a Christian rock band. I would imagine it to be as confining as playing in a Satanic metal band but apparently not - well not from The Light Side of the fence anyway. To people of a certain generation - to which I most certainly belong - only one band name springs to mind when you mention the words 'Christian' and 'Rock' in the same sentence and that's the name of Stryper, who I didn't like then and I most certainly have no time for now. There was no subtlety to their approach but neither was it dumb and brash enough to pul it off with bravado.
I was first introduced to this particular Wizard Behind The Curtain in a club. The DJ handed me a CD (I did know him - it wasn't an act of never to be repeated generosity) and declared most adamantly that I would love it. It wasn't the first time I had ever had a disc shoved into my hand and they always came with the same statement but I'm always willing to give most everything a shot because you never know when such a chance encounter may change your life.
I got home late that night - wide awake - and dropped the disc into the player. Two minutes in, I turned it off. Wandering about the kitchen making fish finger sandwiches was not the attention this deserved. That much was plain very early on. Those two minutes were all I needed to fall in love - and nobody had even taken their clothes off.
Indeed, a find such as this calls for a) absolute darkness and b) headphones. You absolutely cannot immerse yourself in a body of music when there is light or the opportunity for a distraction to make its presence felt. Later, yes. Once you're familiar with every inch of that body, it's perfectly fine but to know a collection of songs intimately, you simply must get to know your way around in the dark. (This does not apply to all albums - only those in which the music-maker has been generous enough to meet you half way and hopes you will make the remaining journey yourself).
Locked inside my bubble of sound, I started the disc again. Swamped in what it had to offer, it was the first time in years I had ever truly gotten lost in an album so thoroughly that I couldn't find my way out. It was not so dissimilar to the first time I heard The Doors. Not sonically but in what it raised up in me out of nowhere. That's a mighty big comparison to make but there it was in all its sonic glory, lifting me high on its shoulders one moment and without warning, dashing me onto the rocks below before picking me up for another trip on the ride. I make no understatement when I say the passion of the songwriting on this album is so intense, it bled out of my ears and rolled down my neck until it pooled on the floor around my feet.
The guitars come out at a pitch designed to drag you along wherever it chooses to take you. Drums - set perfectly in the mix just enough to keep your heart beating as it should, and the bass is practically non existent until it chooses to make its presence felt. It's a damn near perfect set-up.
And The Voice? It comes in to wash your feet with its message, delivering lyrics you can read anything you like into - which is exactly what I did for a very long time. Not the message The Voice intended that's for sure, but I am soulful enough to notice it was something quite out of the ordinary. As I listen to it again knowing what I know now, I don't quite understand how I didn't see all of life's questions being asked in the space of twelve songs. It was such a brilliant disguise, I never once questioned its motivation.
The stories that spring out of this record are the stories of us all but they're easy to miss. I may even go so far as to suspend by own belief system and say, during the days this album was recorded, God had his hands right there on the mixing desk. The more I study this record, the more complicated it gets. The whole of life is present here. God is hidden in every moment but no matter how hard you look, you will not find him - and I hope that was the intention. Sending a message to the world without having to knock on a door or preach a single word shows some true faith whichever way you choose to look at it.
This is likely the most heartfelt and positively mysterious albums I've ever had the pleasure of coming back to time after time and no, I don't feel cheated at all.
Not in the slightest.
The Violet Burning. The album goes by the same name. Do not research. Do not look at pictures. If you're getting in the boat, get in with your shoes off and don't forget to listen using the rules.