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O How The Mighty Have Fallen
Artist: The Choir http://www.TheChoir.net
Label: Galaxy21 Records
Length: 10 Tracks
After taking a five year break between albums and adding a new full-time member in guitarist/producer Mark Byrd, The Choir have returned with O, How The Mighty Have Fallen, one of their strongest albums since 1994's Speckled Bird.
In many ways a return to form for The Choir, O, How The Mighty Have Fallen eschews the oceanic shoegazer distortion of their latest releases Flap Your Wings and Free Flying Soul and the dark aggression that permeated Speckled Bird in favor of the subtle beauty and haunting atmospheres of their classics Circle Slide and Chase the Kangaroo.
Many will know The Choir, or at least two of their more prominent members, from the City on A Hill projects that spawned the hit "God of Wonders," but those albums are only the tiniest tip of a massive iceberg that represents the group's achievements. The Choir were among several bands including Daniel Amos, with whom they currently share bassist Tim Chandler, the 77's and Vector that put a uniquely Christian spin on the New Wave genre throughout the '80's.
Unfairly compared to U2 by some, The Choir have more in common with the crystalline etherium of the Cocteau Twins (minus the indiscernible lyrics) and the Cure's Faith-era melancholy pop stylings. Favoring a sober, yet hopeful and often worshipful lyrical approach and dedicated to artistic excellence over commercial success, their songs range from angst-driven, almost metallic rockers (see Speckled Bird's "Weathergirl") to deeply introspective worship (Circle Slide's "Merciful Eyes") and earthy tales of daily life.
O, How The Mighty Have Fallen leads off with a solid title track that seems thematically similar to "Cherry Bomb" from Free Flying Soul, or at least until the chorus comes along, revealing a track that is more somber and serious. The moody "Mercy Will Prevail" is classic Choir, meshing a profound theological concept into simplistic verse. Wrapped in delicate arpeggios and volume swells over Steve Hindalong's pounding drums, "Mercy Will Prevail" is one of the albums' highlights. "Enough To Love" is a beautiful meditation on Christ's command to die to our own desires and love our enemies. In fact, the theme of death, be it sacrificial or otherwise, is a recurring one throughout this album.
The album's two up-tempo numbers "Nobody Gets a Smooth Ride" and "Fine, Fun Time" are both excellent additions to The Choir's store of solid rock. The former is a tight, yet clear track layered with fuzzy guitars from Derri Daughtery, Mark Byrd and Tim Chandler and an elegant sax solo from Dan Michaels that sounds like it could have been on Wide-Eyed Wonder. Lyrically, the song muses that life is difficult for everyone in general and to be careful in the interesting, though often-dangerous times in which we live. It's passionate, yet subdued. "Fine, Fun Time" features a typically '80's flanged-out lead guitar riff and lyrics that affirm that it is indeed a great time to be alive, despite whatever hardships may come up. It also features one of The Choir's more jokingly controversial statements: "Husker Du is the most influential rock and roll band." The statement is credited to Daughtery in the liner notes. Only time will tell if he's right, but the Beatles still have a bit of an edge.
O, How The Mighty Have Fallen is another excellent, well-crafted album by a band that ought to be considered legendary by now. The Choir have proven with this album that they are certainly capable of recapturing the magic of their classic albums while managing to stay innovative and in some circles, just as influential as Husker Du.
Ben Hill 6/2/2005