Casting Crowns: Until the Whole World Hears
Style: Pure American rock; compare to Creed, Nickelback
Top tracks: "Joyful, Joyful," "At Your Feet," "Mercy"
Casting Crowns burst out of the gate six years ago and soared to pretty impressive heights in the worlds of both Christian Contemporary Music and mainstream pop. They've had four albums go platinum, including two that managed to crack the Billboard Top 10, and picked up legions of fans around the globe.
But what they've lost along the way is the biting social commentary and challenging lyrics that made their albums so engaging and refreshing. Slowly, the band has eased back on lamentations like "If We Are the Body" (from their 2003 self-titled debut) that addressed alienation within the church, or "Somewhere In The Middle," which affectingly parsed out band leader Mark Hall's personal trials.
What we are left with here is a surprisingly typical CCM disc that mixes in rafter-raising worship songs with covers of well-known tunes that has been reconfigured to match up with Casting Crowns' brusque musical stylings. Because if there's one thing that will likely never change with this band is the somewhat heavy hand with which they handle their songwriting.
The title track and "Holy One" are meat-and-potatoes bruisers overrun with blasting guitar chords and topped off with Hall's throaty growl. Most others start off with chords plunked out on a piano or strummed slowly on a guitar, letting the song build slowly toward a massive wave of sound. Moments like that thrill in small doses but as evidenced throughout this album, their overuse becomes overkill.
As frustrating as it is to hear the band return to the same formula again and again, it is equally hard not to get caught up in the album's best moments, like the swelling reimaging of the classically-inspired favorite, "Joyful, Joyful," putting aside the sing-song-y tone of its most popular versions, opting for a pulsing, string-driven attack that calls to mind Coldplay's "Viva La Vida." It's also always welcome to hear the voice of Megan Garrett, who is given a few star turns on this album—in particular, the affecting anthem "Mercy," which she embraces with aplomb and a surprisingly subtle tone.
Decrying a band for taking a turn into full-on worship territory feels rather petty, but because they've proven themselves capable of so much more, this album feels like a step backward creatively.
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