Bifrost—and their revolving set of artists lynch-pinned by Isaac Wardell and Mason Neely—is back with a new project to entrance and captivate and set you on your ear.
He Will Not Cry Out opens with a languishing and moody Psalm 90 that has a Euro-French pop quality, with exquisite guitar and Sarah Gregory’s warm alto.
Like the folks at Indelible Grace—and yet quite different—Wardell and company have a penchant for musical history and resurrecting lost and often obscure musical treasures or re-inventing/rearranging them. They also pen new songs with a sense of history about them, mainly because their originals draw heavily on Scripture. A key characteristic of Bifrost Arts’ music is that the words are never lost, and the voices are present, authentic, and not overly processed (resulting is an interesting dissonance at times due to normal vs. pitch perfect voices). Sheet music is available for most of their songs and the chord structures are simple and basic, even if the melodies sometimes are quirky and not an automatic repeat, after one or two hearings.
The simple chorus on “We are Not Overcome” is well worth singing, and though the pacing does facilitate contemplation, it seems to drag a bit for congregational purposes—but that is easily adaptable. “By His Wounds” is an awe-inspiring communion song that captures the danger and drama of the crucifixion and the wonder of our healing and forgiveness. Here the functions of music—engagement, revelation, text enhancing, emotional connect, and more—are realized powerfully in unique Bifrost style.
With a light and snappy feel juxtaposed to a more serious undercurrent and a cornucopia of sounds and instruments, “Bonhoeffer’s Prayer” based on a Taize melody evokes hope, even knowing the seriousness of his life and death story. Molly Parden’s vocals are a lovely fit and make this one of the projects most memorable sketches.
The title track has honeyed backgrounds and a sweet pedal steel that draws you into a picture of Christ across Testaments, the Lamb, the King, Holy God of justice and mercy.
Psalm 126 has a congregationally friendly structure and a memorable chorus, while “He Is Given” uses Bifrost’s toolbox of mood, music, and sonic embellishment to great affect in evocative story telling of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection. Amongst the songs on He Will Not Cry Out, is Leonard Cohen’s moving prayer “If It Be Your Will.”
“Take Us Oh Lord” is a commanding, cinematic, up close, and personal “you are there” view of Christ and the cross and a prayer for Christ’s transformation of our hearts and souls. The polka meets anthem percussive build and repeated strumming guitar, crashing cabaret, squeezebox energy and Edith Piaf-like vocals take this one through the roof. Would love to hear a full-on rock or Gospel version of this. It lends itself to every tempo and style because of its unrelenting substance (download the song here). Finally, the album comes to a beautiful end with “Agnus Dei” and its other-worldly, angelic vocals, harp, and harmonium.
More: Appreciate their ability to create drama with sound, their willingness to experiment with structure, and the deep and scriptural Christocentric lyrics that weave both Old and New Testaments together. The instruments and percussion speak eloquently and the artists celebration of the authentically human voice encourage all of us to sing.
Less: Once in a while, the voices emanate a sleepy disengaged feeling because of the BPM and arrangements, and occasionally the Foley-artist-percussion/sonic texturing meets vocals/lyrics results in a wrestle for preeminence. Also in sticking to their unique approach, some songs that are an easy draw for a wider audience are kept at a distance.