Despite the absolute listenability and the sure commercial viability of this new release from the Northern Irish outfit that has taken the National Worship Leader Conference by storm multiple times, The Art of Celebration is destined to make its biggest impact in the sung voices of the global Church. This collection of 11 songs (plus a remix and a live version) are spiritual odes, songs to unite the body of Christ in voice and prayer—these are worship songs. Listening to The Art of Celebration, one gets the sense that this release is engulfed in prayer and composed by contrite worshipful hearts with no other desire than musically conveying those prayers and hearts. And more good news? The band formally known as the Rend Collective Experiment pull it off. … No, more than pull it off, they get the perfect score.
What does it take to deserve that kind of seeming hyperbole? First off, Rend Collective seem obsessed with Scripture. Obsessed! Its everywhere in this powerful release: we are invited to boldly approach the throne of God (Heb 4:16), we sacrifice everything for the pearl of great price (Mt 13), God is our protection and deliverer (Isa 41:10; Job 29:3; Ps 27:1), and so many more.
And though The Art of Celebration is primarily concerned with … celebration, it is a biblical celebration infused with life and pain and doubt. For instance the song “Though I’m broken I’m running into your arms of love.” It is a lament and a song of celebration in one, and its brilliant worship art. It’s also a celebration that can boast in nothing but the finished work of Jesus Christ. And it invites him to continue the work in us as we earnestly seek him in our lives and in our gathered times of worship for the redemption of the world.
“Burn Like a Star” is a romping back-porch banjo-tinged deal with a lyrical focus that inspires awe and even a touch of self-aware fear of what it means to invite Christ into our lives. “Boldly I Approach” has a plucked-guitar almost dirge-like opening but eventually volcanoes into a full realization of the aforementioned true Celebration that we have in Jesus’ outstretched arms and his nail pierced hands—the one who “fights for me, and shields my soul eternally.” The most immediate track, “Simplicity” is a stripped down worship tune asking God to strip away everything that doesn’t matter. Form and function align, displaying the depth and acuity of this release. Everything matters in music designed for worship, and Rend Collective is not just aware of this, they deftly reveal the art of it.
Passion meets emotion in this wonderful example of a scripturally rich, highly affecting collection of worship anthems that will serve churches around the globe. It is going to be exciting to see what the community of worship leaders do with The Art of Celebration as every song is completely singable and will help ignite hearts in worship of our saving Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The English Folk sound popularized by the Mumford boys is certainly present, it could be considered the album’s only flaw. But in all fairness, Rend sounded like this before the release of Sigh No More. One could argue that Marcus Mumford borrowed from this collective of multi-instrumentalists from the North of Ireland. Indeed roots-rock with twang and kick drum isn’t new. It’s popularity in pop/rock music is, but not so the genre. As well, The Art of Celebration is one of the most aptly titled worship releases of all time. Life, love, joy; dance, banjo, kick drum, mandolin, bag pipes, guitars, penny whistles, accordions, all add to the joyous musical atmosphere of the release. There is a melodic assurance in this band that alludes so many, each melody is so perfectly structured as a mechanism by which we propel our voices. Each song can be and should be sung in churches everywhere. In a wonderful twist of reverse accessibility, Rend even offers a disco-synth version of their congregation ready “Joy,” … you know … for the kids.
Most Singable: “Finally Free”
Strongest Biblical Content: “More than Conquerors” (Rom 8:31-39); “Create in Me” (Ps 51:10); “Troubled Sea” (Isa 41:10; Job 29:3; Ps 27:1,3)
The Whole Package: “Joy”
Resources: Free chords for all their records (rendcollective.com)