Canadian pop-rockers downhere had received numerous award nominations for their first two releases, but after a whirlwind couple of years, the band chose to take some time off to reflect on the ministry of their music and whether or not it was still the direction God was leading them in. Now rejuvenated and ready to pick up right where they left off, downhere is back with their third album, Wide-Eyed and Mystified.
One of the most interesting and unique aspects of downhere is the fact that they have "co-lead vocalists." Marc Martel and Jason Germain take turns singing the lead and background on songs. Martel has a higher more sweeping vocal range while Germain is more your typical strong male lead. It really makes for a beautiful combination in songs like "A Better Way" and "Remember Me." When the two voices sing together in harmony it gives you this feeling of two different people, in two different places agreeing on this one thing, despite the fact that it's the same band. You rarely see this done today by rock bands (recent Audio Adrenaline is the first that comes to mind), but regardless, downhere has to be the new standard for even trying it.
The vocal styling lends itself to the lyrical content as well. There's very little veiled here from the listener. The lyrics are often straight forward and present Christ and His love very clearly. There's also a passion and depth to the lyrics. You really feel like they believe what they're singing and want you to know that. That's very clear in "Dying to Know You" and "A Better Way," "It's everything You've promised / There's no greater love than this / From prophets until today / A man laying down His life for His friends / Your sacrifice has spoken, You gave everything / And "I love you" could not be said / A better way." ("A Better Way")
Musically, they make good use of an instrument that's finding a bigger role in more and more of today's music... the piano. Piano driven pop-rock is something that's becoming bigger in both the mainstream and Christian market and downhere is certainly utilizing that. During the ballads, the piano helps to give the songs a more sweeping and dynamic sound, putting a greater weight in the emotion of the songs ("Unbelievable"). For the anthems, it gives them a greater depth and fuller sound.
If you pass on this one, you're making a big mistake. Not only is this the best yet from downhere, but it's also one of the best records of the year to this point! Downhere fans will be eating this up. Pop-rock fans will be hard pressed to find anything better for their money, and people just looking for a more "artsy" approach at popular Christian music would do well by themselves to not let this one slip through the cracks. This could be the sleeper hit of the year!- Review date: 5/16/06, written by Matt Johnson
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