Thousands of undiscovered Christian musicians are hard at work, all in the hope that their original music will reach and minister to an audience of believers UMC.org rewards the independent spirit by providing a means for new music to be exposed Each month, UMC.org reviews two full-length CDs of Christian-themed music created by indie artists. Learn more about this feature and how to submit a CD for review. Learn more about this feature and how to submit a CD for review.
Sound/Style: Freewheeling, infectious modern rock with worship emphasis
By Steve Morley
(UMCom) -- On Wahba’s disarmingly casual Web site, the singer and guitarist tellingly offers a link to a rundown of mainstream secular artists with a list of “spiritually appropriate” alternatives, as compiled by a Christian journalist. But he makes no bones about his distaste of the supposed need to present contemporary Christian music performers as sanitized rock and pop substitutes, which makes sense after listening to his 10-track CD, Proskyneo (don’t ask about the title – he doesn’t explain). Proskyneo, which he claims cost less than $800 to produce, has the kind of loose immediacy that much of today’s Christian rock regrettably lacks. Both the sound and image of harder-edged Christian acts often are fussed over and rendered blandly low-fat. Conversely, Wahba’s joyously unkempt sound borrows from the vibe of bands like Blues Traveler and The Spin Doctors and offers a refreshingly unselfconscious alternative to contemporary worship music bolstered by hooky arrangements and meaty riffs.
The arresting opening cut, “Every Word,” pits syncopated guitar against a hip-hop-influenced rock beat, creating a rhythmic tension redolent of funk-rock, a relative rarity in Christian music because of the sensual, full-body response it prompts. Using a similar stylistic approach, Wahba transforms the worship favorite “Ancient Of Days” into an unforced and invigorating affair with intricate bass and guitar interplay. The same goes for the jubilantly punky version of “Mighty Is Our God,” which offsets the tune’s singsong melody with a revitalizing guitar crunch, succeeding where other “rocked-up” worship choruses falter. The singer’s heart for old-school worship is evident throughout, especially in his subdued, Red Hot Chili Peppers-styled remake of “I Must Tell Jesus.” Even originals like “Tears For Joy” nod to the character of older hymns, while “Unfailing” and “Sacrifice” are more in line with modern worship, albeit with some tasty, outside-the-box chord changes. Most of the newly penned lyrics are simple, scriptural couplets and choruses in standard Christian-speak that, while easy for believers to absorb, are unlikely to get past the radar of wary secular rockers who might otherwise dig the sound. It’s one of the record’s triumphs that these traditions manage to sound simultaneously fresh and unaffected in the hands of Wahba and his very capable supporting band.
Regrettably, this promising effort is soured somewhat by problems with the pitch of Wahba’s otherwise appealing voice, a finely grained instrument reminiscent of the late Robert Palmer. The vocals are unacceptably out-of-tune with the instrumental tracks in several instances, sometimes as much as a quartertone. As producer and creative overseer of the entire project, Wahba has erred in working without the perspective of a more objective set of ears. Too many cooks can sometimes spoil the broth, but as Scripture states, there’s wisdom in many counselors, as the album’s strong songwriting collaborations and powerful band performances demonstrate. The superbly written “Brother Man,” for instance, is a full-band effort that excels musically as well as in its well-rendered theme of love and unity within the body of Christ. Its collective strengths compensate for Wahba’s weaknesses, which is ideally how this church thing is supposed to work. Proskyneo is rife with potential, and all that remains is to find the right person to iron out a few wrinkles without obliterating the likeably rumpled, rough-edged rock sound so convincingly presented here.
Steve Morley is a freelance music journalist living in College Grove, Tenn.
This review was developed by UMC.org, the official online ministry of the United Methodist Church.