Having not published any music reviews before and only showing limited activity on this blog so far, witnessing Army Of Bones at a lovely venue called the Asylum inspired me to somehow present the atmosphere of that night through writing. Based in Brighton, Army Of Bones are Martin Smiths new musical outlet, displaying an extensive, relevant sound through meaningful and challenging lyrics. I can only describe them as a cross between U2 and Foals yet with an edge of 'riffage' perhaps inspired by bands such as Royal Blood and/or the Arctic Monkeys.
The first time I saw Martin Smith was at the Pentecost Festival in the 02 arena in 2011. The evening began with a classic video intro before the band and towering gospel choir presented themselves on stage. Unexpectedly, Martin Smith appeared in the midst of the 20,000 strong crowd singing the intro to the Delirious? classic "Rain Down". Funny then, how tonight in front of no more than 150 people, Martin seems a little uncomfortable compared to that night at the 02. Perhaps it is the fact this is the bands second ever show or the fact that this is a completely new direction for Martin Stylistically. However the second the intro to 'Batteries' kicked in, I knew we were in for something special.
So much energy and and professionalism was shown right from start, hitting the audience with the first three tracks being absolute stormers. My particular favourite of the night being the third song in. Beginning with a simple keyboard pad layered with the captivating mumbles of Martin, I was pleasantly surprised when the song took a heavy turn as the assault of drums, bass and guitar commenced to play the heaviest thing I have ever heard Martin be a part of. I believe it may of been called 'wade in the water'.
From there we were taken on a journey displaying Martins heart for the mission of the band, bringing hope and truth to the centre of the musicianship we were privileged to witness. A Mid tempo track built and built following a delayed guitar pattern over an offbeat accented pattern expressed excitedly by their drummer, evocative again of foals.
We were further treated to multiple tracks all of different lengths, feel and message, paused in between for some onstage banter from a slightly awkward Martin. 'This ones a straight up love song' he announced before introducing one of the slower tracks of the night, reminiscent of the Delirious? days until Sarah Bird takes the track in an unexpected direction with the use of her modernised keyboard patches.
Just when the night seemed to be slowing down, Martin and his crew of excellent musicians closed the evening off with their 'epic' anthem of night surrounding hope for the city, showcasing Johnny Birds versatile guitar skill before kicking in the groove oriented 'River' which is due to be released as a single on the February 1st. Some of you may recognise this song as a reimagined version of Martin Smiths song 'Theres A River' which surfaced last year and had a greater guitar led sound to it whereas this version had a more consistent sound to it to work well alongside the rest of the material of the night.
Overall, considering the ten song setlist was full of brand new songs, most of which no one in the crowd had heard before, it is amazing how engaging the performance was and it excites me incredibly to see where Army Of Bones will be in a couple of years. The venue already feels too small for them considering how professional their performance was what with a state of the art sequenced lighting display, a well balanced sound and a continuous energetic stage presence. I'll be surprised to not see them at Big Church Day Out in May.
Army of Bones is not just another addition to the 'christian' music industry, they are so much more than that. They are a relevant band who carry weight to their sound and have something to say which shifts the atmosphere where they play bringing hope and truth to a hurting world. Definitely take notice of these guys. Keep and eye out for their sound complete with huge drums, synth basses, delayed guitar, gritty riffs and a vocally powerful front man.
A Greater reflection into the heart behind Army Of Bones:
As well known Martin Smith is within the Christian circle, in someways I see him as incredibly underrated. This man along with the other 4/5ths of Delirious? smashed the limits and lukewarmness of what the western church was musically creating and displayed something fresh and new, thus transforming the future of how the western church was able to engage with music. And just when we are in danger of being in that same lukewarm place again, turning out the same old sounds day after day, Martin has reinvented himself, not with a goal to conform to the world but with goal to create a set apart sound, a sound which can be heard by both the christian bubbles and the rest of the world.
I was privileged enough to attend the worship central conference 2014 and my highlight and most memorable part was the Keynote from Martin Smith called "Leading Worship For The World" and if you are familiar with my blog, this is really where this becomes relevant. Martin spoke of a desperate need for the church to stop being stagnant in it's creativity and instead argued that we need to be a people who create the best art, because surely 'the best creativity should come out of the church! We are born to be wild! To set that fire lose on the world!'
By fire, Martin means the passion, the overflowed truth that flows from ours hearts, the reality of being alive in Christ each one of us as believers should carry! He went on to say 'Our worship music has become a little bit religious. Can we allow God to unstick us from the religion in which we have turned worship into? Our creative communities seem a little dumbed down and is only half of what God wants it to be. Why do we play it safe? Our music is not to satisfy ourselves or our church but to set the world on fire.' He went on to challenge us to 'Look through the lens of what we want to create will have the ability to transform a culture."
What does it look like when the church is so on fire and so alive that the kingdom culture we live in spills out of our music? Well Martin, I believe and have witnessed your response to that challenge you put before us in October 2014. Army Of Bones is indeed what it looks and sounds like and the best thing is, this is only the beginning!
Review by Kevin Button From Gods Heart For Worship