Citizens and Saints have been on a bit of a journey over the years. Initially they were one of the worship bands from the Mars Hill where lead singer Zach Bolen was an Elder and worship leader. Zach's resignation from the church in 2014 saw the band change their name from Citizens to their current moniker, but they were already working on their second album during this time of turmoil releasing "Join The Triumph" late in 2014. During this time Zach and the band went full time into ministry and 2016 saw Zach release his first solo album "1001" which you can find reviewed on the site.
Clearly there have been many moments of concern and doubt about the path that the band have decided to take and this has reflected in the themes of many of these tracks. The band like to write for the local church for worship as well so there is a great combination and balance that reflects the true nature of us as damaged human beings sitting between the triumphant knowledge of who our God is and the very real fear of trusting and risking being let down.
The album starts with a rather haunting note before the drums kick in and then Zach's distinctive vocals bring us immediately to a place of worship as we consider "The humble King has come to earth / From throne on high to lowly birth / His glory reigns". "Crown Him" is a great worship song to kick off the album and really does a good job to reassure people that despite the change of circumstance this band is still about worship for the local church.
"Madness" takes a different tack, it's more of an introspective track that looks at the idea of the nature of the way that God works in our lives. With the chorus focusing on the well known verse of Isaiah when God declares "my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways" this leads to an idea that it is futile to try and understand. "I’m drowning in doubt like never before / I thought with time, the wounds would all heal / But still there’s days when they’re all that I feel" is an honesty that is rare and hits home. I think there are all times when we can relate to this feeling, yet ultimately he trusts despite the doubt, the singer confesses along with the listener, that "I will see You face to face".
You may be able to tell that the lyrics of these tracks resonate deeply with me, they are very human, very real and at times very raw, the kind that you will feel through teary eyes, but like these moments in the Psalms and other books of the Bible they bring the search for understanding back to praising the faithfulness of God.
I love the way that they are able to pull out truths from some verses that bring something new to the table, "Faith" is one of those. In amongst the brilliant sonic feel which feels like it should be a surround sound effect there are lyrics that remind us that seeing with the eyes of faith is the true sight. They kick off "Relent" with another veiled reference this time to Mark 8:36 "what does it profit a man if he gain the whole world but lose his own soul?" The idea is that this life is a hard one when you try and live it by yourself, and if it ends with nothing more then what's the point, but when you surrender to Jesus, sit at His feet it's release and peace and right where we are meant to be. "Relent" along with "Day By Day" definitely make up 2 of the strongest tracks on this album. If you had time there is a lot to pull out of both of these tracks.
"Kids" has a completely different feel to it. Turning the synths up to 11 this track focuses on the simplicity of the idea of being "kids of grace" and doesn't have the depth or complexity of many of the other tracks on this album. It has however got a good feel to it and I think it picks up the album a little bit because with some of these tracks you could be in danger of drowning! "How Majestic" see's the band slip back to their roots with the very hymn like track which I really enjoyed. I know these modern hymns aren't everyone's cup of tea but for me paring back to piano and building instrumentation up in a song of praise that mirrors Psalm 8 seems like a great combination.
There is time for a couple more introspective tracks that still have the psalm-like feel of questioning the weight of the world and rejoicing in God. The album's final note fades out with the very positive "I am loved no matter what" in the song "Doubting Doubts" which does a great job of sorting the themes of questioning, doubt and confidence in God's ability to work in and through us in our weakness that we have seen through the album..
I have to say that I have enjoyed listening to this album. It's very humanity speaks to me, but the awesome faithfulness of God cries out of these songs too. There are tracks for the church but there are also tracks for times alone with God dealing with the intricacies of life. Zach and company have certainly produced an album to bolster the weak and questioning and it's no doubt something that I will return to again and again!