Music Review: No Small Tempest by Dens

Music Review: No Small Tempest by Dens

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Updated June 24, 2019
Music Review: No Small Tempest by Dens

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DENS find their mission in using music as a platform to creatively and honestly explore the themes of faith, hope, redemption and grace. The band self-released their debut “From Small Seeds Come Giant Trees” in 2016, and the single “Hopebringer” with Come&Live in 2017. Now Facedown Records is proud to announce “No Small Tempest,” DENS’ highly anticipated four-song follow up to “Small Seeds” releasing June 29 2018.

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No Small Tempest by DENS
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This short EP from DENS was released about a year ago on Facedown Records. It's just four tracks which have a great rock sound but they are definitely deserving a review on One Man In The Middle. It's not every day that you get a rocked out EP which concentrates of a Biblical figure, in the case of this album it's the story of Jonah and his refusal, redemption and obedience. 

The project opens with a track called "Deadrise" which has some great guitars in the intro and the vocals definitely sit in the mid-rock range which carries the song really well as they muse on the events of Jonah. Told to go and preach to the Ninevites Jonah runs away and God causes a storm to blow up and Jonah ends up cast into the sea. This is where the song picks up the story as Jonah wonders why God would want to show grace to "dreadful beasts". While it's about Jonah it's about us too, we decide to go our own way in life and God causes things to come up which make us uncomfortable, make us feel like we are fighting a storm and treading water - putting a lot of effort into staying afloat but actually going nowhere at all! This track finishes up with a rather grungey brooding verse from the hymn "Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing" which applies to this song where it says "Prone to wander" where we choose our own way, but we want to set our course with God and trust Him.

"(W)retched" is a 7 minute long epic track in which we see strength has failed and he's sinking into the water. It looks like the end of the line because of disobedience and in his final moments Jonah contemplates how small he is in comparison to the ocean around him, yet he knows that He is known. There is no specific mention of the whale (or big fish) because it might be hard for us to really apply that to our lives, but in this place, he realises God's protection and provision for him. It is here, in a place like a tomb for 3 days his redemption begins and he restores his relationship, his communion, with God. We have to die to ourselves in order to have a resurrection in Christ, something that is specifically pointed out in this track. There is a more distant and subdued sound to this track as it opens which picks up as the track continues on. Again finishing on a section of a hymn this track picks the ever popular realisation that "It is well with my soul".

The message Jonah was called to take to the city of Nineveh is just perfect for this style of rock album as the people are told to relent and repent! A message of destruction as presented here is the basis for "Sackcloth & Ash" this is counterpointed then by the call to the river of repentance in the African-American spiritual song "Down In The River To Pray". So we are left with the last track called "Vice & Virtue" which reflects on Jonah after the repentance and deliverance of the people he was sent to warn. Was he happy disaster had been averted? No chance! Despite his repentance and restoration with God, Jonah, like the rest of us is deeply flawed and self-centred. Jonah cares more about a plant that was giving him relief from the sun dying than he was the fate of thousands of his fellow human beings. Again this angst and this self-deception that we carry is perfect for this type of track. Unlike the other tracks on the album this one doesn't end with a hymn, instead, it leaves us with the picture of Jonah at the end of the book;

We are just beggars
Lost in a desert
Our heads buried in the sand
Still we rage and quake for things so transient
We exist in a wasteland
Expecting oasis
But we’re seething in the sun
Haunted by the waters and from where they come
The reminder at the end of this then is that "We are no different". When we look at our lives we get so upset when things happen to us, yet we rarely care about the suffering of millions around the world. We, like Jonah, are self-obsessed, we cry out for God's blessing and when something is taken away we complain and gripe because it is our creature comfort and it affects us, we are oblivious to God's greater plan for us and for the world and live with our heads down in concentration on ourselves.

This is a great little 4 track EP that really carries it's sound well with some thematic variations. Jonah is a 'fun' character in the way we tell the story to children, but like many others, there is a dark side of a deeply flawed human who we would do well to pay attention to and learn the lesson from. This short project carries the picture to us that God is a rescuer of our mistakes and disobedience and lovingly guides us back, we can be deeply flawed but still fulfil the commission God has given us!

While clearly following the pattern and flow of the story of Jonah, the band have made these songs honest and relatable which is a great thing, because then it's not just about Jonah, it holds a mirror up to ourselves. There are some fantastic guitars, vocals and blends of different styles on this short EP and I think in the Christian world there is not a lot like it that contains the depth of expression and musical talent. If you are looking for something with a great sound and a challenging edge then get this onto your music device!

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