THE WORLD WILL BURN- Nothing's As Real As It Seems
The gift of creativity is an amazing thing, and the chemistry that sparks between creative people is also amazing. Sequestering yourself in a basement or a studio and waiting to see what happens when ideas are brought together is an exciting process. When an album like Nothing’s As Real As It Seems comes along, it’s hard to believe that this process never took place.
The World Will Burn is a collaboration between Dale Thompson, best known as the lead vocalist of Bride, and songwriter Alan Zaring. The process of hashing it all out in a rehearsal environment never happened because Zaring lives in the United States, and Thompson lives in New Zealand. For that process to not have happened and for this album to be the result is very impressive.
Nothing’s As Real As It Seems plays out like a concept album, with vivid imagery and lyrical themes being repeated in multiple songs. In the liner notes, Dale Thompson writes, “David played the chord, surrendered the discord, giving up his shame and sorrow, and Jesus gave him the words. This is the theme of the project. ‘Breaking the power of hell’ which causes fear in our lives, where Jesus takes over the song and turns sin into grace. None of us can ever finish the song we are destined to sing until we let go and give our song to Jesus, who, on our behalf, finishes the song of our life in perfect harmony.” This theme is relayed through lyrics that are both thought provoking and, at times, daunting. The concepts aren’t readily apparent and it will take some processing to take it all in. The message is there and once it hits you it is powerful.
The album is a split of duties, with Thompson writing all of the lyrics and Alan Zaring writing all of the music and the songs ranging from straight up rockers to being borderline experimental at the extremes. In between, each song sounds like a fresh take on heavy music, avoiding clichés and proven formulas. The production is big and full, with a lot of different effects and sounds being used throughout the recording. The album was mixed by Tim Bushong (Lovewar), who also appears as a guest along with Troy Thompson (Bride). Recording and producing were done by Alan Zaring, with Tony Pedley acting as executive producer. The album packaging includes original artwork by Dale Thompson. The result of all of this is a very hands-on influence by the band themselves.
The performances on the album are top notch. Aaron Bushong (The Great Flood Catastrophe) debuts with the band on drums and he shines throughout, displaying an ability to drive the heavier songs and groove on the more experimental numbers. Zaring handles guitars, bass, keyboards and backing vocals. He is clearly a talented musician with a mature approach to songwriting. He has a knack for creating songs that are epic in sound but concise in their delivery. Only one song on the album runs over the five-minute mark, yet you are left with the feeling that you have experienced something much larger. This is accomplished by having the listener caught up in everything that is happening within the song. The instrumentation, varieties of effects, layered vocals and uncommon song structures create a palette of sound that demands attention. An example of this is found on “Listen for the Symphony”. The song opens with an atmospheric introduction before adding drums and distorted guitars in the verse. The song takes off from there and goes into an infectious groove before everything drops out and returns to the same music heard in the introduction. The song turns again and throws us back into the groove. All of this is punctuated by layers of lead and backing vocals.
Which brings us to Dale Thompson. The instantly recognizable signature of his voice is as strong now as it ever was. I remember him being asked, years ago, how long he would continue to sing in this style and his response was something along the lines of “As long as the Lord gives me my voice, I’ll keep doing it”. Based on his performance on this recording, he is clearly still being blessed. Anyone who enjoyed his singing in the past will thoroughly enjoy his work on this album. There are even a few surprises, as he adopts a low-registered delivery in “No One Believes in Hell” and “Love Fills” that is reminiscent of Eric Clayton of Savior Machine, or Jimmy Brown from Deliverance. Another change of pace are two spoken word narratives. “Lead Balloon” is delivered over a groove featuring electric piano. “Boxing Ring” is a very interesting song, both lyrically and musically. The music has a jazzy, experimental tone and the lyrics are full of oxymorons, contradictions and ironic humor.
It is nearly impossible to avoid moments of nostalgia while hearing Dale Thompson perform at the level that he does on this recording, and it would be easy to keep The World Will Burn in the long shadow of pioneers like Bride, but this band and album stand completely on their own. They have taken a fresh and unique approach to creating heavy, thoughtful music without compromising their message. Nothing’s As Real As It Seems avoids playing it safe and the payoff is huge.
(Indie) 4.5 flames out of 5